For over twenty years, Hungarian/Scottish experimental metal band Thy Catafalque have been working tirelessly to posit just how far one can push the genre of metal before it becomes something entirely new and outside the range of classification entirely. Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and sole member Tamás Kátai is back with Thy Catafalque’s ninth album Naiv, which he classifies as “the least metal material in the history of the band.” Aided by a slew of new and returning collaborators, this album certainly stretches the idea of what metal is capable of, while still being plenty heavy and assaulting.
According to Kátai, the title of the album comes from the “naïve-art” movement in visual mediums, where art is made by those with no formal training. I’m not sure about whether or not Kátai has had any such training, but this certainly doesn’t feel like an album made by someone with anything less than a tightly focused vision for what he wants as a finished product. On Naiv, Kátai swaps the jazz and atmospheric elements of 2018’s Geometria for more folk and dance instrumentation to round out the more traditional metal sound the band continues to experiment with. The slap bass break on “Tsitsuska,” rounded out by saxophone, trombone, synthesizer and featuring a fretless bass solo by new guest Badó Réti left me wondering if I was even listening to the right album. Considering that all this funkiness is sandwiched between the bleak guitars and pummeling blast beats of opening track “A bolyongás ideje” and the crushing wall of distortion on lead single “Embersólyom,” it seems like this album shouldn’t make sense. Ultimately, every instrument, part, and piece on this album works in context. Nothing feels out of place or purposeless.
Often when I see a band label themselves as “avant-garde,” I worry that the album I’m about to listen to is experimentation for experimentation’s sake, with no focus or definition, but this is not the case with Naiv. This is very easily accessible despite the wide range of styles and instruments present. Songs like “Veto” and “Szélvész” feature the usual brand of heavily distorted guitars and rapid-fire drums, which will please the purists, while more experimental tracks like “A valóság kazamatái” and “Kék madár” blend together elements of traditional folk and electronic music in a way that continually surprises and draws intrigue into the process of making art itself. In order to achieve his vision, Kátai is joined by a talented cast of guest musicians, and none serve to tie the album together more than returning collaborator Martina Veronika Horváth, who provides vocals on 4 tracks on the album. Her voice features prominently on the songs she sings, especially “Embersólyom,” where every instrument follows her hypnotic vocal line to the end of the song. Her vocals, all of which are entirely in Hungarian, bring the album full circle and unite elements that are seemingly disparate at times in a way that brings depth and an element of beauty to something that might feel strange or isolating without it.
Despite being an experiment in pushing boundaries and raising eyebrows, Naiv is an album that is quite able to please all sorts of metal fans, from those looking for the more traditional feel to those looking to expand their mind and take in something outside the box than the usual fare.