This album will make waves because it is going to divide audiences based on who will give it a chance and who will categorically ignore it; this, like trolling, is the pure provocation that forms a necessary part of Art as opposed to Entertainment. The album possesses a fatal flaw, but makes up for it with some of the more interesting experiments within the notion of doom — dark, melancholic, sentimental, but not self-pitying — sounds, going beyond metal and rock in composition.
Having The Metropole Orkest add layers of natural sound instruments merely intensifies these moods beyond what a studio, dominated by the loudness of guitar and drums, could do, and this shows Triptykon venturing into neofolk and medievalist territory while keeping its metal more in spirit than actuality. The acoustic nature of a live show allows this to blend seamlessly, making vocals into another texture of multiple sine waves interweaving in a slowly pulsing, layered pattern.
It would make sense to describe this album as “atmospheric doom,” leaving off the metal qualifier, but the metal worldview pulses through it: this feels like a fantastic venture on a religious quest through the nocturnal technological wastelands of a fallen society, with vague sounds coming from afar and hinting at what might be there beneath the ruined surface.
“Rex Irae,” from the 1987 album Into The Pandemonium, opens the disc, but it has been reconfigured in a rock/jazz style to emphasize vocals, and here we see the crisis of music, which is that as musicians age and learn “the right way” they converge on the usual compromise. No doubt it displays more finesse and use of scale than the original, but in the process, all atmosphere becomes broken.
The rest of the album proves worth attending to, since it consists of one thirty-two minute track broken into six chapters, and the sonic devastation instrumental “Winter” from the 2006 Triptykon album Monotheist, which fell short of metal glory because of Pantera-styled bounce riffing and too much of an urge to make punchy, memorable songs where Celtic Frost achieved fame for distinctive articulations of concept in riff. The vocals took over again, and this kills metal.
The six chapters of “Grave Eternal” spread out in layered sound, more like a ritual than music, with gentle percussion introducing the strings and overlapping guitar noise, sometimes just a bent string or what sounds like notes being fretted but not strummed. These songs introduce themselves as paradox, deepen with fleshing out of the theme, then come to a point of doubt where the layering interrupts, before gesturing at theme which is both evanescent and complete enough to restart the layering. Some sound partially-complete, in that they get to this point and return without having changed much in the perception of the listener, but the mood always predominates.
With the final chapter of “Grave Eternal,” vocals return as more than a supporting layer, but in this case as in metal, follow the bass and guitar which churns slowly in a morbid and trudging pattern, sounding like the inevitable entropy that happens as life splinters all the good from its core, turning it into something like ash. Most would describe these soft non-verbal vocalizations as “angelic,” and this is the effect they have in the music, seeming to rise out of the permanent abyss of the passage of time.
After this, “Winter” presents itself as throbbing guitar noise breaking apart like a landscape in fog, with strings accentuating parts of the progress it makes, allowing it to indulge its atmosphere and make it an expected norm, at which point from the center dynamic contrasts emerge. This song feels unfinished as well, and perhaps a bit over-indulgent, but ends the concert in an entirely different mood, one of resurgent strength and building beauty from abraded remains, much as metal does.
- “Rex Irae” (06:34 min.) (First appeared on 1987’s Into The Pandemonium album by Celtic Frost)
- “Grave Eternal” (32:28 min.) (Newly written middle part, broken into six tracks)
- “Winter” (06:54 min.) (First appeared on 2006’s Monotheist album by Celtic Frost)