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Thy Catafalque

The Hungarian avant-garde metallers of Thy Catafalque recently reappeared with another excellent album called ‘Meta’. Thy Catafalque is one of those bands that knows how to be innovative and accessible. As is proven on ‘Meta’ once again. Lords Of Metal contacted composer and sole member Tamás Kátai to tell us more about the album.

By: Roel de Haan | Archive under black metal

Greetings! To start things properly: How are you doing?
Hello Roel! I’m doing pretty much all right, thank you.

Congratulations with your new album ‘Meta’! I thought it was most impressive. How are the general reactions to the album? What are your expectations for the album?
Thank you. Reactions have been really nice in general. Of course there is a multitude of opinions and there are different expectations, some folk like what they hear, others are disappointed, but that’s the nature of this thing – there is no way to please everyone and thus it’s much better not even to try it. Of course I’m happy though, that most of the reactions are very positive. You see, vinyls are sold out, digipak CDs are sold out, jewel-case CDs had not even been planned originally, but we had to come up with them because digipaks were sold out very soon. Even the t-shirts are gone.
I have no special expectations. It was the latest album and I’m glad it was released in such nice formats.

’Meta’ seems to be, compared to your previous work ‘Sgùrr’ more a natural progression within the same vision than a deviation in style. How would you compare the new album to your previous work?
Well, after seven records I think I’m moving in my own world, which is rich and colourful but still somewhat closed and limited. ‘Sgùrr’ is a part of it, Meta is another. The new one is more friendly, warmer, not so sombre and hostile than ‘Sgùrr’ was. I would not call it progression, I see it more like a different approach or a different shade. The source is the same.

On ’Sgùrr’ the songs were often quite elaborate and dynamic, now on ‘Meta’ this applies once again, but the cinematic elements and melancholy have more weight as well. What brought on this change in approach?
I feel ‘Meta’ is closer to older Thy Catafalque albums, while ‘Sgùrr’ was a bit of an oddball record. I experimented with a lot of stuff there that I had never done before, tried to change the sound, the structures. It was an unsafe area and many listeners couldn’t grasp what was going on there. Meta is definitely more safe and traditional, easier to understand and merge in. It was partly a conscious decision to drive back to a warmer sound, I felt like I needed this. ‘Sgùrr’ was about mountains and waters. It was inspired by the Scottish Highlands, cold and harsh – it had to be like that. ‘Meta’ feels more like home.

How do you accomplish blending all the different elements and styles into a coherent album? Is there a particular way you compose your music? Which criteria does a Thy Catafalque song or album have to meet according to you?
There is no particular way. In fact, I never think about this when composing and recording – I just do it and it comes naturally. I love music, a lot of different music but not only that, I’m deeply interested in all branches of art and try to incorporate them into music. I enjoy the freedom of expression. The only criterion is that the music has to be expressive and evocative. If I see images while listening to it, it’s okay to go.

Your music features so many elements of different styles and genres, but all seem to convey and sombre or melancholy feeling while still there is often an uplifting effect too. I cannot shake the feeling that your music seems to be of a personal nature. In other words: what drives you to make music?
Yes, the motivation is absolutely personal, it has been like this from day one. I’m not a too social type of a person, I mean totally I’m normal, but probably a bit introverted and it feels more comfortable to express myself through music or writing or photography. But there are periods when I am not it the mood of doing anything with art, I just live and do normal things. This is not a must. I can even imagine to stop making music altogether at one point. I do stuff only when I feel like I need to.

band image

Being basically a one-man band what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of being the sole member?
The advantage is obvious. You decide on everything. The freedom of creativity is paramount for me. But this is also the source of problems: sometimes you need people with fresh ears and fresh ideas. Those who know what you are doing, what you have done already and give you valid opinions and contribute. The more time you spend in music-making, the more you feel the importance of others. The reason is simple. You will stick in your own world and start to repeat yourself. That’s why I like to involve friends, guest musicians – they enrichen my visions hugely and provide colours I would not be able to imagine myself.

Does ‘Meta’ have a concept? If so, could you tell us something about it? How is the quite unusual artwork connected to the music?
Meta is a Greek term meaning through, below something. The idea is the atomic particles of our bodies live on after our death in different forms, existing in a circle of life and the artwork depicts the sanctity of life itself in different life forms, carrying the existence in themselves. The characters, the deer and the fox appear in the lyrics, just like the sleeping birds in the earth, the mill and the mountains. These are symbolic features.

The album features quite some guest appearances. How was the collaboration with the guest musicians? Did you have music and lyrics ready for them to perform or did they create their own parts? Did the collaborations on ‘Meta’ differ from earlier albums?
The lyrics and most of the music was ready for the guests but they know the best what they can do and how and I trust them to bring out the most of the music according to their feelings and capabilities. This how I have always collaborated with other musicians and it seems to work fine. I need to thank for their talent, without them these albums would have been much greyer.

Having quite a impressive discography by now, how do you look back on the things you have created and your development?
The first two records are, let me say, interesting, without knowing where we were heading to, what we wanted to express and how to execute it. The third album, ‘Tűnő Idő Tárlat’ was the big step for us in terms of creativity. That was the time when we finally found our sound and the path of our own. ‘Róka Hasa Rádió’ was another big leap with Attila on vocals and us bringing in many new elements. That was a very brave album with an exciting and weird world feeding on childhood memories and our homeland. ‘Rengeteg’ was the first album released by Season Of Mist, probably the most accessible and easy-listening stuff we have ever recorded. I think this is our most popular album. Then came the cold and experimental ‘Sgùrr’ and here we are at ‘Meta’.

I wonder what has the future in store for Thy Catafalque? What are your plans and ambitions for the future? Still no plans to perform live?
I have been invited to great venues this year again to play, but as I mentioned earlier, I am not too keen on going public and performing. I have been doing that with Gire, my old band, for 12 years, I loved it but these days I’m more comfortable without the hassle of the gigs. Composing is fine, performing is meh. And besides, I would need a complete band, to rehearse, to organize, to negotiate. I’m not interested in any of these. Probably there will be more albums in the future though, who knows that, right?

Thank you very much for your time, I wish you well and as tradition demands it I hereby offer you the final words to our readers?
Thank you very much for your interest. I wish you all the best and your readers, too.

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