Melana Chasmata: Only Triptykon is Real
Thomas Gabriel Fischer, formerly Tom G. Warrior, knows darkness. The mastermind behind Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, arguably the best bands of the first wave of black metal, Fischer has proven time and time again that his knowledge of the esoteric, arcane, menacing, and depressive is genuine. After Hellhammer displayed Fischer’s abilities to wreak convincing sonic havoc, Frost’s music forsook normal typical speed metal pageantry for groaning morbid avant garde pseudo-thrash. When the band reunited in 2006, they created Monotheist, a blast of scathing doom-drenched shadow. And now, Fischer fronts Triptykon, whose output is a continuation of Monotheist’s brand of obsidian gravity. And with their sophomore album, Triptykon has raised the bar, not only for Thomas Fischer but for any band who considers themselves versed in the dark. As crushing, lightless, and heavy as the singularity of a black hole, Melana Chasmata is a masterpiece of genuine emotional depth and irrepressible evil.
While Triptykon’s debut, 2010’s massive Eparistera Daimones, was a powerful musical force to be reckoned with, one could hear that Fischer and company were still ironing out one or two wrinkles in their sound. Some songs were too quiet, while others could have been slightly more nuanced. With Chasmata, the band has perfected their creation while still making strides forward. Fischer’s vocals range from forceful bark to reptilian hum, even incorporating some of the melancholy moans of Celtic Frost’s experimental 1987 release Into The Pandemonium, with backing female vocals, presumably from longtime Fischer collaborator Simone Vollenweider, adding an eerie ethereal quality to many of the tracks. The guitar work of Fischer and V. Santura moves in effortless progression between huge swooping riffs, chugging gallops, and echoing melodies; the rhythm section is beyond thunderous, backing the band with a bedrock of resonant bass notes by Vanja Slajh and the crisp, precise percussion of Norman Lonhard. The production feels natural and undiluted, providing moments of vast space and haunting echo with perfect clarity; Triptykon don’t need to sound fuzzy or lo-fi to prove how true they are.
“Tree of Suffocating Souls” begins with a squeal of feedback that leads immediately into a kinetic maelstrom, followed by the powerful sorrow of “Boleskine House” and the black leather stomp of “Altar of Deceit.” In these first tracks, the three faces of Triptykon—hatred, depression, and black magic—are established with unflappable precision. Next comes “Breathing,” whose title bears no suggestion of the throttling thrash-inspired tune that follows, and “Aurorae”, whose rippling layers of steady rhythm, sonorous guitar, and intoned vocals are immediately reminiscent of the phenomenon for which it is named (fear not, headbangers, for the song erupts into a soaring crescendo complete with a wild guitar solo). “Demon Pact” is and imperial and majestic slow-burner speckled with moments of eerie quiet and industrial rattling that would make Trent Reznor smirk and nod. “Into The Sleep Of Death” features Fischer’s Pandemonium-style vocals, here believable in their pleading to a lost love named Emily; performed by many other bands this song would feel a bit whiny, but by Triptykon it is killer. “Black Snow” is the album’s epic, a twelve-minutes-and-change destroyer that sounds like a war march of vampires. Closer “Waiting” engulfs the listener, bringing the record to an end in a tidal wave of ritualistic blackened psychedelia.
Sophomore albums that match the debuts that came before them are rare; those that easily overtake their predecessors are like diamonds. That’s what this record is—a gem. True to its title, Melana Chasmata opens up great dark valleys of sound for Triptykon to explore. The music here encompasses the great things about extreme metal’s many corner—black, doom, death, thrash—and combines them to create something truly incredible. Thomas Gabriel Fischer may be remembered most prominently for work in Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, and rightly so, but this album must be hailed as on par with any of his previous material. The Warrior is dead. Long live Triptykon.