Album Review: Thy Catafalque – Vadak
Reviewed by Richard Oliver
Some bands have ideas and influences that extend beyond the confines of genre and the result is an artist that defies classification. One such artist is Thy Catafalque which is the project of Hungarian musician Tamás Kátai and he continues his trajectory of releasing music that hops between musical style and sounds effortlessly with the tenth Thy Catafalque album Vadak.
It is safe to say that Tamás has more ideas in one album than most bands manage to fit into a career. There are many other bands that throw in every musical idea and influence they can think of into one album but few do it with the cohesiveness and songwriting ability than Tamás demonstrates with Thy Catafalque. Although it is metal at its heart and core (with Thy Catafalque having its origins as a black metal band), Vadak mixes in traditional folk, synthwave, jazz, funk and countless other non-metal influences with a range of metal sounds ranging from the black to the progressive to the doomy. In the hands of anyone else this mixing pot of styles could come across as a garbled and incoherent mess but the flow of this album is so seamless and the shifts in sound come so naturally that is sometimes barely noticeable.
Assisting Tamás is a large number of guest vocalists and musicians some of whom have appeared on previous Thy Catafalque albums such as Martina Veronika Horváth who adds her beautiful voice to the folk influenced Köszöntsd a hajnalt and the gentle, haunting and mesmerising album closer Zúzmara amongst others. You also get musicians playing varied instruments such as redpipes, saxophone, trumpet and Armenian dudak. The inclusion of these “non-metal” instruments helps elevate these songs and feels totally natural within the songs context such as the jazz feel of A kupolaváros titka, the horn breaks in Kiscsikó (Irénke dala) and the funky bass of Piros-sárga. My personal favourites are the synthwave heavy Móló and the harsh yet cinematic Vadak (Az átváltozás rítusai) with its lush inclusion of strings and another beautiful vocal performance from Martina Veronika Horváth as well as some of the most harsh black metal leaning moments in the album.
There are so many ideas going on throughout Vadak that it is an album that demands your full attention to be able to completely absorb and digest it. Just when you think a song is following a traditional formula it is completely subverted but whilst at the same time feeling like the completely natural progression for the song to follow. Thy Catafalque once again prove themselves to be one of the most interesting and engaging acts in avant-garde and progressive metal. Unlike a lot of avant-garde bands which come across as weird and abrasive for the sheer sake of it, Thy Catafalque do it with a style and grace that makes it somewhat accessible. If you dare have your musical horizons expanded and subverted then Vadak is a fantastic listen and another incredible album in the Thy Catafalque back catalogue.