More than 30 years in the making and performed for one night only at Roadburn 2019, Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s Requiem was always destined to be a monumental piece. In a sense it’s surprising that the Swiss legend has released this live recording at all, given how profoundly lost in that intangible, fleeting moment he seemed to be on the night. But here it is: the final piecing together of the audacious project bookended by cherished overture Rex Irae from Celtic Frost’s immortal Into The Pandemonium album in 1987 and semi-orchestral finale, Winter, from their 2006 swansong, Monotheist.
A few initial sound issues aside, the show itself was a mesmerising and curiously joyous moment at a festival that seldom struggles for such things. Here, no doubt thanks to some judicious tweaking, Requiem sounds every bit as powerful and emotionally overwhelming as it should. The real meat is Grave Eternal (Requiem, Chapter Two: Transition). A 32-minute funeral march, it’s dense with arcane menace but thrumming with inspiration, from crushing, monotonal funeral doom to lysergic, Floydian drift, via claustrophobic musique concréte and, as you’d hope, some of the most monstrously debilitating riffs ever written. The spellbinding interjections of The Metropole Orkest render everything in a thousand shades of glittering black, nodding to skewed 20th-century classical and the scabrous spontaneity of art rock iconoclasts Art Zoyd and Univers Zero. The surges of brass and frantic sawing of strings that emerge around the 16-minute mark are alarmingly ominous and grim.
Meanwhile, whoever mixed and mastered this thing deserves a knighthood. It sounds colossal, grandiose, significant. Vibrant, vivid and very much alive, Requiem is everything the morbid maestro promised and more. It may even be his crowning achievement.