There can’t be many names in the extreme metal firmament as revered as Thomas Gabriel Warrior. The man has an almost unshakable self belief that, when it serves him well, results in some of the most inventive, creative and downright intimidating music ever to crawl out of your speakers.
And when it doesn’t serve him quite as well… well you know what happens then…
After taking a sledgehammer to Celtic Frost’s avante-garde legacy in 1988 the band limped on for a while, but you felt that old Tom needed to pull something a bit special out of the hat to restore his rightful place among the Metal elite, with 2006’s frankly awesome Monotheist bringing the Celtic Frost era to a close on a high.
Warrior (or, as he was by now, Fischer) largely disappeared from public view after the demise of Celtic Frost, notably popping up with Dave Grohl’s Probot in 2002, and then in 2010 the news we’d been waiting for broke… Heavy Metal had a new dark face, and it’s name was to be Triptykon. If ever the phrase “return to form” was appropriate it was for the band’s 2010 debut album Eparistera Daimones. Here we saw a darker, more brooding side to Fischer’s tortured soul and finally his self belief, his arrogance, had found its true form.
Not exactly prolific though, 4 years on from Eparistera Daimones Triptykon are back with Melana Chasmata which sees Fischer’s journey to the dark side complete. There was always something of a hint of epicness about Celtic Frost at their best, but there’s much more than a hint of it here. Tree Of Suffocating Souls kicks the album off with Fisher’s growling vocals announcing Triptykon’s return in no uncertain fashion. There’s no one who sounds quite like this, and although far from pretty there’s certainly something primeval about the delivery while the low end rumble and growling guitars set the bleak soundscape off perfectly.
Fischer re-visits his Aleister Crowley obsession for Boleskine House, named after the Great Beast’s house on the shores of Loch Ness. If there’s been something familiar about the opener then here we’re off down an altogether different path, as doomey as a VERY doomey thing, this is the epitome of slow and heavy with a haunting female voice adding an unexpected ethereal quality.
And quite frankly, it’s stunning.
This is one of those albums that never seems to get predictable . Doom in places, gothic in others and even slipping into old school thrash vibes. Although Melana Chasmata sees the band exploring that new darker path I mentioned there’s more than a doffing of the cap to the past, check out Breathing where all those and more are in evidence, crafted into something that is quite simply Classic Tom G. Fischer.
And then it all goes a bit Nephilim with Aurorae, where even a blistering guitar solo can’t lift the track out of it’s deep, dark gothic furrow. I can see this being a talking point among fans of the band, but I love it. Especially as the “goth” vibe continues into Demon Pact… well for the first minute or so anyway.
Then it goes and gets all angry.
Black Snow brings things towards their end in (to use that word again) epic style. 12 and a half minutes that serve as a recap of pretty much everything that has gone before, it smacks of the band trying to finish on a high with a definitive statement, distilling the essence of what has gone before with, it has to be said, mixed results. It doesn’t quite overstay its welcome, but it certainly has you looking at your watch.
The last track on the album, Waiting, is an odd little thing. The sort of quiet little interlude that metal bands often slip in the middle of a record to give you a bit of a breather, here it serves as a gentle outro, maybe defying the “finish on a high” expectations by finishing on a more chilled out note.
But then, when did Tom G. Fischer ever do what anyone expected ??
When I reviewed Sabaton the other day I thought it’d be a while before anything else came close to knocking that off the top of my 2014 list, but this is special. I always kind of suspected that Fischer had a masterpiece in him, well time and repeated listenings will tell but I suspect that Melana Chasmata will come to be viewed as exactly that.
Make the most of it though. because on previous form it’ll be 2018 before we get the next one.