Album Review: Triptykon – Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

Album Review: Triptykon - Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

Album Review: Triptykon - Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings

Before even attempting to write some words to describe this quite epic piece of art, one needs to go back in time and draw the threads together. Forgive the history lesson, and any errors I may make. The context to this performance is essential. Triptykon, as all metal fans should know, was the result of Thomas Gabriel Warrior’s desire to continue to follow his path after the second and final split with seminal Avant Garde outfit Celtic Frost in 2008. ‘Requiem’ is the conclusion of a project which has taken over 30 years to complete.

Celtic Frost recorded the first component of what was intended to be a three-part Requiem (Mass for the Dead) in early 1987. That piece on completion became ‘Rex Irae’, released in June 1987 on the band’s second full-length album, ‘Into the Pandemonium’. For those that are familiar with the album, it was at the time and remains an extraordinarily experimental record. Warrior’s intention was to continue to work on the remaining two parts, although the timescale was left intentionally loose. With the disintegration of the original band, the plan to release all three sections as a dedicated EP was mothballed.

In 2001 Warrior resurrected Celtic Frost with co-founder Martin Eric Ain, and part of that union was the production of the third segment of Requiem, known as Winter and released on 2006’s ‘Montheist’ album. With the band fragmenting again in 2008, the missing middle section remained incomplete and ‘Requiem’ was once more, left unfinished. Scroll forward to 2018 and Walter Hoeijmakers, founder of the distinguished Roadburn Festival contacted Warrior and his band Triptykon with an offer of support to complete the project, and use Roadburn as the venue to, at long last, perform the piece in full. With this catalyst, Warrior commenced the writing of the missing section, which would evolve as ‘Grave Eternal’. When Hoeijmakers then suggested collaboration with the Dutch Metropole Orkest, the scene was set. Long time Triptykon affiliate Florian Magnus Maier arrived as classical arranger, whilst Finn Jukka Isakkila was chosen as the conductor. A year of rehearsals, meetings, discussion and writing, the time arrived for Triptykon to deliver the finished project.

Recorded at Roadburn on April 12, 2019, ‘Requiem’ is a staggeringly beautiful and intricate piece of work. Safa Heraghi was enlisted to provide the hauntingly ethereal vocals that Claudia Maria Mokri delivered so well on ‘Into the Pandemonium’ and it also features the recording debut of Triptykon drummer Hannes Grossman.

The piece opens with ‘Rex Irae’, the most familiar part for many fans. The colossal sound reverberates massively, the grinding riffs, solid drumming and the harrowing strings combine in a harmony that is as fascinating today as it was in 1987. Warrior’s rough growl and Heraghi’s soaring crystal clear voice provide a stunningly electric and contrasting delivery. The intensity building as the track progresses. The contrast of fierce, down tuned guitars with the sheer weight of the Orkest allow ‘Rex Irae to be recreated faithfully, lengthened from the original and providing a fresh and invigorating take on this old favourite.

‘Rex Irae’ segues smoothly into ‘Grave Eternal’, the centrepiece of the whole composition. ‘Grave Eternal’ engages string sections, brass and percussion and smoulders broodingly for 32 minutes of sheer magnificent music. The shimmering violins lead the start of the track, the combination of the strings with the triumphant brass fascinating. These give way to an almost

bluesy lead break, calm, measured and simply breath taking. Heraghi then takes centre stage, her duel with the soaring strings falling away to an atmospheric movement, which is dark and emotive. Grossmann’s echoing cymbal keeps time as the piece drops to almost silence, the only interplay that of percussion and the deep timpani. There follows an astonishing interplay between percussion, strings and choir before Warrior returns with a repeated “Wave After Wave” chant where he is joined by Heraghi, whilst the strings weave their harrowing web around them. This slowly returns to more experimental percussion with an echoing bass which reverberates in deathly manner, additional deep brass resonating as the piece continues its breath-taking voyage. At this point, closing one’s eyes and drinking the rich experience deeply is essential.

The mood changes at the central point, uplifting violins quiver, and the sun bursts through the clouds before the darkness returns with a vibrating bass riff, pounding timpani and crashing percussion, the piece progressing once again whilst at all times holding the attention. ‘Grave Eternal’ then builds towards a massive crescendo, the reintroduction of spectral vocals and choral elements emoting waves of feelings. This is sonically incredible, at no time in this measured masterpiece is there any attempt to rush. The feel is amazingly organic, and it must have been incredible to have been at this stunning event. The closure of ‘Grave Eternal’ allows the audience to express their sheer amazement which they do in a respectful manner.

This leads naturally to part 3, ‘Winter’ which opens with a solo double bass before being joined by other strings and delicate choral voices, all combining in perfect harmony to create a beautiful focus in this final piece. It ebbs and flows, totally captivating from start to finish and is a perfect conclusion to one of the most flawless pieces of work I have ever heard. The huge ovation at the end cannot do this justice.

Tom Gabriel Warrior commented that “We are truly, deeply delighted to be able to have been granted the opportunity to finish this unique project begun by Celtic Frost so many years ago, and to finally share the completed recording with the world. This album is the result of two years of passionate work, and it marks the conclusion of a musical idea first considered over three decades ago. We are releasing this "Requiem" album in memoriam of our deeply missed friends and collaborators Martin Eric Ain and HR Giger.”

A truly astonishing piece of work from possibly the most important person in the metal world, ‘Requiem’ is released by Century Media on 15th May

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