PICK OF THE WEEK: Triptykon return from darkness with terrifying ‘Melana Chasmata’

TriptykonWe as metal fans are lucky to be living in a time when we still have a nice collection of living legends still making music and playing before our very eyes. I’m talking people like Lemmy Kilmister, the members of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne and the remaining members of Black Sabbath, Doro Pesch, and even Metallica, despite the strange last two decades. We should be thankful and embrace this.

Another man who has meant a gigantic deal to the world of heavy metal and the many, many bands and artists that followed in his footsteps is Tom G. Warrior, who fronted and created with legendary bands such as Hellhammer and Celtic Frost and rose from his own ashes so many times that he has to be on his fourth or fifth life. He is revered, respected, worshipped, and seen as an idol of heavy metal, and no matter how many people tried to follow him and emulate what he does as a musician, none ever have come close to matching his dark magic. Simply, he is one of the genre’s most unique, raw, and troubled souls, and the art he creates are of his heart and soul, as black as those may be.

Triptykon coverWhen Celtic Frost dissolved in 2008 after their cataclysmic and astonishing comeback record “Monotheist” dropped like an anvil in 2006, it was disheartening to so many fans because, here was this band that survived so many downs that followed incredible highs that it seemed cosmically unfair that the group was not going to see another day. They created an untouchable triptych of releases in the 1980s that started with 1984’s eye-opening EP “Into the Pandemonium,” (the first song is “Into the Crypt of Rays,” an all-time classic!) continued into debut LP “To Mega Therion” the following year, and flowed into the strange and glorious “Into the Pandemonium” in 1987. Yeah, they fell apart not long afterward, and yeah, Warrior and a new lineup made “Cold Lake,” one of the weirdest disappointments of all time, but this story needed to end the right way. They seemed to light fire to their entire history with “Monotheist,” a record as great as their classics, but after their breakup, Warrior declared he would see his mission into the future with the new band Triptykon.

The band debuted with the thunderous and maliciously glorious “Eparistera Daimones” in 2010, and it instantly wiped away any disappointment of Celtic Frost’s demise. Along with guitarist/backing vocalist V. Santura (Dark Fortress, Noneuclid), bassist Vanja Šlajh, and drummer Norman Lonhard, Warrior had explosive new life with a lineup he has repeatedly said is the most familial and healthy of his entire career, and just from seeing them play live, you could sense something was different in a good way. A great EP “Shatter” followed that same year and now, four years later and after more tumult for Warrior, we have the gargantuan new “Melana Chasmata,” a record that not only meets the mountain of expectations but goes so far over the top. It’s another devastating step forward for this band, but it also has Warrior especially reaching back a little bit musically to his roots, mixing the best of all of his worlds.

“Tree of Suffering” opens the record, and right away, longtime Warrior fans will feel right at home with the downtuned, burly riffs, his trademark “ooh!” that we only get a couple times here, and his commanding howl as he shouts, “Speak to me, my master!” The rest of the band mauls along with him beautifully, with Warrior yowling on the chorus, “I am your life!” with Santura following him up properly with savage growls. The pace keeps sweltering, eventually a Middle Eastern feel is injected into the song, and the track bows out with fiery soloing and one final charge. “Boleskine House” is eerie and cold, with Šlajh providing dreamy vocals to go along with Warrior’s purposely detached singing. Then his growls erupt, a sludgy dose of hammering sets in, and it’s off into the fire. The song balances dark and light perfectly, and it’s one of the most textured tracks on the record. “Altar of Deceit” is one of the more approachable songs, and if there’s a gateway track for newcomers, this one’s it. The chorus itself is one of the catchier in the band’s short history, and it’s just bludgeoning enough. “Breathing” takes some time to settle in, and once it does, the ignition goes off in full. It’s thrashy, doom-laden, impossibly dark, and one of the best tracks on this incredible record. I keep going back to this one a lot, and it never ceases to knock me on my ass. The pace is faster than usual, Warrior’s growled words are spat out at a quick clip, and the menacing thrashing should get your blood surging in no time. This one will kill live. “Aurorae” properly brings you back down again and is the ideal antidote to what you just heard. The song is murky and gothy, it has a nice, damp, rainy feel to it, and when you hear Warrior call, “Spirit wasting away,” you know those aren’t just mere words.

“Demon Pact” is properly strange, with striking synth, sounds that could soundtrack a proper horror film, and a slurry pace that takes its time freezing your cells. Warrior warbles like a beast, unleashes more of his clean vocals, and the rest of the band gives him the proper backdrop for his bloodletting. “In the Sleep of Death” is a total showstopper, and for those who clamor for some classic Celtic Frost-painted work, you’ll feast on this. Warrior returns to his moan-like, tortured singing, calling out to a lost, dead love Emily (could it be Emily Bronte, a regular muse of his?). The song and the passion both quiver throughout, the horror and sorrow mix ideally, and Warrior laments, “You were the blood in my veins,” as he shovels final scoops of dirt over a long-ago-dug grave. This song is amazing. The 12:25 epic “Black Snow” follows, and it makes the best of its running time. The band isn’t in a hurry at all, instead settling into a muddy pace highlighted by Warrior going from whisper to shout, guitars swelling and boiling over, filthy grime, and deliberately meted out punishment. Closer “Waiting” is a sobering, reflective, dreamy song, with Šlajh again providing her hazy singing, repeating the line, “We are the same,” with Warrior later joining her on that refrain. Keys trickle into the mix, the band sounds like they are achieving a trance state musically, and the final moments send the record off into a space that is both cosmically energetic and uncomfortable lovely. What a final gasp this is.

Thankfully, wonderfully, Tom G. Warriors lives and prevails, remaining as vital a voice that we have in metal. He is on his third landmark band, and Triptykon sound like they have plenty of life to have a dark, bountiful future. “Melana Chasmata” may have drained Warrior of his life at times and likely was a mental struggle, but what he and his band created is one of the most important documents for metal fans in 2014. It’s a fire-breathing, lumbering monster that is truly terrifying, wholly inspiring, and looking to destroy whatever is in front of us. The world needs more Warriors and more groups like Triptykon to keep metal going in the coming decades, and there’s no doubt this record will be a template for those in coming generations who follow the band’s charred path.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.triptykon.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/