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TRIPTYKON with the METROPOLE ORKEST - Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

"Thomas Gabriel Fischer completing with Triptykon plus a complete orchestra what he had begun decades ago with Celtic Frost. Only at Roadburn. The "Requiem" certainly was a performance noone would have even considered as a possibilty, before it was announced. And it surely not only for me was one of the most anticipated sets of this weekend."

TRIPTYKON with the METROPOLE ORKEST - Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019) (deluxe dark red LP + 7" + CD + DVD Artbook) (2020)

Anyone who can vaguely remember my review of this concert might understandably be a little surprised that I'm not just writing about the CD version, but the whole all-in maximum bonus material luxury version here, because...

"I hate to say it, especially since I had already bought the "Requiem" t-shirt the day before, but the joint performance of Triptykom and the Grammy-awarded Metropole Orkest was this year's biggest disappointment."

The reason for my chagrin however had never been the musical arrangement or performance itself,

"But - and that's a big but - the sound.

Yes, being in the front meant to be closest to drums and percussions in this case, but I've spoken to attendees who had been in the middle or back and also had similar issues. Maybe it had something to do with the album / DVD production which was obviously going on (professional film camera teams are a rare sight at Roadburn), but there's just no denying, that the whole thing - and especially the band - was just not loud enough.
It's fucking heavy Triptykon and a giant stage crammed with strings and woodwinds, brass, percussion, choir... this should have been ear and soul crushing, the most epic thing ever. But compared to Mono the night before, or compared to what would happen next on this stage [being the magical show of the amazing Anna von Hausswolff], it was a tame household noise level affair."

Ok, many fans were also fine and happy with the sound and volume. Standpoints and perceptions are so subjective.
And when I spotted myself in the concert footage I was reminded that I technically wasn't in the first row like I may have claimed here or there in internet discussions - more like row two and a half or something like that -, so admittedly memory sometimes is an unreliable bitch.

I still stand by what I've written about my general impression back then, though. But thankfully I have made my peace with the somehow spoiled experience.

"I sincerely hope the post production for the upcoming release can fix it and make it a more powerful experience. The music deserved better."

Well, the first trailer for the live album already convinced me that I would indeed hear the "Requiem" as it was meant to sound now. And as I couldn't decide between vinyl and CD - and also wanted the DVD - I just went for the version which contains everything plus extras.

And about my last bitter complaint...

"And the shirt by the way is really small for its size."

Well, let's say my encounter with diabetes took care of that. It fits great now!

But now let's get to the release itself!

"Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)" is available in various versions: as a standard CD, as a CD+DVD mediabook, on black, white or golden vinyl (always with two posters and the DVD) and finally as the Deluxe Artbook, at which we will now take a look:

The first obvious difference to all other versions is the alternate front cover of the media book, which contains all of the content, starting with jackets for CD, DVD, the quite heavy crimson red vinyl and a just as thick one-sided bonus 7" with a rehearsal version of "Winter", the purely orchestral final part of the "Requiem", which is also featured on the CD as a bonus track.

But before we get to the music, let's turn over the page to the middle of the book, which is an actual booklet of 24 pages with pictures from rehearsals and the show as well as credits, lyrics and the initial press release from November 2018.

After that comes another jacket, in which you can find all the rest of the stuff, including three posters: One original design for the show, a "standard" band photo with the four regular members and the full version of the Deluxe Set cover artwork.

The cover artwork of all the other "Requiem" versions is included as a 12" print, as well as a card of a band photo with guest vocalist Safa Heraghi.

All in all this artbook is a pretty impressive thing and further reinforces that Tom Warrior since the final Celtic Frost album "Monotheist" just doesn't allow any half-assery concerning his physical releases.

Or let's say almost, because there's one overlooked weak point in the whole packaging: The final item has a narrower size than the rest, which means it can move inside the poster jacket during transport and damage the surrounding cardboard with its corners.
So I had to fix a tear with tape, which while it didn't upset me that seriously, I still find it worth mentioning, just in case anyone working on similar packaging projects is reading this: Make sure that everything measures and is securely fixed in place!

The item itself may be of little practical use - at least for most listeners -, but it's undeniably interesting: It's the full orchestra score of "Requiem".

Already the overview of the orchestration gives away a couple of hints (for example the trumpet having an "airy, smooth Jazz-sound"), that this is not your standard metal band plays with orchestra show, which has kind of become a trope and bane of certain big festivals, whenever they feel the need to produce something "special".
Not saying that these things are generally bad, but there's definitely a trend to just combine the ready-made material of the band with some pleasing harmonies and that's most of it. It's sonically big and impressive, but it often lacks depths and character beyond that effect.

Further into the actual score the instructions make the picture even clearer:
"bowed cymbal (inverted) on timpano skin: bow, than move pedal up and down ad lib to play with the resulting metallic overtones"
"crashtone (continuous): drag bow slowly over dampened E-string with too much pressure"

Not that these examples taken by themselves actually prove anything, but the overall impression is that this obviously is not an another-day-in-the-office job, where the musicians just get the sheet and play through the notes, but where their individual expression is encouraged.

Which is further underlined by the fact that the composition refrains from constantly blasting with everything at its disposal at the the same time, but instead often uses minimalistic arrangements to spotlight certain instruments - and to create dynamics of tension and relief, which isn't exactly the strong suit of too many rock plus orchestra collaborations. 

I'm still amazed that particularly this piece exists at all. Not only for the costs and logistics, but also for the relative obscurity of its origin. "Rex Irae" was just one track on the almost ridiculously diverse Celtic Frost masterpiece "Into The Pandemonium" from 1987, "Winter" a short orchestral piece released 2006 on "Monotheist". Together they only clock in at about ten minutes.

If you had asked me about ideas for a special Triptykon / Celtic Frost show of this scale, my first one would have been to just play "Pandemonium" in its entirety, with all its orchestral, electronic and mexican radio quirks and facettes.
Or you could just collect all the pieces with classical influences and female lead vocals from both bands' whole discographies. Maybe plus a couple of new arrangements of some "greatest hits". Without a doubt there's enough material to create an overwhelming, epic show.

But to take the overture and epilogue of a back then not even existing centerpiece and compose that missing extra half hour of music from scratch, surely was the least safe, yet artistically most challenging option.

"Requiem" begins with "Rex Irae", which right from the beginning sounds noticably different to the album version. It has been transferred from the standard tuning of Frost to the lower doom / death sound of Triptykon, the details of the song and the pure musicianship of the band itself are both clearly refined.
The most notable of all the changes lies in the also deeper vocals, not only from Tom Warrior, whose half-spoken wailings are already established to be in lower registers in this millenium.
Above all the female lead vocals are interpreted in a new way. While the operatic touch of the original is still maintained in the background by the four alto and soprano singers of the Kobra Ensemble choir, the lead voice of Safa Heraghi transports much more warmth and emotion than Claudia-Maria Mokri's album approach.

None of these changes diminish the groundbreaking status of the original, but if you listen to both versions back to back, you can't deny that this new version is the superior one. Quite a good start in my book.

In the over thirty-two minutes of the following "Grave Eternal" band and orchestra are going full doom and slowly walk through various movements with shifting focus and intensity. From just cymbals and timpani playing a game of questions and answers, over sparse mantras grounded by the distinctivly snarling bass of Vanja Slajh, to breathtaking morbid bombast, when all strings, brass, vocals and tubular bells come together. Wave after wave this chapter of the "Requiem" sees Triptykon moving further into advantgarde territory than ever before. It may require some patience here and there, but it always rewards you afterwards.

As mentioned before the Metropole Orkest never comes over as an amorphic "classical music" blob, but gives its individual characters quite soom room for expression. As a result there is a lot of interaction beyond just the band playing here and the orchestra there. In this arrangement, which further develops the themes set in "Rex Irae", the connection between the multiple parts are substantial and go deep. You really feel like everyone on this stage has an equally important purpose, that there's nothing you could just take away.

Lead guitarist V. Santura tastefully channeling his inner David Gilmour early on remains the biggest case of rock stardom during the whole show, other than that Triptykon really blend in and let the music speak for itself. And boy, it has a lot to say!

Not that there would have been space for any circus shenanigans anyway. As you can see on the professionally filmed DVD, the stage was crammed like a can of sardines.

Speaking of the DVD: The concert footage just starts and plays indefinitely. There's no menu, no additional making of material or something like that, but that's totally fine with me, considering all the work and manpower which already went into everything here. And let's be honest: All possible bonus stuff apart from the show itself you would probably watch once and then never again.

After "Grave Eternal" Triptykon exits the stage and leaves the mournfully solemn conclusion "Winter" solely to the Metropole Orkest and the choir.

That the recording can allow itself to wait one and half minutes, before it slowly fades out the frenetic applause afterwards, says more than I can explain here. And remember that several audience members weren't even a hundred percent happy on the spot!

But now, eternalized on this audio and video recording, this is just perfect.

The only way you could improve this would be to travel back in time, boost the volume of the live sound in the 013 and persuade Fischer to add "Tristesses De La Lune" and "Oriental Masquerade" to the set as an encore.

Alright, I'll shut up now.

What Triptykon have achieved here is highly remarkable and should be the universally accepted benchmark for artistic integrity and adventurous courage in any future metal / orchestra production from whoever, regardless of budget or subgenre.

I know it won't be, just as there has never been a second album quite like "Into The Pandemonium", but one can dream and demand shit, right?

It's hard to imagine "Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)" not being my favorite live recording at the end of the year. I won't say never, because 2020 is kind of uhm... special, right? But it seems exremely unlikely.

Respect. I doff my hat!

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