I figure I can’t go wrong posting music from whichever European country is most in the news from week to week. Seems like history is alive and well after all on the continent. A couple of weeks ago, Hungary poked its head up and made some noise, with the landslide victory of national conservative Viktor Orbán for that country’s top political position. In his acceptance speech he declared victory over the left, the West, and, amusingly, Volodomyr Zelensky (sp) and the Ukrainian propaganda machine. Props to you, Mr. Orbán, and may your enemies learn to fear you as Europe feared your Magyar ancestors a millennium ago.
So what the heck, let’s have a look at my favorite Hungarian artists. Full disclosure, I have no idea what the politics of these individuals are, so if they stumble across this post and are offended to be connected, even tangentially, to Orbán, my apologies.
One of the most creative metal acts, and one of my favorites over the last decade, is the Hungarian band Thy Catafalque. The band is mostly the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Tamás Kátai, but any given record has a laundry list of helpers playing everything from saxophones and horns to unusual ethnic instruments like the Armenian duduk which apparently is this thing:
Add in a wild variety of vocal styles, from metal growls to ethereal female voices to traditional folk melodies, and the result is a completely unique experience that simply can’t be easily compared to any other act out there. Here’s the opening track “Szarvas” (“deer” in Hungarian) from their excellent 2021 record Vadak:
Here’s another track from the same album that highlights more of their “avant garde” side:
But wait, there’s more! Thy Catafalque is probably the most “Hungarian” Hungarian metal band, but let’s not forget the great Attila Csihar, the prolific black metal etc. vocalist who originally crawled out of some Hungarian tomb in the 90’s to famously fill in on vocals for the classic Mayhem record De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas when Mayhem’s previous vocalist Dead inconveniently, but unsurprisingly, shot himself in the face with a shotgun. Here’s a fairly recent Mayhem performance, with Attila singing my favorite track from that classic album:
It’s entirely possible that this song has the most nihilistic lyrics ever written (again, unsurprisingly, written by a guy named Dead who killed himself):
I am a mortal, but am I human?
How beautiful life is now that my time has come
A human destiny, but nothing human inside
What will be left of me when I’m dead?
There was nothing when I lived
Happy Easter, man, pass the benzos. Csihar went on to make a fine career for himself as a black metal vocalist, showing up as a guest vocalist on many records and on tour with a lot of bands over the years. One of my favorite of his side projects, though, is the oft maligned Aborym, which was one of the first attempts to fuse black metal and industrial music. You can judge how well they pull it off for yourself — here is the complete recording of their album Fire Walk With Us which gets bonus points for taking its name from the best TV show ever made, Twin Peaks:
Here’s the “Black Lodge” poem/prayer that the name comes from:
Through the darkness of future past
The magician longs to see
One chance out between two worlds
Fire, walk with me!
In other news — I’m keeping an eye on the political news in France, and mentally queuing up a playlist of my favorite French bands in case everybody’s favorite nationalist femme fatale finally gets the nod in the upcoming election…