Tunes Of Despondency

What a perfect name for a doom/death album. Slovakia’s Thalarion have been one of the bands I’ve always liked as they have perfected the “beauty and the beast” sound, mixing guttural death metal, atmospheric doom elements, and a hint of goth for three albums now. With their fourth album Tunes Of Despondency, Thalarion appears to have dropped some of the wispy goth undertones and replaced them with even more death metal, albeit a more melodic, kind. But while Thalarion won’t quite fill the Eastern European void left by the recently broken up Love History in the varied doom/death genre, they really are a top notch outfit that the metal world should start to take notice of.

If you’re looking for a similar style, The Provenance comes to mind although more rooted in a black metal, but November’s Doom might be the closest U.S. outfit that does a similar style; except Thalarion use a full time female vocalist Nela Horvathova, and a sweet siren she is, too. Her soft, slightly accented angelic presence is a wonderful contrast to the ultra brutal snarl of Juraj Grezdo. This combination offsets each other perfectly and is the driving force in both the atmosphere and delivery of Thalarion. Grezdo’s guttural bellow is as forceful as any pure death metal vocalist and blows away all other vocalists in this genre, where the gruff vocals are piecemeal to the mostly dominant female side. This yin-yang relationship is balanced perfectly, even though compared to Thalarion’s efforts her role does feel slightly diminished, maybe by the lessened emphasis on the goth elements and an overall more aggressive approach. When they sing together as in “A Tatrastream Romance” – it defines a scarred beautiful ambiance. Even when Nela is the main vocal emphasis, (“My Weakness”, “The Endless Cacophony”), the result is still entrancing, but not so dreary as Pale Exit or The Gathering because the background music is still pretty harsh, even for a “ballad”.

A new element has been added though that shows that Thalarion can’t be simply pigeonholed. A saxophone is now used in a few songs that give the material a sensual edge to the aggression. For example, the song “Confined” might start out as Thalarion’s fastest tune they’ve penned, delving into the realms of simplistic yet melodic death metal. The first two minutes or so blazes by without a single synth note or acoustic break, but then it stops suddenly for a subtle time change and Anathema-like interlude with a wonderful saxophone break more akin to Sculptured. It’s a curveball that pleases not surprises or sounds out of place. However, they do have the odd, rare lapse into a more meandering goth/doom that’s not as satisfying and hints at the drawn-out material found on Four Elements Mysterium, the aforementioned “The Endless Cacophony”, being the main culprit. The newer more immediate Thalarion is simply better. More dynamic songs like “My Bitter Overstrain”, while still retaining the goth ‘n’ doom hue, are faster, tighter, and more focused. Lyrically, Thalarion is varied and challenging, while there is the odd fall back into more romantic themes that are I think necessary to facilitate both Nela and Grezdo vocals. They also include a song-based on some of their ethic prose (“Tatyana”), and historical conflict (“911 – As The War Raged”, not to be confused with the recent terrorism events). Still, despite the newer death metal heading, Thalarion displays their deep-rooted penance for morose emotional riffs. “The Tatrastream Romance” walks the perfect line between somber goth/doom with its sweeping intro riff, and its newer style, but still it’s dominated by the vocal play-off in the stunning chorus. Sound-wise, the home country production is lush rich, and deep, as to be expected from this genre and Juraj Schlosser’s guitars are thick and resonant.

To think, a region that is often considered behind the times and a “small” label can find a budget and studio capable of a perfect sound, yet still many larger profile bands on major labels sound like shite. I think Thalarion along with Novembers Doom, The Provenance and The Elysian Fields are some of the few outfits that successfully meld multiple elements seamlessly and without effort. And when done to perfection, as Thalarion has done, it makes for a superb listening experience. Thalarion remains horribly underrated.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 3rd, 2002


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