TRIPTYKON with the Metropole Orkest – Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

TRIPTYKON with the Metropole Orkest – Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

There are certain albums that, once you have investigated their origins and delved deep into the recordings, you just know are special and worthy of classic status. When it comes to Thomas Gabriel Fischer, the mastermind behind Switzerland’s Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Triptykon (all three projects being HUGELY influential and iconic), every release creates a stir in the underground because you never really know what he’s up to until it wraps itself up in your brain and stays there forever. The announcement in 2019 of this Requiem recording did exactly that, and for a number of reasons.

When Celtic Frost released their classic ‘Into The Pandemonium’ album in 1987, it blew everyone’s idea of who they thought the band were completely out of the water and divided their fan base. From their earlier recordings, Celtic Frost were the precursors of black metal, thrash metal, and death metal all rolled up into one, a hybrid of dark music that spoke to the extreme underground on every level. With the 1987 record, they threw all of their unseen musical influences into the pot, creating music that added everything from new wave to prog to classical music to intricate compositions that still remained metal at its core. Needless to say, it not only divided the fan base but was the final death knell of the original band, the remainder of which hobbled through a dark time and extremely varied releases (the ‘Cold Lake’ album remaining a much-derided record to this day) until calling it quits in 1993.

On ‘Into The Pandemonium’, one of the most striking pieces was “Rex Irae”, intended to be the first part of a bona fide requiem to be released as a standalone EP at some point. When Fischer and ‘Frost co-founder Martin Eric Ain resurrected the band in 2001, one of their first missions was to try and complete this work. On their sole recording as this second incarnation (2006’s ‘Monotheist’ album) before burying the band for good in 2008, they gave us “Winter”, the final part of the ‘trilogy’. Fischer would go on to make rough demos of the middle section, but the successful completion of the piece seemed doomed to never see the light of day.

Fischer went directly on to create Triptykon, a huge project that would create a fusion of gothic, doom, death, and black metal, and have released two extremely well-received albums thus far. In 2018, he was contacted by Walter Hoeijmakers, the founder of the renowned Roadburn Festival. He offered Roadburn as the venue for Triptykon to finally perform the requiem, three decades after the original idea was conceived, to which Fischer agreed and eagerly got to work to finish the second part which would ultimately be titled “Grave Eternal”. Hoeijmakers also recommended the Dutch Metropole Orkest (the requiem was always envisioned with an orchestra) with Jukka Isakkila as conductor, and they got long-time Triptykon affiliate Florian Magnus Maier in as arranger. After a year of composition, rehearsals, and demos, the finalised piece was given two dress rehearsals and was performed in its entirety (“Rex Irae” and “Winter” having never been performed live before) on the 12th of April 2019 at Roadburn.

“Rex Irae (Requiem, Chapter One: Overture)” is given a rebirth with Vanja Šlajh and Fischer trading vocals and the orchestra bringing everything up to a huge level. V. Santura and Fischer lay down the heavy, inviting riffs, and Hannes Grossmann, the newest member of Triptykon and a legend in progressive metal circles, commands the drum kit and percussion with masterful skill. The 32-minute “Grave Eternal (Requiem, Chapter Two: Transition)” is an epic journey that starts with the heaviest monolithic doom riff and leads into some of the most intricate Pink Floyd-esque guitar-work this side of David Gilmour, with Šlajh adding her silky vocal. Once we have walked this glorious path to its end, we enter the body of this giant – an eerie passage led by Grossmann with minimal skin and cymbal hits, droning chants, and orchestral swells that evolves slowly into the quietest moods and emerges with rapturous transition into the finale, “Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale)”. This orchestral, heart-breaking piece is pure composition, a true epilogue to a modern requiem of epic, beautiful proportions. The applause and reaction from the crowd at the end has to be heard to be believed, truly an audience that has witnessed something incredible and, most probably, never to be seen again.

This is no mere throwaway, digestible pap that we see so often in modern ‘entertainment’ – this is music that has weathered decades of strife and upheaval to finally emerge in all its glory as a classic of our time, composed and performed by master musicians with absolute clarity and definition of vision. Fischer has taken a rough idea that had its inception at the crossroad of a band’s identity and created an exquisite piece of classical music that has its home in the swirling broth that is metal. It will no doubt find itself in list after list of ‘best music of the century’, and it is, without discussion, highly essential.