The Best Albums of 2014, #5

band015. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata (Century Media)

The older I get, the bigger admirer of Tom Gabriel Fischer I become. His music speaks to me a whole lot more than it did 30 years ago. In fact, back then it sailed completely over my head, especially the way he so artfully juxtaposed the primitive with the avant-garde with Celtic Frost. Today I listen to classic Celtic Frost more than ever, and ever since the shocking, classic final album Monotheist I’ve been enthralled by any new music the man has put out. Triptykon was formed as a continuation of the style and aesthetic of Monotheist, and although the Eparistera Daimones album and Shatter EP were immensely satisfying, the follow-up Melana Chasmata speaks to me a lot more. Interestingly, coming from one of heavy metal’s greatest innovators, this album doesn’t exactly break new ground. Be that as it may, Fischer is in full, complete command of his art on Melana Chasmata, as the sprawling album touches on all his greatest strengths as a songwriter. With its opening squeal of feedback, throttling double-kicks, and primal percussion, “Tree Of Suffocating Souls” focuses more on Fischer’s aggressive side, the band building ferocious momentum. Later on, “Breathing” audaciously evokes Celtic Frost’s seminal To Mega Therion with its multifaceted combination of ornate theatricality and unrelenting speed, Fischer’s snarl sounding its most malevolent in years. Typical of Fischer’s songwriting, with ugliness often come moments of great beauty, which is where this record’s true strengths lie. The trifecta of “Auroræ”, “Demon Pact”, and “In the Sleep Of Death” form its core, as the music opens up, loosens its tight grip, distortion offset by chiming, gothic-derived notes, Fischer in full Peter Murphy mode, intoning his dark poetry atop slow, murky, yet startlingly graceful arrangements. Melana Chasmata is a marvel visually too, featuring artwork by great artist and Fischer’s longtime collaborator HR Giger, who died shortly after this album’s release. Adding to the album’s appeal is Fischer’s extensive liner notes in the deluxe edition, which go into great detail about every song on the album. As the year has gone on – I believe I first heard this album in February – the majestic, gothic “Boleskine House” keept beckoning me upon repeated listens, that juxtaposition of Fischer’s deep voice and sultry female singing working its Leonard Cohen-esque magic. It’s the most fully-realized moment on as close to a flawless album as I or any fan could ever have hoped for, where ugliness, beauty, the colossal, and the seductive coalesce into on spellbinding whole.

Portions of this piece appeared in Terrorizer magazine, which was as good a review of this album as I’ll ever write.