Originally Written by Jordan Campbell
Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s career has been one of the most tumultuous in metal history.
Recounting the 80s exploits of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost is unnecessary. Just as interesting—for completely different reasons, and only in retrospect—was CF’s self-imposed exile in the 90s. This was an indirectly beneficial career move, given Fischer’s penchant for ill-advised experimentation. (This didn’t stop him from attempting late-stage nu in 2002, but hey, getting paid is a thing.)
Thankfully, Fischer and longtime collaborator Martin Ain shifted gears quickly, discarding the Prototype in order to forge Monotheist, which was finally released in 2006. The record was ponderous, bloated, and mildly divisive, and after a tumultuous album cycle beleaguered with Our Drummer Is A Dick Syndrome—not to mention loads of unwelcome scenery-chewing from Ain—Fischer detonated his life’s work, choosing to forge on with a new lineup under the Triptykon banner.
(Meanwhile, the world still waits for that Ain / Franco Sesa collaboration that was slated to emerge from the fissure. Where you at, bros?)
2010’s Eparistera Daimones emerged as a streamlined counterpoint to Monotheist—at least as streamlined as a record bookended by “Goetia” and “The Prolonging” could be—and the record’s focus wholly revitalized Fischer’s brand.
He was no longer bitter and rudderless. He’d been rejuvenated.
Channeling this electricity, Triptykon has found glory in both ultra-punishing boulderstorms — such as the aforementioned “The Prolonging” — and the atmospheric stomp of “Shatter.” This is not a one-dimensional project, but some aspects of their attack are markedly more potent than others. (Are you still blasting “Myopic Empire” on the regular? Didn’t think so.)
So, the question: Would the long-awaited Melana Chasmata congeal the band’s most compelling elements into a full-blown tour-de-force, crafting a triumphant capstone for Fischer’s wildly uneven career?
Melana Chasmata suffers at the hands of the element that gives it strength. Its attack can be self-defeating. Fischer employs an absurdly-modern guitar tone throughout, and initially, it’s stunning: His riffs are carved from glistening obsidian, cutting clean despite driving with blunt force.
When he wields this weapon dexterously, the results are huge. Opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is crowd-pleasing—in stark opposition to the obtuse, curmudgeonly “Goetia”—complete with a signature “unhh!”, a swollen guitar solo, and a groove stout enough to shock Max Cavalera into expanding his vocabulary.
In a wicked turn of storytelling, “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is immediately followed by “Boleskine House,” a goth-doom jam that, despite being little more than a rearrangement of “Shatter,” is pretty goddamned crushing. Placing The Ballad this high up in the tracklisting must mean that Fischer realizes how exhausting his penchant for relentless punishment can be. Right?
Well, not so fast.
For the remainder of Melana Chasmata, Fischer takes his sweet-ass time hitting his climaxes, yet bludgeons his way through the journey. This record is sixty-six minutes long, and during the plodding “Altar of Deceit” and the absolutely glacial “Demon Pact,” seconds become weeks.
His ambitions are clear: Melana Chasmata is an exhibition of sonic weight, a heavier-than-thou seismic test. Unfortunately, many of the signposts are simply cobbled from Norman Lonhard’s rolling, tribal fills, and the record is rendered more exhausting than its best content justifies.
Fischer harnesses a few brilliant strokes, such as the Morbid Tales stomp that dashes through the second half of “Breathing” and the seething chill of “Aurorae.” (The latter track’s cathartic coda might be the record’s most stirring moment.) But these nuggets are buried in brutalism. “In the Sleep of Death”—despite leaning on the nu-moaning technique for bridge construction—would’ve been a crucial closing number. Instead, it’s followed by “Black Snow” and “Waiting.” Despite the smatterings of massive riffing found in the former, these tracks amount to little more than nineteen minutes of outro squalling.
But back to the question: Does it compile the potential nestled within the initial Triptykon offerings into an ideal whole?
No. In that regard, it falls short. But while Melana Chasmata is wracked with flaws of pacing and composition—it often feels overly regimented and self-segregated—it’s still a devastating piece of art. And why the hell are we talking about a fifty-year-old man’s “potential” anyway? Yeah, there’s the perception that Triptkyon is a “new” band. But Fischer has churned out upwards of fifteen releases in a career that has spanned over thirty years. As such, Melana Chasmata isn’t a watershed moment, nor is it a masterwork. It’s an inhumanly heavy, incredibly flawed record from one of metal’s most humanized, openly flawed icons.
And sometimes, it kicks ass.