Review: Thy Catafalque ‘Alföld’

Thy Catafalque have been at this atmospheric black metal game since their 1999 debut Sublunary Tragedies. A few lineup changes has left original member Tamás Kátai as the sole member. So, this project is technically a one-man black metal band where we see Kátai on guitar, bass, keyboards, programs, and vocals.

Thy Catafalque 'Alföld' Artwork
Thy Catafalque ‘Alföld’ Artwork

His discography has been heralded as a quintessential black metal band that has yet to make an album fans or critics have deemed bad or even subpar. My personal favorite is 2021s Vadak. He’s been signed to Season of Mist, home to some of the coolest working metal acts today, since 2011. Here on Alföld he has called in help from a few friends including…

Martina Veronika Horváth – Vocals
Lambert Lédeczy – Vocals
Bálint Bokodi – Vocals
Gábor Veres – Vocals
Gábor Dudás – Vocals
Breno Machado – Lead Guitar
Daniele Belli – Acoustic Guitar, Double Bass
Dario Cei – Flute
Chris Lyons – Violin, Viola
Ido Romano – Ney
Samuel Chacon – Fretless Bass
Austris Apenis – French Horn

After looking at the list of instruments, I thought this would likely be a relaxing affair. So, I put the record on and listened to Side A, only to be assaulted by the crushing atmosphere that’s immediately present. While initially coming off as incredibly dense, A Csend Hegyei is still a very enjoyable song, even upon first listen. Guitar breakdowns are buried so deep they can only be revealed on your third, fourth, or even fifth listen. The musicianship is well arranged making it easy to break it all apart and appreciate how the textures are layered. Which is surprising given how many moving parts there are here. In the hands of less skilled players, these fluttering guitar passages would spill out, rather than gracefully glide along.

Testen Túl takes us by the hand on an unofficial tour through something haunted. These black metal elders really have a way of making music that still manages to not only sound but also feel, dangerous and new. They just know how to distort and lay their riffs across keys. This track could easily be a part of a redone metal score to a movie like Carnival of Souls, The Devils, or something just uncanny enough to feel not of our world.

Exploding with rage, A Földdel Egyenlő has jackhammer-like guitars which grind until a slower pace comes, and power chords shred apart the track. Eventually dungeon synths and stacked chanting create a stark contrast making something quite beautiful. So many of the guitars resemble an engine revving with acceleration on the title track Alföld.

This is a gargantuan project that’s perfected a sound…

The vocals are slowly growled against folk-styled horns that are artistically woven in making a stark contrast to what we heard in the beginning that I actually had to check to make sure it was the same song. Beautiful female vocals come in bringing those folk elements to complete attention while putting the metal sound to the back. This thick-with-beauty transportation to a peaceful realm meets a Flamenco-style guitar that closes the track, and side A, out.

Let’s flip this record over and see what Side B has for us. Instrumental Folyondár begins with a disorientating haze that soon straightens out to more folk instrumentation in the form of wind flutes and other native Nordic instruments. Think something akin to either a nature documentary or the music in Cannibal Holocaust but with blast beats and electric keys.

The vocal featured in the opening for Csillagot Görgető makes for some of the best atmospheric black metal I’ve ever heard. Fuzzy guitars against clean drumming soar, but the deep bass brings a vocalist with a deeper, richer register than anything we’ve heard before. More than any other track this one seems to have the most drastic tonal changes, yet it still somehow manages to feel the most like coming home as familiar feelings permeate throughout.

A sound resembling a serine lake as it’s being serenaded by the mating calls of summer insects comes to mind immediately on A Felkelő Hold Országa. This scene plays out until it’s completely engulfed by some excellent, and brutal, riffage and the vocals harken back to those creepy classic black metal albums from the early ‘90s. The music is urgent here with a real sense of danger coming through. Thy Catafalque prove they can transform a song from lovely folklore to pummeling war instantly.

Like what would play by opening some haunted musical box Szíriusz is minimal and light. It acts as a pallet cleanser to album closer Néma Verme. We end things with a chasm of what we’ve previously heard. I could repeat the musicianship that Kátai and friends have shown here, but that isn’t the point anymore. This is a gargantuan project that’s perfected a sound and now plays around with it creating something impossible to define by genre. The needle groove runs out and the record stops spinning. The riff-laden fairy tale ends.

Label: Season Of Mist
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Richard Murray