I will say this again, louder this time: Tamás Kátai has one of the most impressive and extensive musical catalogs, standing on par with the likes of both Devin Townsend and Colin Marston, which makes him one of the hardest-working musicians in this industry. Also, to no one’s surprise, I am here once again talking about my love for Thy Catafalque and how ecstatic I was when I heard that the band was releasing a new album. Having loved last year’s Naiv, I knew Vadak was going to exceed my expectations and further show how music can be expanded across textures, sounds, and atmosphere into a cohesive experience worth its runtime – a true avant-garde metal staple.
I know there are bands that tend to reinvent themselves on every album, testing out new ideas and experimenting with their sound in order to have a foundation for a new direction. However, Thy Catafalque, as a rule, reinvents itself on every single track, showcasing something different and fresh while building on the same musical theme. It’s like taking a needle with thread and slowly threading into a piece of cloth whose line pattern is always different from the previous line, but the whole product is always beautiful to look at. The sum of parts makes the whole, and Vadak takes its time showing you what the overarching theme is.
Musically, Vadak is both a culmination of the band’s sound and a logical future step into new territory. While there are several callbacks to Naiv’s atmosphere and sound – see “Gömböc” – Vadak is inherently its own unique strand of textural combinations. From the soft vocals and traditional folk elements on “Köszöntsd a hajnalt” to the heavy melodic backing on “Az energiamegmaradás törvénye” to the jazz fusion on “A kupolaváros titka” (which would not sound out of place on Neolunar, another Kátai project), the album takes a little bit of everything and incorporates it seamlessly across its music, creating a fascinating, colorful experience that should not make sense at all, but it clicks. Things take an interesting turn on the track “Kiscsikó (Irénke dala),” a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a folk metal album but it is mired under a crushing weight of calls to the void and an instrumentation that makes you want to get up and dance. This song is sonically different from everything that you had heard from the album up to this point, but it serves as a turning point from what the rest of the album has to show – and it goes somewhere rather unexpected.
While the music has been building on itself, showing glimpses of how various themes intersect and embed themselves within the fabric of the overarching theme, the 12-minute track “Vadak (Az átváltozás rítusai)” takes all of those themes and adds something inherently sinister and heavy, as if approaching a sense of finality. The song can almost be split into three separate movements – an interesting, upbeat introduction; a soft, paced second; and a heavy, slower final – that almost reminds me of the answer to the Sphinx’s riddle from Oedipus Rex. At first, we start upbeat and innocent, with a sense of curiosity (childhood), before growing up and eventually settling down to live our own lives (adulthood); and then finally seeing ourselves slow down and reflect on the lives we have lived (old age). This sense of finality comes on final track “Zúzmara,” a melodic piano track that sounds like a funerary dirge, signifying the realization that life ends and we achieve some sense of peace at the end. As morbid as this sounds, Vadak is, fundamentally, about how we process and grapple with the concept of mortality, knowing that one day, we all get off on the same destination.
All in all, Vadak is a testament to dedication and art, and an enjoyable listen throughout its runtime. This album may be on the longer side, but each moment is expressive and emotional, and it does not overstay its welcome. If you have a moment, spend it with Vadak; it has such delights to show you.
Hasta la proxima!