That Tamás Kátai and Thy Catafalque can still surprise after several albums of increasingly decreased musical boundaries isn’t just impressive, it’s a testament to the very nature of the project. Kátai and his ever-expanding band of contributors have long been pulling from more than the already diverse black metal / industrial / trip-hop / folk / etc. hybrid that has been the core of Thy Catafalque for the better part of 15 years, but on Naiv there seems to be an even greater focus on allowing anything and everything that each song may require.
And that’s just the trick of it—make it so smooth and natural that the listener never questions any of the many elements or sounds, even if they are something never employed by this particular artist before. Of course, Kátai has been doing this for some time, but he always finds a way to make each new record reveal a side of his music that even long time fans may not have known was there to begin with. Sgùrr was a holistic, spiraling arc; Meta showed the band at its heaviest, even approaching death metal at times; and Geometria eased off the heft for much of its duration, re-focusing on the folk and adding in more jazz where appropriate.
If each album holds some unique place in the prolific career of Thy Catafalque, then Naiv might be the wild album. Never before has this project seemed quite so diverse – which says a whole lot in the context of this career – but it isn’t just the diversity, it’s how far each branch is taken.
Take, for example, the record’s passages of sheer metalness. On average, Naiv isn’t really that much more Heavy Metal than was Geometria – moments of actual guitar-driven heft likely make up about 25 percent of the full 48 minutes – but Kátai seems intent on making you remember The Riff long after you’ve spun this record. Most notable is the meany malevolent bit of maniacal menace that serves as the main pattern in “Veto.” It’s a huge slab of doom-paced swagger and trill-driven evil bookending a song that spends a good amount of its eight-plus minutes getting playful with quiet synth interplay and pulsating bass. Oh, and this monstrously imposing riff pattern is deftly matched up against gorgeous vocals from frequent collaborator Martina Veronika Horváth and hand claps (always the best) to absolutely glorious effect.
Speaking of Horváth (and very memorable moments), Naiv contains probably the most earwormy melody in the often incredibly catchy catalog of Thy Catafalque. “Embersólyom” follows a few simple melodies sung by Horváth that seem to bounce out of a melodic center in an almost orbital fashion while piano gives way to increasingly heavy guitars and drumming. The song ends in thunderous fashion after barely over four minutes have passed, leaving the melodies entrenched in your mind deeper than that rod was stuck in the noggin of poor Phineus. Really, the melodies of this song are nothing short of enchanting (or… insidious), but instead of the maddening nature of some disposable bubblegum pop, it’ll come back to you like an old friend that you think you know extremely well but who always has yet another welcome mystery to unravel. The album very wisely follows with a softer, interlude-type track as a palate cleanser. Flow is important; letting the big moments linger is even more so.
There’s a sense across the whole record that Kátai was comfortable with letting things go farther, be it a particular sound or the performance of a collaborator. “A valóság kazamatái” is loaded with simple, stop-start industrial riffs straight out of the early 90s, while the spaced-out synth melodies are as slithery as they are addictive; “Kék madár (Négy kép)” switches out frantic rhythms and quena flute soloing for an absolutely serene second half that is as close as Thy Catafalque has ever gotten to darkwave; and closer “Szélvész” sees vocalist Gyula Vasvári belting out the types of arena-sized melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a modern Amorphis album.
Sometimes Naiv wants you to get mean; sometimes it wants you to close your eyes and go to Your Cave; sometimes you’re expected to dance your mortal ass off to irresistible beats; and sometimes you have to raise your fist in the type of unabashed heavy metal furor that you might not expect from a Thy Catafalque record. There are a million ways to describe this band and this record, but perhaps it’s easier to just point out the obvious: this stuff is just so damn cool.
Kátai is simply playing with a loaded deck at this point. In terms of his fearlessness, deft touch for the widely varying material, and his choices in collaborators, he has never been achieving at a higher level. Naiv manages to be incredibly wild and diverse without losing even one iota of flow or cohesion, and Thy Catafalque remains one of the most adventurous, thrilling, and mesmerizing acts in all of music, not to mention a sure-fire path to a good mood.