May 012016



By way of explaining why my own output at the site has been sparse over the last week, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I have a close friend in the ICU at a Seattle hospital whom I’ve been visiting for hours each day. One week ago she was driving to work in downtown Seattle and was hit in an intersection by a big city aid truck responding to an emergency call. She’s still in a coma, with a brain injury, though there are signs that she is approaching wakefulness.

Yesterday being a Saturday, I spent a few hours at home listening to music before returning to the hospital. I listened to some new metal that suited my mood, which I plan to compile in a Shades of Black post later this morning. But in a sequence of unpredictable but serendipitous events I also happened upon all the music collected in this post. There’s a bit of metal in the first and last items, but mostly this music is way off our usual beaten paths, yet these songs also suited my mood. I hope you’ll appreciate them, too.


A Russian friend in Novosibirsk (and a member of Station Dysthymia) recommended this first band, calling the music “hauntingly beautiful” — and so it is. The band’s name is Offret, from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I’m not sure if this is a one-man project or a group. What I heard was a self-titled EP released on April 25, 2016, via Bandcamp. Continue reading »

Oct 012015

Tamás Kátai-1


Sgùrr is the name of the new album by Thy Catafalque, the remarkable solo project of Hungarian musician Tamás Kátai. As an ardent fan of the band, it was one of my most eagerly anticipated albums of this year, and now that I’ve heard it, it is one of my favorites of the year as well.

I was fortunate to hear the album well in advance of its October 16 release by Season of Mist, and even more fortunate to receive a copy of the beautiful digibook version of the album to look at as I listened. And to add still more good fortune, we were given the opportunity to premiere a song from the album named “Jura” — which you can explore here, along with my perhaps over-long review of the album and my photos of the digibook.

After I had spent significant time with the music on Sgùrr, I was left with many questions about it. I prevailed upon Tamás Kátai to satisfy my curiosity in the following interview conducted over the internet. Of course, the music speaks for itself (eloquently and powerfully), but the following discussion provides insights about Sgùrr from Tamás that I think will enhance listeners’ appreciation of this newest of his creations (and I’ve included two songs from the album at the end for those who haven’t yet discovered them). Continue reading »

Jan 102012

I listened to a lot of albums in 2011, most of them new releases. I made mental lists and written lists of the ones I wanted to review, not because I think I’m particularly good at it, but because I want to do my part to help spread the word about music I admire and to support good bands so they’ll continue making music that makes me happy ( yes, it all comes down to selfishness in the end).

Of course, I fell down on the job miserably. I just didn’t get around to reviewing everything I wanted to praise in 2011. With the new year under way, I know that psychologically I’ll feel motivated to focus on new releases this year instead of trying to catch up on writing about 2011 albums.  But if I never write about another 2011 album, there’s one I cannot leave unheralded — Rengeteg.

If this 2011 album from Thy Catafalque consisted of the 9 minutes and 20 seconds of “Fekete mezők” and 51 minutes of mind-numbing elevator music, I would still be happy. “Fekete mezők” is one of my favorite songs of the year. But that song is just the beginning of an album’s worth of musical marvels — and no two of them are alike.

The songs flow into each other without pause, pulling the listener along with them as they cross a constantly changing landscape of sounds and emotions. The idea of crossing a landscape isn’t just the feeling conjured by the movement of the music. It also emerges from the lyrics.

The words are in Hungarian, but they’ve recently become available in English translations, and I found them interesting to read while listening to the album (for the umpteenth time). If there’s a concept I can discern, it is one about the unity of life and matter, about the connectedness of human beings to the Earth, and more than the Earth, to the star-spawned matter of which we and it are made. Continue reading »

Dec 192011

(Tamás Kátai is the man behind a Hungarian band called Thy Catafalque, whose fifth album Rengeteg is one of my favorite recordings of the year,  for reasons I’ll be explaining in a forthcoming review. Also, a song from that album will appear soon on our list of the year’s most infectious extreme metal songs. So of course, as part of our Listmania series, I asked Tamás to contribute his list of the year’s best albums — and here we have it.)

10. Baaba KulkaBaaba Kulka

A Polish band with early Iron Maiden covers up to Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album. Why it’s interesting and worthy of note is that they handle the task with exceptional freedom and taste. My faves are the trip-hopish “Aces High” and the beautifully low-key “Flight Of Icarus”. True Warriors Of Heavy Metal keep out!

Continue reading »