THY CATAFALQUE — Sublunary Tragedies (review)

THY CATAFALQUE — Sublunary Tragedies album cover Album · 1999 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
THY CATALFALQUE has been going strong now for over 20 years and continues to find new refreshing ways to reinvent itself with each subsequent album but yet retains a distinct avant-garde style that sounds like no other. The project is basically the artistic endeavors of Tamás Kátai (vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass) who has led the project through the decades with an ever-changing cast of guest musicians however János Juhász (guitar, bass) was also considered a full member during his tenure from 1998-2011. The duo formed THY CATAFALQUE in Makó, Hungary but since then the project has moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. The term CATAFALQUE refers to a decorated platform or framework on which a coffin rests in state during a funeral which is the perfect moniker for this unique darkened band that mixes filthy aggressive black metal with industrial and ambient sounds along with healthy doses of homegrown Hungarian folk.

While Kátai has incrementally increased the sophistication of THY CATALFALQUE and thus earning the project the highest plaudits within the world of extreme metal for its sheer intensity and experimentation, the band began more or less as a second wave black metal band with symphonic and orchestral touches much in the vein of early Emperor only with a unique paprika fueled Hungarian twist that included a touch of the avant-garde. This debut album SUBLUNARY TRAGEDIES displays the band at its rawest and primeval with ferocious black metal riffs engaging in breakneck tremolo picking, explosive blastbeat drumming frenzies all drenched in Hungarian folklore and rhapsodies on fire. While the black metal aspects are perhaps the most fiery and frenetic of the project’s lengthy career, the more diverse elements emerge from the extensive use of keyboards that not only provide the darkened frigid atmospheres but also includes industrial heft as well as danceable electronica.

SUBLUNARY TRAGEDIES is a powerhouse of seven tracks that creates the ultimate Jekyll & Hyde musical scenario. On the black metal side, this is frenetic uptempo fury that is unleashed and sounds like a rabid dog on fire much like the first Possessed album however there are slow contemplative atmospheric brooding sessions as well as middle of the road mid-tempo variations. While the atmospheric black metal tones and timbres are fairly standard, the underpinnings of Hungarian folk music that is infused in the musical scales gives an eerie and exotic flair that allows the compositions to feel more epic than say the standard Darkthrone or Immortal albums. The metal is brutal and raw yet the album comes off as if it were a Bartok sort of classical album in many ways. The two aspects are at war with no clear resolution as to which side actually prevails. It is the dance of darkness and light much like the universe above and around. While the metal stampedes like a standard second wave band from Scandinavia, the time signatures and progressive touches take it somewhere else completely.

While THY CATAFALQUE has become world renowned for the exemplary releases that peaked from “Tűnő Idő Tárlat” to “Rengeteg,” these earlier recordings are just as compelling provided you can appreciate the lo-fi DIY efforts of an ambitious avant-garde black metal band during its nascency. While many metalheads either love the lo-fi no nonsense approach or prefer the more polished sounds of a production job, i actually embrace both sides of the equation. Black metal is one of those genres that can sound really outstanding either way and in the case of THY CATAFALQUE i think that these early lo-fi albums resonate just as well as the slicker accomplishments that followed. After all, it’s the compositional skills that really win me over with this band and in that department THY CATAFALQUE hit the ground running with its unique folk fueled orchestral black metal sound. After all is said and done, i find SUBLUNARY TRAGEDIES to be an outstanding slab of experimental black metal that shouldn’t be missed if you have already checked out the later albums.
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