Monday, December 1, 2014
Triptykon - Melana Chasmata
In the world of aeronautics, a holding pattern is when an airplane circles around its destination to delay its final arrival. In Greek, this phrase roughly translates to “Melana Chasmata,” but that’s actually only true when you rely on Triptykon to do the translation. Yes, Triptykon’s second full-length album is decent, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the band is just killing time for large parts of the release. When dealing with a band like Triptykon, it can be an exacting task to evaluate the music without getting caught up in the baggage of Tom Warrior’s history with Celtic Frost. You know, that little bit of business involving him being an integral part of extreme metal’s foundations. But with that history safely in baggage check, “Melana Chasmata” can be seen as a fairly strong release that suffers from substantial (but not terminal) problems.
Thick tones and crushingly heavy riffs laced with that oh-so-familiar punchiness; the basic sound of Triptykon really shouldn’t feel too alien to anyone who has ever paid even casual attention to extreme metal. What’s fantastic is how the band makes straightforward and even simple riffs so damn heavy. Underscoring this blunt tendency is the morose experimental vein on the album; Triptykon pulls back and marinates in moods in a plodding and doomy fashion. At times this takes on a surreal tribal mood like in the beginning of “Demon Pact” the solo section in “Altar of Deceit” or the first grinding guitar notes on “Boleskine House.” The band even successfully channels their inner “Panopticon” era Isis with the track “Aurorae.” These stylistic flairs add character to the album and prevent it from getting stuck in narrow musical aisles. Continuing with “Boleskine House” as an example, you can hear how the shimmering crystalline female vocals create apt suspense for an ending that is basically massively heavy chugging.
“Melana Chasmata” cruises along like this, balancing traditional riffier elements with avant garde altitudes. Aside from the last track, which we’ll get to in a moment, there is nothing offensive about this album. No awkward transitions, no aspect that isn’t produced immaculately, and almost no missteps. Still, it doesn’t have enough to lift the album to greatness. While not strictly repetitive in an obvious way, few moments on the album have a sense of direction or purpose. An interesting mood here, a heavy riff there, but no overarching narrative. This becomes frustrating with songs that are, on average, over seven and a half minutes long. The band milks the ideas that they have, albeit in a disguised way that doesn’t require playing the same riff forever; musically shifting directions only to circle the airport.
Back on the metaphorical airplane, you sit reclining slightly while snacking from your small bag of peanuts (it has less than 10 peanuts) and start to think that the plane should have landed. No one is irritated yet, but it’s obvious that neither the pilot nor air traffic control have any sense of urgency. In the final song this merely inconvenient story becomes an aggravating one. With “Waiting” you are sitting on the tarmac right next to your terminal, but the damn Giger-esque jet-bridge umbilicus won’t latch itself onto the plane. At this point it feels like a bad joke, like they are making you wait on purpose and with mustache-twirling deviousness. At least on an aircraft they have the good manners to call it “deplaning,” but Triptykon adds honest insult to injury by titling their final track “Waiting.” The track’s filler status becomes rock solid when you consider how strong and logical the final build-up in “Black Snow” was. But no, instead of ending it there after over an hour of music and with the peanut bag empty, the band decided to sing “dying” and “we are the same” for six minutes.
The thing about bad endings; in albums, movies, and plane trips, is that they unduly taint the whole experience. Fortunately you can and should skip the last track; but it’s still out there, and serves as a hyper-condensed reminder of the overall bloat and meanderings on the album. “Melana Chasmata” is the kind of album that you listen to and enjoy but won’t come back to too frequently. The band can do much better, and did with “Eparistera Daimones,” but there is still plenty of material here to like and only one truly bad song. Few bands can write riffs like this, and fewer still can do so while matching Triptykon’s massive tone. All in all, the album is worth it if you are a fan of the band, but those new to Triptykon would be better served listening to their more focused efforts on “Eparistera Daimones.”