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Album Review: Thy Catafalque - Naiv

Artist: Thy Catafalque

Album: Naiv

Genre: Avant-garde Metal / Post-Black Metal / Progressive Metal

Review by: Karl O’Shea

Black metal has proven to be one of the most malleable extreme sub-genres of metal in the last couple of decades. Whether it’s being combined with folk, shoegaze, dream pop, noise, post-punk, new wave or progressive rock, many modern heavy acts have proven that you can re-shape what can be quite a misanthropic genre of music without losing the dark essence of what makes a lot of this style of music appealing. This cross genre-pollination is probably the biggest factor keeping black metal alive in the 21st century.

Thy Catafalque hail from Hungary and is essentially the product of one man (Tamás Kátai) with a troop of guest musicians helping his vision to come to life. Naiv is their ninth full-length release since 1999 and continues the band’s tradition of taking the black metal rulebook and flinging it out the window. For the most part, the result is incredibly enjoyable, surprisingly catchy and consistently surprising. It’s a hell of a journey if you’re willing to take the ride.

Opener “A bolyongás ideje” is probably the most straight-forward song on the album and whilst blending black metal with beautiful female clean vocals and folk melodies with a dash of old-school prog synths, gives little indication of the labyrinthine genre exploration that characterises the majority of Naiv. “Tsitshushka” starts off with some heavy 80s post-punk/goth vibes which soon introduces metallic riffing before taking a complete left turn with intricate slap bass and a horn section that eventually morphs into a track that balances goth rock, a 60s spy film style brass section, 70s prog synths and even a smooth-as-silk sax solo! What’s even better is the stylistic twists and turns seem to occur naturally throughout this track and the rest of the album with no element sounding too jarring or out of place.

This exploratory style characterises a good majority of the instrumentation on Naiv. “Számtalan Sszínek” combines chamber music with blackened guitar lines; “A valóság kazamatái” features Tangerine Dream-esque synths, a hypnotic rhythm section, folk-inspired melodies, pummeling black metal and touches of psychedelia to create a labyrinth of sound that somehow comes in under six minutes. Even with so much stylistic variation going on, none of the tracks overstay their welcome and no idea gets stretched out too far. Quite a lot of care has gone into the structure and composition of these songs and there’s a bit of pop smarts on display as well. Nearly every track features danceable elements or a melodic hook. Simply put, it’s a hell of a balancing act that not very many bands could pull off.

There is a downside to this album which is typically the clean vocal sections that are peppered throughout. Whilst the singing is well performed, they generally tend to be wedded to more straightforward and generic “folk-meets-black metal” ideas and never feel as exciting or inspired as the instrumental passages (which admittedly is 70% of the album) or even the “blackened shriek” sections. I would be curious to hear Thy Catafalque craft a purely instrumental release as they more than prove they are capable of painting quite the aural landscape without the need for singing, clean or otherwise.

Naiv definitely won’t be for everybody. Black metal purists will bitch about it (no surprises there) and fans of more old-school prog or folk music will most likely be taken aback by the metallic guitars and occasional shrieks. But if you like the idea of a band that sounds like Lifelover, Grails, Tangerine Dream and Dead Can Dance were thrown together in a blender, this is probably the album for you.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

“Naiv” is out now via Season Of Mist - Stream the full album here:

Track-list: 1. A bolyongás ideje (4:55) 2. Tsitsushka (5:39) 3. Embersólyom (4:17) 4. Számtalan színek (2:34) 5. A valóság kazamatái (5:30) 6. Kék madár (Négy kép)  (6:27) 7. Napút (3:48) 8. Vető (8:17) 9. Szélvész (5:36) Total playing time: 47:03 Line-up: Tamás Kátai - Guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards, programs

Cover art: Irene Saíz Guerrero

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