Thy Catafalque – Rengeteg – 5/5
If you tried to name many Hungarian bands – let alone metal bands – it wouldn't surprise me if you came up at something of a loss. They don't seem to have the greatest of international presences within musical circles, at least since the days of Classical composers reigned supreme, but this is one band whose name should at least be on the tip of your tongue. Each new release sees him straying further from his blackened origins – this “band” is really just the genius vision of one man, Tamás Kátai, who performs all the instruments – and stepping deeper into the fantastical world of the Avant-Garde, but this isn't a band to bombard you with new elements every time the wind blows. Maybe they took their cues from their more experimental classical history (Hungarian composers had a habit of infusing elements of folk into their compositions), but every progression they've made up until this point has been nothing but perfectly natural, and so now that they've now come to a point in the musical abyss where the music is nigh on indescribable is to say nothing bad about the tone they've carved from themselves. It's unique and not quite like anything that came before it; it's like waking up and discovering that there's a whole new colour in the world you've never seen before, and it's nothing short of breathtaking to behold.
It certainly takes certain cues from metal – this is after all where they originated from – icy blackened growls make themselves known, the occasional blast beat and slow plodding death/doom riffs power along, though to call this a common occurrence or major feature to their sound isn't quite true. Rather the last consistent vestige that they have kept alluding to their black metal origins is the atmosphere, but even that doesn't feel the same any more. It's dark and brooding and not entirely unlike Agalloch in the manner it makes heavy use of folk tones to create a sense of nature in the music, never in a rush to make their point, or feeling no real need to race off at a blistering pace to make this bleak presence known. Clean vocals lend a theatrical, at times emotive and almost operatic quality whilst at others simply sounding simplistic and natural, lending an earthen, comforting folk like quality which despite being sung entirely in his native tongue is never anything less than inspiring.
There's a lot more to it than just this though, psychedelic effects in particular becoming an integral component to their sound. They make heavy use of electronic elements throughout the course of the album but it always contains a retro 70s vibe to it; a warbling, almost jazz inspired mellotron or organ like quality that complements the twanging guitars, playing basic but insatiably addictive melodies that too are simply dripping in psychedelia. Behind all this, what is usually considered the rhythmic section is no less important in creating their progressive compositions – progressive in that both individual tracks, and indeed the album as a whole, flows and changes emphasising the subtle changes found in the natural world rather than to further a more specific concept or story. The rhythm guitars hold a stark contrasting bass laden, oft 'death metal' tone that lends a sense of aggression or foreboding doom that the music might require, and the drum work, far from getting caught up in a habit of playing blast beats, take a lot of inspiration from jazz drumming and it's philosophy of making sure that you never play the same beat for more than a few seconds before breaking into some sort of fill, ever changing and despite being entirely programmed can often find itself being one of the most stellar musical presences.
There are a lot of elements that can be said to have gone into fabricated this piece but don't go mistaking it for inaccessible or trying to include multiple genres for the sole purpose of sounding different; everything comes together so beautifully that it's hard not to be overwhelmed. There is a sense of grandiose majesty in the melodies and atmosphere's it all conjures, and that cover image is more than just for show; that is in a nutshell the atmosphere you'll find within this pre-packaged fantastical musical voyage. Dark and dangerous but also something to be respected and admired; beautiful, magical, mystical, occasionally romantic, often hallucinatory, and filled with wonders we may never come to fully understand. Rengeteg is masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Highlights: Fekete mezők, Vashegyek, Tar Gallyak Végül
Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Posted by T. Bawden Saturday, 18 February 2012