Sunday, May 11, 2014

Triptykon - Melana Chasmata

Melana Chasmata
Prowling Death Records/Century Media Records

When Thomas Gabriel Fischer emerged with the debut offering from his new outfit Triptykon (2010’s ‘Eparistera Daimones’), it’s fair to say that the album divided fans’ opinions. Now returning after a lengthy four years away, the Zurich (Switzerland) based outfit Triptykon (Comprising of vocalist/guitarist/programmer Fischer, Dark Fortress/Celtic Frost touring guitarist/album co-producer V. Santura, bassist Vanja Ċ lajh and ex-Fear My Thoughts drummer Norman Lonhard) are back with their highly anticipated sophomore effort ‘Melana Chasmata’.
Not unlike ‘Goetia’ on their previous album, ‘Tree Of Suffocating Souls’ kicks off the album in a brutal fashion, with Fischer and Santura delivering some truly hard hitting riffs in the fast paced track, while the production (Handled by Fischer and Santura) allows the bass and drumming to penetrate the guitar mix with perfection, and allows the heaviness of the band’s sound to deliver a crushing blow. But what really makes ‘Tree Of Suffering Souls’ rise above a track like ‘Goetia’ is the notable lack of unnecessary padding. This track sounds incredibly streamlined and purpose built, with the experimental guitar tones and the dual spoken/growled vocals adding to the song’s overall grim vibe rather than simply sounding tacked on (Which was an obvious flaw to some of the tracks featured on ‘Eparistera Daimones’).
The follow up track ‘Boleskine House’ takes on a completely different path musically to that of the opener, with the bass driven/gothic tinged track slowing down the pace to a near crawl, but still retaining a suffocating and haunting atmosphere with its dense guitar work, clean female vocals (Courtesy of long time Fischer collaborator Simone Vollenweider) and the occasional growled effort.
‘Altar Of Deceit’, while maintaining the lumbering pace of the former, is a perfect example of the sound that Fischer has perfected over the years. The crushing heaviness in the guitars on this dooming/sludge-like black metal tinged effort is as crushing as it is slow, but still manages to have enough deviations on the musical front to keep the listener engage throughout. Not surprising, the catchy chorus and vocals from Fischer bring to mind ‘Monotheist’ (2006) era Celtic Frost.
‘Breathing’ (The first single lifted from the album) retains the Celtic Frost vibe with its thrashing/speed induced sound and vicious demeanour, and will no doubt stand out for most listeners, while on ‘Aurorae’, the band take the template previously heard on ‘Shatter’ (2010) and push it further into post-rock territory. While the description sounds strange, it works exceedingly well when the end result is heard. Fischer’s monotone spoken word vocals coupled with clean guitars evokes an eerie atmospheric vibe throughout, and the searing guitar solo at the tail end is the perfect way to finish thing. Although some may disapprove, I think it’s a real experiment into the unknown for the band, and a definite highlight on the album.
‘Demon Pact’ (Which features contributions from Odem Arcarum/Secrets Of The Moon guitarist Michael Zech) is a bit of an oddity on the album with its overtly industrialised Apollyon Sun feel, and tends to plod along without any real change. If there’s a song that fails to really go anywhere, it’s this track.
While tackling the same terrain as the former track, ‘In The Sleep Of Death’ is a far superior effort with its variations coming from dual vocal contributions (Fischer’s angular spoken word efforts and Santura ravaged guttural growls) and the shift towards heavier and denser sounds around its second half. The same could be said for the epic on the album ‘Black Snow’ too, which despite its twelve minutes, still maintains the listener’s full attention with menacing feel, crushing doom-like riffs, duality of vocals throughout and it’s largely avant-garde like instrumental tail end.
Finishing up the album is the haunting ‘Waiting’, which sees the return of Vollenweider in what could be described as a gentler tune with its fair share of experimental moments compared to what fans would expect from Triptykon.
In a lot of ways, Tryptikon’s new album doesn’t stray too far from where the band last left listeners some four years ago. Their mix of dooming/blackened death metal with straight out experimentation is still very much present throughout ‘Melana Chasmata’. And really, you wouldn’t expect anything less from Fischer. But what does separate their debut from their latest effort is Fischer’s emphasis on maintaining a mood or vibe within each of the album’s nine offerings, and ensuring that each track stands on its own as much as they do as a whole.
Some fans may feel that ‘Melana Chasmata’ is too drawn out and lacking any real move forward musically for the band. But for the rest of us, this album is a worthy follow-up to ‘Eparistera Daimones’, and quite possibly one of 2014’s finest releases.

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© Justin Donnelly

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