Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
Tom G. Fischer is the rare example of an artist who has made a profound impact on my life. Without this man, extreme metal would not be. Without extreme metal, my life would be very different. Cause and effect. For that alone, it is good to hear him make music, and bad to hear about all the difficulty he had making the new Triptykon album, Melana Chasmata.
For a record with such a troubled birth, I find it easy to listen to. Its predecessor, Eparistera Daimones, grabbed me by the ear and pulled me to my feet — Invisible Oranges readers loved it for that. In contrast, Melana sits down next to me, settles in, and then exhales. Tom's voice, which was once monotone and the weakest part of his music, is now one of the strongest — he barks less than he did before, speaks in rhythm, and confidently explores his now-leathery tone. It's a self-aware strategy that's paid off for artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.
If mentioning Fischer's name next to such esteemed non-metal musicians reads weirdly, that's because it is weird. In some ways, he has more in common with Nick Cave than the current crop of metal shredders — the wily escapism of youth having collapsed into simple and emotive lyrics paired with minimal arrangements. Metal is not kind to its aging singer-songwriters. Most of the required-listening canon contains early records composed by young men. People fetishize demos. When Metallica attempted to age gracefully (Load, ReLoad), it didn't go well. (Admission: I rather like Load). It's weird that Tom has managed to do so this well. With any luck, he's the first of many.
It helps that Melana Chasmata doesn't push the envelope too much. Broken down to its elements — simple, crushing riffs, ripping solos, light keyboard accompaniment, intelligible, gruff singing, an elegiac mood — the album isn't that different from present-day Paradise Lost. Melana knows what it wants and breathes easily.
As simple as it is compared to, say, Into the Pandemonium, I like Fischer's later work better than his earlier work without exception. I like Celtic Frost better than Hellhammer. I like comeback Celtic Frost better than classic Frost. I like Triptykon better than them all.
My affection stems from a vague sense of emotional authenticity. Eparistera Daimones is a stellar breakup album in a genre flooded with mock sympathy, and now Melana Chasmata is a great mourning record in a genre flooded with insincerity. There's been much talk floating around the internet regarding Fischer's mindset while recording this album. It's unnecessary reading; Melana displays Fischer's private suffering without resorting to autobiographical lyrics.
Some will want an album that takes itself less seriously. Such an album would stumble over a song like “Aurorae,” which consists of just a handful of simple riffs, one big, nasty drum pattern, and enough lyrics to fit on the back of a napkin, recited over and over until they become an incantation. When that song hits its zenith, it demands attention, not because it's unlike anything I've heard before, but because it's a thing I have felt before, that everyone has felt, executed perfectly.
Sticking the landing comes with age. Here's hoping more young masters age as well as Tom Fischer.