Album Review: Triptykon - "Melana Chasmata"

Triptykon’s debut full-length record from 2010 “Eparistera Daimones,” was a confused affair, even though it was greeted with unqualified praise from the reviewing universe. It lacked direction, rambled on in random progressions, and never established a musical purpose beyond trying to cram as much force-fed anguish into the product as possible.

It doesn’t take long to dig into “Melana Chasmata” to realize that the game has changed this time around for Triptykon, led by former Celtic Frost ideaman Thomas Gabriel Fischer (nee Warrior.) There’s a sense of purpose and rhythm to these songs, even if it may only be a slow rhythm. The album starts to gain grinding momentum as it drags, twisting over the bed of spikes of “Boleskine House.” Listen, it’s not exactly a two-step or anything, but already the music is more defined and comprehensible, the vocal presence both icy and believable. This continues in later cuts like “Demon Pact” which are still thick with grime, but are convincing as moments of cohesive storytelling.

Fischer and company add more layers to the fix with an influx of female vocals, and even some variable performances within the repertoire of Fischer himself. It adds a new dimension to the prototypical drone of Triptykon, injecting “Melana Chasmata” with some flavor. Suddenly, there’s more depth for songs like “Altar of Deceit” as Fischer adopts a pained wail as opposed to his usual grunt. Those kind of tweaks make Triptykon markedly more interesting.

Then suddenly, “Breathing.” Where did this cut come from? It’s a pulse-pounding, sludgy metal hammer, plodding along with a throaty bass rumble and a riff that is as effective as it is simple. The song has pace and something resembling melody, and all of a sudden Triptykon proves that they can write more than funeral marches. It’s a breakthrough moment, one shocking enough to cause a double-take: listeners won’t be sure that the song even belongs, but it’s the album’s best cut without question.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for “Melana Chasmata.” There’s still a sense of musical wandering that takes over entire tracks, which sucks some of the thunder out of second half cuts like “Black Snow.” This new effort also can’t escape the feeling that a listener can walk away from it for whole minutes and come back without having necessarily left anything important in the musical lurch. It’s hard to imagine a fan sitting down and devouring this minute for minute as a pleasure listen, or selecting it as the album of choice for performing errands in or out of the house. When it gets right down to it, with the exception of “Breathing,” “Melana Chasmata” feels like it is most interesting as an academic listen, able to be dissected and studied.

For all the feeling that “Melana Chasmata” is worthy of praise, there’s a nagging sense that the praise is rewarding basic, fundamental victories – that the improvement between the last full-length and this one is great enough to make seem this new record come off as better than it really is. It’s hard to know if we would be so effusive of another band doing these same things, particularly if they had done them before.

Nevertheless, Triptykon has come a long way since their debut and made incredible steps in composition and cohesion as a band. Triptykon still isn’t for everyone and can generously be called an acquired taste, but Thomas Gabriel Fischer can hang this record on his mantle and know that his career isn’t simply defined by Celtic Frost anymore.

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