Band: Thy Catafalque | Album: Naiv | Genre: Avant-garde metal, Hungarian folk | Year: 2020
From: Makó, Hungary | Label: Season of Mist
For fans of: Kekal, Agalloch, Botanist
I found this album in a record store and was struck immediately by the cover art. After quickly consulting the Internet to make sure this wasn’t going to be something I’d hate, I decided to gamble and bought it without first listening to it. And boy, am I glad that I did.
Thy Catafalque is a one-man project based out of Hungary, and Naiv is this act’s ninth full-length album. By the way, this is a catafalque; I’d never heard that word and needed to look it up. On it, sole full-time bandmember Tamás Kátai blends black metal, electronic elements, and Hungarian folk music into something distinctive.
“A bolyongás ideje” (“It’s Time to Wander”) opens the album with a charging, infectious rhythms. Harsh male vocals and clean female vocals harmonize to create an effect reminiscent of a vocoder, and the fact that this is sung in Hungarian adds a unique character.
The instrumental “Tsitsushka” has a misty, post-punk feel to its guitar tones, though the song soon enough veers out of metal territory altogether. There’s an infectious slap-bass interlude complemented with a brass arrangement that segues into an unexpected series of jazzy solos. By the time we reach the song’s end, synthesizer and saxophone are trading the lead over an anxious backing track.
That high-octane instrumental is followed by the quiet piano, flute, and synthesizer opening of “Embersólyom” (“Man-Falcon”). It’s on this track where the folk elements of Thy Catafalque’s music are most evident. Airy flute lines cut through big walls of distorted guitar, and multi-parted vocal arrangements contrast beautifully against the song’s metallic backbone. Obvious folk motifs continue on “Számtalan színek” (“Countless Colors”). This brief instrumental gives the lead to a string arrangement and contains more textural shifts than would normally be anticipated in a song this short.
“A valóság kazamatái” (“The Dungeons of Reality”) closes the first half of Naiv in a manner very similar to how it opened. After a brief synthesizer introduction, the song bursts forth into surprisingly catchy metal. The guitar soon cedes the spotlight to a speedy oud solo that fits right into this album’s metallic sensibilities. The song’s second half features an extended clean section that draws from post-rock and math rock, though it closes on a reprise of its opening fury.
Side 2 begins with “Kék madár (Négy kép)” (“Bluebird (Four Pictures)”), with a solitary, fluttering flute, followed by compressed strings. Tight, energetic drumming enters, pushing it along as the flute reenters with a speedy, lilting solo. This song’s second half veers off into some of the most blatant electronic influences yet. Gentle synthesizers gradually bring this piece down from its energetic heights.
“Náput” (“Sun”) continues with gentle quiet tones in its opening moments, but black metal—augmented by Wakemanesque synthesizer embellishments—soon takes over. Smooth female vocals once more add brilliant contrast with folk melodies.
“Vető” (“Sower”) opens with the heaviest metal of the album. Apocalyptic blackened death metal weaves with more vocal folk melodies in its first couple minutes. The midsection of “Vető” once again ditches guitar altogether, with synthesizer and organ taking the lead in a jumpy, nearly danceable movement. Spare post-rock is visited briefly before closing out on a revisitation of the opening metal theme. “Szélvész” (“Tempest”) is a fitting closer. It features all of Thy Catafalque’s usual eclecticism while also being one of the most accessible songs on the whole album.
Naiv is a fantastic, unique record. The music is incredibly ambitious and packed with an impressive amount of ideas. Black metal, electronica, progressive rock, and Hungarian folk somehow fold together into a brilliant blend of unexpected influences. Despite the diversity of this album, it feels focused and well-structured. Never does the music drag or feel disjointed. Every twist and turn on Naiv has purpose.