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Thy Catafalque - Róka Hasa Rádió CD (album) cover


Thy Catafalque

Experimental/Post Metal

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5 stars Ok, wow.

It's been a while since something, musically speaking, caught me by surprise in such ways that I felt compelled to announce it in such ways. So here I go, let me try to translate in a few paragraphs the magnificence of this work.

The band's style is defined as "Avant-garde metal" and really, there's no other way to put it. Extreme metal, carefully arranged melodies, electronic/industrial touches, folk-ish passages, all kinds of vocals, all of them of great performance quality, this album has it all, mixed and diluted in ethereal ways to create a certainly corporeal piece of music that's ready to rock the socks off of anyone who's looking to be blown away.

Let's vivisect this work and separate it's parts in a detailed manner.

When you put the album in whatever means you have to reproduce it, you'll find yourself in the face of an ambient intro, which will expand and expand until it explodes into metal, right in your face. The ambiance will remain and take an important place in the whole album albeit interrupted sporadically. Keyboards are half of what makes this such an unique piece, layers and layers of different melodies and tones, some just meant to be a background sound to give certain songs a darker or more mysterious feeling, extraterrestrial at times, other being crucial part of central melodies, the synthetic sounds give this album a futuristic, if not technological feeling once in a while, the rest of the time sounding even shy and melancholic.

The guitars are heavily distorted, something that rarely goes along with such predominant keyboard work (see: most myspace black ambient bands), but this concert of heavy chainsaws blends in perfectly in the mix, being loud enough but not quite occupying the spotlight, even during the most extreme parts. As of the melodies, we've got practically anything, from doom-ish chugs and extended riffs to fast and furious black metal-ish powerchords and tremolos (from time to time this reminds me of Negura Bunget, if that's any encouragement for you). And spreade all across the album you will find clean passages filled of an almost nostalgic nature, highly technical and experimental melodies interlaced in defying ways, folky, even dancey moments and enough dissonance to make any Blut Aus Nord fan become interested.

It is worth mentioning that folk, or rather, folk-like melodies are clearly the inspiration for some of the main melodies in songs like Köd Utánam and Űrhajók Makón, which I feel gives the whole album a more deep meaning and artistic target, even though the lyrical themes already seem to be quite profound, from what I gather, since they, supposedly, focus in themes like "time and space". Go figure.

Vocals. Now, this element is as special as it gets. First off all songs are sung in their native Hungarian, which, or so I feel, is one of the most intriguing European languages. That makes it a pleasure for me to hear clean male and very beautiful female vocals, all of them very well arranged, very elegant and pleasant. The growling is not particularly unique but does set a great mood and goes along with the music nicely. The pitch reminds me of Garm in Nattens Madrigal, but a bit less guttural.

Drum and bass are, and I don't think many people will be surprised, the least outstanding elements of this piece, nonetheless, they do find their place to shine, and oh man do they shine. Drums especially. While programmed, you can tell the programmer has a lot of talent and he's not just an empty-headed bastbeat-machine like most black metal these days (not to say this is black metal, most of the extreme parts do resemble it a lot). There's a passage in the first song, some time after 7:15, in which the drums take a central part, backed up by keyboards and eerie sounds, it maintains a rather jazzy rhythm for some minute and a half, and that's just some part in the first (and second longest) song in the album. Which, by the way, is an immediate highlight.

Apart from these elements, there's the use of violins and similar instruments in certain key parts, these parts tend to aim for a folkish spirit and melodies. You could also listen to other stuff like flutes and instruments I cannot name. But then again some of those might very well be the result of the clever use of keyboards. The use of samples from dialogues or origin unknown is also a practice that I appreciate when not overdone, and that's what I also found in this album. Just a little mention.

How can I close this review? This album is so vast it's hard to enclose it in a few paragraphs. If you like experimental, avant-garde, unique, fresh and eclectic (that is the key word here, perhaps) metal (or music in general), then you should really consider giving this album a listen or two. But beware, this is one of those albums that will either be idolized or ignored, treated as the new edge of experimental music or just a bunch of guys playing random [&*!#]. This is an album that demands more than just one or two spins in order to make his point valid. But really, go listen to this already.

Originally written for the paper version of the Terror Cult Zine by Avestriel.

Report this review (#229379)
Posted Saturday, August 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This experimental metal act from Hungary attracts my attention although I'm usually not into this genre. Interesting concept of strange radio transmission and reserved using of metal sounds make this album more accessible to classic prog fans. Notable is also the using of electronics and classical instruments which make this work versatile. Really interesting melodic passages as well as calming female voice create unique, east-european character of this album.

Still most interesting parts of "Róka Hasa Rádió" are the post metal passages present on every track, outstanding on first two extended songs. After mediocre Köd Utánam the rest of album is more mellow and instrumental. I really enjoy the Hungarian vocals which make this work really magnificent.

The album is a good position for beginners with east European progressive metal. Favorable direction of prog metal development and really enjoyable work, 3 stars.

Report this review (#248366)
Posted Friday, November 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

"Roka Hasa Radio" is unexpectedly one of the very best Avant-Garde Metal albums of the last few years.

Hungary is one of the most unexpected countries to have a good metal band. We know that in Ukraine there's the black metal band Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum, but nobody I can think of comes from Hungary. Except for Thy Catafalque, which with "Roka Hasa Radio", have completely blown me away, like I never thought they would. This is the band's fifth studio album, surprisingly, meaning that they've been around for a while, without receiving the attention they fully deserved. But now in 2009 with this new album it seems like the band got a little less unknown by the public. And thank god.

What hit me the first time I heard this album was the huge amount of experimentation, keyboards and synthesizers used, that are accompanied in second hand with the incredibly dark sounding guitars, distorted or not. Thy Catafalque's style can't really be labeled as simple Avant-Garde Metal: there is a lot of Industrial Metal (combined with Black Metal), Electronic, Ambient, and maybe some Folk elements as well. All the songs have amazing arrangements, even though with a kind of harsh production. The thing that I found most interesting about these nine songs is that all of them, melodically, have a pretty noticeable Eastern Europe feel, even when the music is at it's loudest. This shows how the country of a band can influence them. Of course, all the songs are sung in Hungarian, so I don't see why I should even try to understand them, even if I do translate them.

Highlights are most definitely the first two tracks: "Szervetlen" , an eleven minute epic, probably the heaviest song off the album. After te dark Ambient intro, we hear amazing Industrial metal guitars and rhythmic section, with Black Metal growls to go with that. Of course there are tons of variations during the whole song, which is another reason to love it. But the second track, "Molekularis Gepezetek", more than nineteen minutes long, is even moe complete and epic sounding, even though not as heavy, and much more open to experimentation. We hear, during the middle of the song, a great, techno Jazz like section, followed by a beautifully female singed part, that moves me every time I listen to it. Most definitely the strongest highlight of the album. Then they're the rest of the album, none of them as long as these two tracks, but still very much worth the listen. But it's obvious that after those two songs all the other even songs are much more experimental and Avant- Garde, with only a few harsh parts here and there. But the main instrument here are definitely the keys and synths, that really give a unique atmosphere to the music. Keep also in mind that nearly every time there is some great, great melodies, which are as always inspired by Eastern folk music.

An album that completely blew me away, even though I discovered it two years after it's original release. I have only a few complaints about it (the last two songs could have been improved from many points of view), but it still remains one of my favorite metal albums of 2009.

Report this review (#446287)
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Thy Catafalque's fourth album is a bizarre black metal mutant which constantly surprises the listener with the range of genres the band manage to cram into it - there's folk, space rock, ambient moments and more as well as some vicious metal outbursts to be enjoyed here. I'm particularly impressed with the way the band are able to explore all these different styles without the album becoming unfocused, and also the way the album is constantly in transition; just when you think you've got a handle on what they're doing at any particular point, the compositions start incorporating little twists that build up to move the soundscape in an entirely different direction. That said, these constant shifts can also be a weakness, since the band often move on from interesting portions which I feel could have been explored further.
Report this review (#733527)
Posted Friday, April 20, 2012 | Review Permalink

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