17 September 2010

CD REVIEW: Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones (2010, Prowling Death Records)

Welcome back as we conclude Extreme Prog Metal Day.

Strap yourselves in, this is going to be a brutal ride…

I have been a fan of Celtic Frost since…well, probably since the later end of the 1980’s. Considering I didn’t even really get into rock music in general till around 1984 or 1985, this isn’t that big of a shock. That said, while I’d probably heard Morbid Tales and Into the Pandemonium in my early high school days, I wasn’t quite ready for them at that time…which is odd considering that I was into bands like Slayer at that point.

In any event, I actually didn’t get into them deeply until after their first break-up. I know the very first CF album I ever bought with my own hard earned cash was Parched With Thirst Am I And Dying, which I dug extremely despite the sort of odds and sods nature of the release. I went back and bought the old albums, threw away my copy of Cold Lake, and sat there wondering where this mythical band had gone off and hidden. Like many, I was shocked to hear in 2001 that the band was reconvening to record a new album. I waited. And waited. And waited.

Did I mention I waited?

Oh, and then, I waited some more.

But 2006 brought Monotheist, and the waiting was proven worthwhile. The album was bleak. And dark. And heavy. Heavier than anything I had heard the band commit to vinyl (or bonded polycarbonite disc) before. It was slowed down, Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s voice was raspy and ancient and spoke volumes, and I was blown away. Most of all, to my ears it was progressive. Not only for the band itself, but for the genre. There were sprawling multi-part epics, multiple languages, string sections, operatic female vocals, and melodies strewn about the 70 odd minutes of bleak apocalyptic metal.

I loved it.

They toured, they argued, they broke up. Somewhere along the line Martin Eric Ain and Franco Sesa ended up with the rights to everything (we wont be getting into the story here, but parts of it can easily be found online), and TGF pulled back, surveyed the damage and the scene, and vowed to come back heavier, angrier and more boundary pushing than ever. He announced a new band, Triptykon, and we waited.

You’ll note waiting is a common thing for CF/associated fans.

A few teasers came out via Mysapce…one, a track called ‘Crucifixus,’ sounded like nothing we’d heard from TGF before. Droning, ambient…was this the new sound he was bringing to his fans? There was confusion. Heated words. And when the new album, Eparistera Daimones, was finally announced, and a few tracks began to leak out (officially or otherwise), there was a sigh of relief. It was what was promised…”a darker, heavier, and slightly more experimental development of Monotheist,” as TGF announced it.

Eparistera Daimones is an angry album; one look at the liner notes will confirm this. TGF spends a good bit of space explaining each of the songs on this release, which aids in understanding the motivation and inspiration for the pieces within. The songs are long…2 tracks exceed 10 minutes, one is 9 and a half, and the rest mostly range between 5 and 7 minutes. There’s plenty of monolithic riffing, massive, thundering beats, and TGF’s distinctively gruff, rasping vocals. If brutality could be pressed to disc, it’s been done so with this album.

That’s not to say this is nothing more than plodding, lumbering metal. There are plenty of rhythmic challenges to be found within…deft changes of tempo and meter, syncopation and what may seem to some to be a surprising level of complexity in these songs. Album opener ‘Goetia’ is a harbinger of what the rest of the album holds; empty darkness, harsh vocals screaming out against hypocrisy, long musical phrases evolving slowly, inexorably from the dark, yet amazingly clear mix. It is the first sign of evolution beyond what Monotheist had to offer, heavier, more complex, more damned than ever before.

Experimentation is the dish of the day on ‘Shrine,’ a 2-minute bit of ambience that hearkens back to the lead teaser track ‘Crucifixus.’ Between those two tracks, I’d really be interested to see what Fischer could do with ambient music; he’s shown a bit of a deft hand for it. It’s not like he hasn’t played these scenes before…the earlier ‘Human’ series of songs pushed similar borders. But that was then…this is now, and with years more experience, TGF has crafted something far more disturbing. This is music for horror films, to be sure. ‘Mypoic Empire’ features some interesting vocal arrangements, with a piano and strings break in the middle adding so much tension with its sudden appearance and just as sudden disappearance. ‘A Thousand Lies’ speeds forward with syncopation between drums and vocal lines really setting things off nicely. It pulses, swelling and fading like a fibrillating heart.

Eparistera Daimones is not just about pure heaviness; I doubt Celtic Frost would have ever recorded a song like ‘My Pain,’ and it’s a damned shame, because this is one of the most beautiful things TGF has ever written. Fragile, it darkles beautifully, with layered piano lines, fuzzed bass, and beautiful female vocals counterpointed by Fischer’s own tortured lyrical lines. In college, a friend of mine and I had a list of songs we called ‘concrete median songs.’ These were the ones you never wanted to listen to when depressed and driving. ‘My Pain’ is perhaps the ultimate distillation of that classification of song…and it is frighteningly addictive.

‘The Prolonging’ closes things out. At 19:22, it is by far the longest single composition TGF has ever written (‘Triptych’ totals 21:25, but is made up of three distinct pieces, and as such I don’t count it as a single track), and between the quiet, almost unassuming opening, the jackhammer guitars, the subtly (and sometimes not subtly) shifting tempos and rhythms, it is also perhaps one of the more complex works in his entire CV. It’s not an easy listen; lyrically it’s about as heavy and hard as they come. There’s darkness here, tempered by the light that comes from overcoming that darkness, that deceit. It evokes ‘Goetia’ in many ways, and bookends the release perfectly.

Are there albums more extreme that Triptykon’s Eparistera Daimones? I’m sure there are. Are there ones more progressive? Perhaps. But I’ve yet to hear one that merges these two sides quite like this. I’ve been living with this one since March, and I still haven’t gotten my head fully around it. But it hasn’t let go of me yet, and at the end of the year, I have no doubts this one will be riding high on my 2010 Top Ten list. Listen loud and with the lights off.

1. "Goetia" Music & Epistle: Warrior 11:00
2. "Abyss Within My Soul" Music & Epistle: Warrior 9:26
3. "In Shrouds Decayed" Music: V. Santura, Epistle: Warrior 6:55
4. "Shrine" Concept: Warrior 1:43
5. "A Thousand Lies" Music & Epistle: Warrior 5:28
6. "Descendant" Music: V. Santura, Epistle: Warrior 7:41
7. "Myopic Empire" Music: Warrior/Unala/Gadient, Epistle: Warrior 5:47
8. "My Pain" Music & Epistle: Warrior 5:19
9. "The Prolonging" Music & Epistle: Warrior 19:22

Thomas Gabriel Warrior - (Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Apollyon Sun) - vocals, guitar, programming
V. Santura (Dark Fortress) - guitar, vocals
Norman Lonhard (Fear My Thoughts) - drums & percussion
Vanja Slajh - bass

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