It’s been a busy year, and some releases have been slipping through the cracks for me. I loved the singles for this new Thy Catafalque album, and even had the promo, but never really dove into it until now. I have to say, though, that Vadak is quite an experience. It released on June 25th.
Thy Catafalque is a really strange project. The band name, if you weren’t aware (I wasn’t) refers to the table holding up a dead person’s casket at their funeral. Right from the start, you know this will be different. The project comes to us from Hungary and is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Tamás Kátai. He brings with him a huge list of guests, including three vocalists and musicians playing everything from guitar to saxophone, and from duduk to viola.
The music here has impressive range. At its base, the project is avant-garde metal, which just means “progressive” to me, but it is certainly injected with high levels of eccentricity and creativity. The album is mostly instrumental, though there are vocals on a few tracks (sung in Hungarian, I assume?), and throughout its runtime we are treated to everything from dark progressive metal to folk to electronic. The album is a seamless blend of these sounds overall, but in the minute-to-minute, practical application, the album practices wild song structure, perfect riffs, spacious keyboard theatrics, and sheer balance. The music honestly doesn’t sound like much else out there.
Let me say this right off: if you aren’t a metal fan, you might be scared by the very first track, “Szarvas” (Deer). Don’t be. This track is heavy with some growling and over-the-top blast beats, but it is one of only two songs on the album like this. For me, it is a great opener, but I could see why some people might turn it off if they aren’t used to those things. I would also encourage someone not used to these sounds to give it a go—the contrasts and differences between the songs are part of the entire point.
As the album progresses, it features plenty of amazing songs. One example is the peculiar “Gömböc” (Sphere), rich with luscious riffs, crystalline keyboard textures, and this winding-and-weaving feeling that comes off as kinetic and fast-paced. Another great track is “Móló” (Pier), a striking piece that brings back the growls right alongside a truly monster riff and musing synths; in the second half, the song becomes a roomy, beautiful electronic aura. I honestly get some Ulver vibes off this song, and that’s probably why it is my favorite on the record.
I really appreciate some of the tracks in the second half. “A kupolaváros titka” (The Secret of the Dome City) is a bluesy, urban instrumental ballad with saxophone front and center. “Kiscsikó” (Little Foal) revels in a sauntering, circular rhythm that is simply addictive. “Piros-sárga” (Red-yellow) is a wonderful song with metal and Middle Eastern ideas in its blood, but horns and reflective percussive moments are what really make it stand out. Finally, the title track, “Vadak” (Whey) is a heavy, lumbering track that trades back and forth between metal and subtlety.
I think the final track helps process the entire album. You see, this album, based on the English titles of the songs, feels like a journey or exploration into the everyday, into the beauty of the mundane, into the world all around us. It wants us to “take in the view”, so to speak. I feel like “Zúzmara” (Hoarfrost) captures this essence so well. It features a gorgeous vocal performance from vocalist Martina Veronika Horváth, and it feels like a gentle, quietly cinematic reflection on the minute—on the quaint and complex nature of the normal. The melody on this closer is sincere and beautiful, and I like to imagine the woman on the cover art as a protagonist, pondering and relishing the magnificence of peace and normalcy. That’s just me, though.
Thy Catafalque has produced a striking work of art here. This album is one giant contrast, exploring the exquisite nature of the world and the ordinary objects within it through the lens of eccentric and eclectic music styles. It is a paradox and a mystery of sorts. And that is exactly why I love it.
Find Thy Catafalque online: