Review Summary: Thy Catafalque prove again to be the masters of whimsical experimental nuance disguised as metal.
There are few acts that morph through genre nuance as well as Thy Catafalque. For the past twenty-one years band mastermind, Tamás Kátai has been churning through the boundaries that define avant garde. The group’s previous effort, Geometria
and the 2016 effort, Meta
Thy Catafalque proved they could combine normally disagreeable soundscapes under a single banner and maintain the musical integrity that pertains to an enjoyable music. Despite the twists and turns of the group’s now nine studio full-lengths, Kátai and co. have moved to new musical realms by holding loosely to the foundation left before it. In this regard, Naiv
is a slightly more rounded affair, combining the same eclectic musical range with Hungarian folk, industrial, heavy electronica, light doom and thick black metal nuance.
The album opens in typical progressive black metal tropes, “A bolyongás ideje” but the Thy Catafalque flair is unmistakable. Clean female vocal leads sit juxtaposed to black metal snarls and thick, lush keyboards - but nothing here is as stock standard as these mere words suggest. Instead of caving to the left-field appeal avant garde has to offer the sound is kept to straight-forward inclusion, keeping one hand firmly wrapped around the steering wheel to which Thy Catafalque drives their music. It’s the next track that shows the band’s dexterity, living in the sheer experimentation of gothic rock, awe-inducing progressive electronica and lush saxophone sections… but that’s only half of what “Tsitsushka” offers so eagerly. The track itself also offers artful displays of trumpets, funky popping bass and adaptive synth building on the already full palette of the listener in the best possible, typically Thy Catafalque soundscape.
Despite the avant garde focus of Thy Catafalque’s music the ‘metal’ parts feel equally over and underused in sections, but as listeners we pen that down to the band’s natural gravitation towards the experimental. “Embersólyom” for example; blends invigorating synth work with entrancing Hungarian folk sections, while leaning heavily into straight-forward, yet driven metal riffs that tie into Tamás Kátai’s penchant for making experimental seem simplistic. On the other hand the black metal inflection that drives “A valóság kazamatái” could do with some scaling back, allowing some more of that folk-y preamble to shine. When all things are considered, Naiv
is stronger in its second half. “Kék madár (Négy kép)” flute driven introduction (and verse flurry) is painstakingly put together, lulling the listener into the lunging, almost head-bang-able midsection without drenching the listener in a wall of sound scenario. While “Veto” displays an almost thrash groove that is defined by the band’s use of typically metal orientated music it’s quickly replaced by minimal keys and electronic nuance. “Veto” gives the listener both room to breathe and the music to quash this heartfelt musicianship into the realms of trance-led storytelling. In this regard, Thy Catafalque meet the dark with the light and enchanting vocal phrasing.
What’s missing here is the twenty minute opus that has dazzled on Thy Catafaque’s other records. But this also means the album is now the shortest full-length Kátai and co. have released in their twenty(plus) year run-time (under the Thy Catafalque moniker). Although the album is more succinct and straightforward because of the absence of such a track, there’s a feeling that the band has also dialed back some of it’s more progressive experimentation, befitting that of a successful avant garde band in full flight. As a whole, Naiv
ticks many boxes on its way to metal avant garde supremacy with very few flaws to speak of being both a greater display of Hungarian whimsical folk and extreme orientated black metal that remains familiar to both new and older fans but experimentalise enough to breach new ground. Naiv
is a record built from a foundation of positive moods, occasionally allowing hypnotic jovial moods to outweigh the abrasive screams, growls and blast beats as it moves perpetually towards its end.