I remember the first time that I came across the work of Thomas Gabriel Fischer- or plain old Tom G Warrior as he was back then. It was 1985 or 1986 and I was a spotty teenager finding my way through the byzantine corridors of heavy metal for the first time. The record was Celtic Frost‘s second album To Mega Therion and, I will freely admit, it terrified the bejeezus out of me. From the none more scary HR Giger artwork cover- the deeply troubling and iconoclastic Satan I- to the bombastic aural wall of noise that surely was the sound of an impending apocalypse, “To Mega Therion” was my first experience of extreme music. As you might have already guessed, I thought it was absolutely marvellous. My parents took a slightly different point of view. Celtic Frost were equal parts beguiling and terrifying. If we are honest, they were never really playground darlings- Axl Rose and his mob of Angelino reprobates had that trophy- but, for spotty teenagers in search of some noisy misanthropy, they were hard to beat.
So here we are again then- me, older, maybe not much wiser, but still enthralled by the art of HR Giger and still captivated by the bleak, relentless and unflinchingly honest work of Thomas G Fischer. “Melana Chasmata” is Triptykon‘s second album and a heavier, more unsettling record you could not wish for- you wouldn’t be able to stand it anyway. Fischer is one of heavy metal’s outliers; part of this world but somehow apart from it, his vision is very particular and idiosyncratic : this is not easy music and, at times, it is determinedly difficult.
One of the things that I have always admired Fischer for is his ability to ask questions around the darkness in our world- in fact, he has the ability to bring darkness and a darkened world view where one might expect light. His vision is dissonant, remorseless but unfailingly frank. On ‘Tree of Suffocating Souls’ we are hurled headlong into this vortex- all pummelling drums, thunderous riffing and howling vocals- abnormal service resumed, then. Matters get deliciously creepier on ‘Boleskine House’ which uses the former home of Aleister Crowley as its subject matter. Fischer has always had an interest in the dark and unusual in the everyday and appears acutely conscious of having a place in the broader culture, albeit the one at the fringes or in the shadows. ‘In The Sleep of Death’ is a tribute to Emily Bronte who famously brought a similar gothic sensibility to her own literature, most notably on the dark, bleak moorlands of Wuthering Heights.
Triptykon‘s music is bleak and often claustrophobically heavy- witness the remorseless riffing on ‘Breathing’ and you will understand what I’m getting at but the genius of all this is that you allow yourself to be swept along, so beguiling is the wall of noise created. Matters come to some form of crescendo on the penultimate track, the apocalyptic ‘Black Snow’ where the power of Triptykon‘s power and resolute melancholia reaches perhaps its zenith.
However unsettling its subject matter, however queasy its rhythms and melodies can leave the listener feeling, this is a brooding, thoughtful album that examines the outer edges of humanity’s condition. It sometimes asks us to consider some unpleasant observations, some eternal if unwelcome truths. At its core, “Melana Chasmata” is a rich, rewarding and deeply satisfying work.