Every time Tamás Kátai gifts us with another Thy Catafalque album, he seems to be providing another slightly different glimpse at his wider vision. While the project’s sound is instantly recognizable and undeniably unique – a combination of trip-hop, black metal, Hungarian folk music, heavy industrial, sci-fi vibes, and various other styles – each journey takes the listener to a new, slightly altered or evolved version of this universe, particularly since Thy Catafalque hit its stride with 2004’s Tűnő idő tárlat.
The previous two albums particularly emphasized this trend. 2015’s masterful Sgùrr possessed Thy Catafalque’s most obvious and successful album arc, taking the listener on a trip full of grandiose swells, wild riffs, and chiller, pondering moments. Meta, arriving only a year after Sgùrr, at first sounded like a rejection of its predecessor’s tight construction. The heaviest album in Kátai’s catalog, Meta initially seemed like all of the ideas that didn’t fit on Sgùrr, only revealing its meticulous construction and cathartic/triumphant nature after several exhaustive but incredibly rewarding listens.
On paper, Geometria has the closest relationship to Meta, but not as a direct stylistic parallel, but as a reflection. If Meta was the heaviest Thy Catafalque album, Geometria is the softest, the most introspective, and most inviting, even if many of its tones are still distant and eerie. There is certainly still heavy metal here, but it is not the dominant ingredient, and the blackened tones are all but gone. Rather, heavy riffs and harsh vocals are but two ingredients among the rest, which includes programmed and real drums, serene male and female singing, acoustic guitars, some truly harrowing violin, countless keyboard sounds, various bleeps and bloops, and more. The approach is merely to use the ingredients that are necessary at any given moment, and as always, Kátai knows exactly which buttons to press (sometimes literally) and where they all fit.
His apparent songwriting sleight-of-hand is also what makes this widely varying, so-called “avant-garde,” but still very cohesive album work as individual songs. Take opener “Hajnali csillag,” for example. A passing listen of those soft keys, real (and real jazzy) drumming, and gentle guitar touches would make it seem like nothing more than an extended intro for the album as a whole, but repeated listens show it to be a self-contained arc on its own, not to mention a hauntingly beautiful way to start things off (the violin here will enchant). The mesmerizing “Sárember,” with its actual heavy metal riffing and hypnotic vocal melodies, would appear to be one of the album’s obvious centerpieces, but at fewer than seven of the total 56 minutes, it is less a centerpiece than it is a more obvious hook, ready to ease you in before the other tracks begin to reveal their less overt qualities.
It is these less overt qualities, and the album’s small moments, that give Geometria its true uniqueness. More than any other Thy Catafalque album, this at times feels like a soundtrack for a movie that was never made (samples and a rarity of singing add to this). Based purely on concept, this pushes Kátai even closer to Ulver, whom one could easily assume to be one of his most obvious heroes. But even beyond that, the soundtrack impression emphasizes the visual nature of this music. Geometria conjures images of the entire grand scope of the universe, at least what is comprehensible to the human mind. In its softest, most intimate moments (the gorgeous acoustic/folk track “Tenger, tenger”), it might be the life cycle of a microscopic organism, or a deeply personal moment; the most sci-fi, pulsating songs (“Töltés”) give off that “journey through the stars “ vibe; and when the massive riffs land (the lumbering doom of “Lágyrész” and closer “Ének a búzamezőkről”), the album draws back the camera to witness the collision of galaxies, all while the deeply personal moments are fresh in the listener’s memory.
Of course, these are the images provided to just one listener, and each person can and should take out something unique. Such as been the Thy Catafalque experience to date, to inspire and provide escapism through music that is at different times beautiful, harrowing, crushing, and playful. If Geometria is very much like Kátai’s past works in one way, it is that it’s still finding new ways to inspire and provide this experience, albeit with subtler hues and gentler brush strokes than in the past. Because of this, Geometria sees Kátai basically moving on from being a unique, brilliant voice in heavy metal to being a unique, brilliant voice in music. And that’s okay. The man deserves an audience as wide as his vision.