For the past couple of months, I’ve really been trying to write this review, but all past efforts weren’t nearly enough to make me satisfied. I’ve already lost count how many times I’ve erased everything already written and started from scratch, just to find myself bashing my head into a wall named Melana Chasmata. Seriously, it feels like this damn album doesn’t even want to be written about! It’s like a slippery piece of soap falling from your hands while taking a shower, and after you’ve picked it up again thinking you can handle it, that bastard falls again, and again, and again, and again. I’ve got to admit, there’s been moments of disbelief when I wanted to give up and just let this review go. Why bother, as there are tons of other records to talk about.
Well, because that is NOT how we roll around here. If I’m going to start something, you can bet your ass that particular something will be finished. So let’s do this! I will not submit to you, Melana Chasmata!
Musically speaking, the songs are just what you would expect them to be; harsh and heavy sonic oppression with strong hints of doom, death and gothic metal properly mixed together. It’s more than adequate to say that this release is very similar to Triptykon’s previous offering Eparistera Daimones and Celtic Frost’s Monotheist (that sadly became their farewell album.) To be clear, it isn’t a cheap clone of the aforementioned, but the listener should be able to tell who’s the one pulling the strings after a couple of spins. At first I was somehow glad that Thomas Gabriel Fischer has been sticking to the musical formulae he has worked with since Monotheist, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling: was this album really worth four years of waiting? About half of the songs make you think “Is this all you’ve got? Give me more.” It’s not that they’re literally bad, but they seem to lack that magical inner fire that should drive an artist, giving you the sensation of Fischer and his mates playing their game too safe and secure with Melana Chasmata. And no, these certain songs aren’t boring; they just fall to the ground before even managing to get their wings on decently, failing to grow to their full potential.
Gladly, the other half of the record is far better. Actually, there’s a couple tracks that are without a doubt among the best ever written by Tom G. Warrior (“Demon Pact” for the win!). The atmosphere is intimidating, even crushing, yet so hypnotizing that you are forced to submit all of your concentration. Musically these songs are surprisingly simple, yet they have more meat in them than many other new pieces I’ve come across recently. Sometimes less is more. However, in spite of using the word “simple,” there’s still a refreshing amount of variation between the songs. For example, the album opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is a strong and even violent piece of dark art capable of smashing your face in, whereas “Aurorae” and “Waiting” are almost fragile, melancholic verses of such beauty that they bring you close to tears nearly every time when listening to their wistful woes.
The musicianship on Melana Chasmata is altogether top notch. But the one who deserves a special mention is drummer Norman Lonhard, whose pounding is just what Triptykon needs. Lonhard has clearly done his homework, as he’s more than qualified whether we’re talking about playing above average double-bass drum lines or just basic percussive work you can find on the majority of metal albums. It’s also a great joy to notice how during more serene songs, Lonhard plays with a bit more considerate of a touch; just like the music demands. This fellow is highly talented and definitely has a sense for style.
And how about Fischer and his vocals then? Well, to put it shortly, he’s as good as always and sounds nothing but himself. Actually, when it comes to vocals, I just need to bring this one problem into daylight. It’s Mr. V. Santura and his additional vocals, which suck balls so hard that it’s not even funny. When comparing his performance to Fischer’s, he just sounds so weak and plain bad, like some black metal kid trying to imitate their personal idols. To be fair, Santura doesn’t sound like his voice is going to crack or that singing is a great deal of pain to him, but his vocals just lack character and don’t do justice to this album as a whole. I might be a little harsh about the topic, but that’s what you get when playing with the masters.
If there’s something about Melana Chasmata that doesn’t make me whine at all, it’s the production. Every single instrument sounds clear, yet not overproduced in a way that would kill the natural tone, which has nice variation when comparing to those plastic and dead soundscapes represented on most metal albums with an above-average budget nowadays. The instruments stand on their own, yet flow together in perfect harmony where no musical element dominates any other. The flavor of the guitars and bass is rather dark, even foul and dirty, supporting the music perfectly. Some nice contrast is delivered by the clean guitars, as they sound eerie and dim, strengthening the gloomy characteristics and thus giving the record a more “sophisticated” buzz, so to speak. There are also times when distorted low frequencies strike from the darkness, bringing some real balls to the table. The tone is just what you want to hear when talking about the combination of disfigured sound waves and bass guitar: a Kodiak bear riding a Concorde jet. And about the department of percussions; well, they sound like they’re supposed to. Yeah, you got that one right. They sound like DRUMS, unlike the triggered kit of a certain Norwegian who borrowed his pseudonym from a certain band that existed before Fischer & co. formed Celtic Frost.
As a conclusion, I need to admit that this release was a little bit of a letdown to me. Perhaps my hopes were too high, or my expectations were unrealistic as a huge fan of Tom G. Warrior and his works. You can’t make everybody satisfied every time you make something new, be it music, literature or any other form of art. Regardless what I wrote before, I’m sure that this album was written with their heart in the right place, but this time the outcome didn’t fully convince me. Oddly enough, though, Melana Chasmata still manages to beat out many other metal albums released during this year. To some, it might seem like I’m trying to negate my previous statements, but hopefully you’re able to catch my point here. Anyway, despite the mild disappointment, the wait for the next Triptykon release has already begun…
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