When bands like Thy Catafalque languish in obscurity while the Opeths and the Mastodons and the Lamb of Gods are selling out shows worldwide, it really makes me wonder. I guess being from Hungary rather than a country in the US or Western Europe might put the band at a slight disadvantage, and writing lyrics in a language other than English probably hurts a bit as well, but come on. Musically, I think these guys have everything any of those other bands do – their lengthy back catalog is full of creativity, emotional range, ample heaviness, obvious musical talent, and of course a delightfully unique sound. So what gives?
The band’s most recent album Rengeteg is just the latest example of what metal fans miss out on by ignoring more obscure acts like Thy Catafalque. The band’s usual sound is back in full force, with blasting aggression, ghostly ambience, playful melodies and interesting electronic effects all blended into one roller coaster ride of an album. Unlike acts like Unexpect or The Diablo Swing Orchestra that seem to relish being over the top, Thy Catafalque’s greatest asset may be their ability to wrangle all the elements of their sound into something that sounds natural, almost as if all the disparate sounds and effects were meant to go together this way. It’s the musical equivalent of a Pollock painting. The tracks on Rengeteg run the gamut from more playful, almost folkish melodic tracks like ‘Kék Ingem Lobogó’ and ‘Kel Keleti Szél’ to heavy-hitting bruisers like ‘Fekete Mezõk’ and ‘Minden Test Fu’, with several sublime keyboard and electronic passages that almost veer into the psychedelic. The common threads in Thy Catafalque’s sound are the vibrant vocals weaving unforgettable melodies over the constantly morphing instrumentation, and the magnificently creative drumming which flutters between odd beats and unusual time signatures yet somehow manages to tie everything together.
As good as Rengeteg is, it’s 2009 predecessor Róka hasa rádió probably slightly edges it out for me personally due to the latter’s slightly more brooding and mysterious atmosphere as well as its more frequent use of female vocals. Both are of course personal favorites, and since Thy Catafalque has recently become a solo act after guitarist János Juhász’s departure in 2011, I’m very anxious to see what new directions the band’s sound may take. If the band keeps making monster releases like this, and Season of Mist – one of the better-run metal labels in my opinion – does their job, Thy Catafalque should be a household name in no time.