Review: Where Hellhammer focused its strength on the ultimately granular, Celtic Frost is the extension of a shattered attention span to cover a developing theme and the consequences of its interaction in a complex system of complementary riff motifs. These majestically ambitious structures display the crude grandeur of stone fortifications, solid in design and clear in intent, with the neo-Gothic aesthetic enveloping in concept and sound.
Roaring standard form power chords rush to resonant states which, in the style first seen on the epic "Triumph of Death," augment or reduce those states for melodic motion instead of concluding them or in the hardcore style lingering on the essential rhythm and tone for the purpose of seamless looping. As a result, circular structures are longer and roll development of riff and theme from essential components fusing to unravel narrative to its culmination, allowing melody to appear not in the aspect of the riffs themselves but in a knowledge of the tones pursued and resonant change in harmony as structure having melodic aspects to its progression.
1. Into the Crypts of Rays (4:20)
2. Visions of Mortality (4:48)
3. Dethroned Emperor (4:38)
4. Morbid Tales (3:29)
5. Circle of the Tyrants (4:27)
6. Procreation (of the Wicked) (4:05)
7. Return to the Eve (4:08)
8. Danse Macabre (3:52)
9. Nocturnal Fear (3:38)
10. Suicidal Winds (4:36)
11. Visual Aggression (4:11)
Epic rock had previously focused on the latter part of the epithet more than the first yet on this album a great consciousness is unleashed in a form that would inspire others to imitate and improve, hailing the exuberant spirit of inventiveness and fantasy that inspired Celtic Frost to create music resembling the fatalistic rumbles of a self-digesting world while celebrating the spirits of those laboring for life however perverse that is available within. Instrumentalism is basic: guitars use squealing feedback for great effect among the power chord textures, drums are tightly tucked into their own patterning and emphasize heartbeat structures of resurgence and completion; the hoarse chanted shout reads aloud a presentation of knowledge in rhythm to complement the song, instead of wrangling for counterpoint focus, and dynamic variance supports rising tension needs of song coherence.
While unrefined in some aspects of musical focus and raw in presentation, the music of Celtic Frost expresses a concept in songwriting where appearance defines setting and, in the style of Slayer, melody and structure demonstrate narrative and resonant properties in effect on the listener. Their label could only "afford" two EPs instead of albums and in this presentation they together demonstrate a journey toward the classic autumnal sound of the droning and majestic band that seeded all of black metal to come with its ideas.
Review: Gothic cathedrals of resonant noise rolling with a gracefully organic rhythm which in its accompaniment of laconic chord phrasing transforms this energy into a continuity of darkness working against its own grinding negativity and eventual decay into chaos, Celtic Frost brought their internal formula of doom-laden cavernous drone music to its most evolved state while remaining focused as concept and aesthetic of metal. Epic in scope and ambition of ideal, this album uses occasional symphonic accentuation and clean vocals to achieve an atmosphere which merges image and ideal expressed in music.
1. Innocence and Wrath (1:03)
2. The Usurper (3:26)
3. Jewel Throne (4:05)
4. Dawn of Megiddo (5:48)
5. Eternal Summer (4:34)
6. Circle of the Tyrants (4:40)
7. (Beyond The) North Winds (3:08)
8. Fainted Eyes (5:05)
9. Tears in a Prophet's Dream (2:35)
10. Necromantical Screams (6:03)
Protagonist Tom Warrior writes in his book about the band that the importance of projecting image coherent with music was where Celtic Frost differed from other bands of the time, and that vision is present here in distinctive songs which more than operating by hook work by visual architectures having significance in rumbling epics of fundamental conflict. Vocals chant a cadenced encouragement to roaring sound and drums shadow development through guitar phrasing as bass fills points of tonal variation, forming together a lower registers resonance which through its thrashing of undulating riffs projects a hazy dreamlike vision into the subconscious metaphorology of majestically raw and human motions in music.
Amazing for its ability to turn a sequence of one and two-note riffs into a progression of idea evolving into the next turn of structure, cycling across portions of the narrative journey through fundamental themes in riff and rhythm, this metal uses recursive structures to emphasize arduously nihilistic structures of the same feral approach to harmony seen in Hellhammer, refined to a greater degree of articulation in riff texture. Each song captures in its own space a grandeur which will forever be associated with this band, that of a panoramic view of vast realms of decay and hopelessness, including the lone warrior as he wanders investigating a world beyond his control.
Influential on most black and death metal to follow, Celtic Frost established a template for song construction and development which allowed narrative aspects of structure on both strategic (song composition) and tactical (riff shape) levels and in doing so, brought their consciousness of aesthetic gestured in music into the bloodline of the evolving black metal genre.
Production: Refreshingly basic studio production, with knobs set and few layers.
Review: Celtic Frost summarizes and updates a genre just dying as if to resurrect it; as Megadeth-styled speed metal sold out and then collapsed into its own excesses, Celtic Frost took the primal material behind Megadeth, Prong and Exodus and fused it into a more diversely articulate voice of Eurometal. Citations here include 60s prog, hardcore punk, gothic and doom, mixed on top of a firm verse-chorus foundation of speed metal riffing which diverges into more theatrical and occult-sounding riffs.
These songs are reminiscent of Monotheist in their more mainstream aspects, especially the use of syncopated hard stops with muffled strums, but stand on their own despite citations from larger bands like Metallica and Slayer. These demos were never intended for public release, which may explain why the band felt so free to do something so simultaneously commercial and subversive. Vocals are like Dave Mustaine in Def Leppard and ooze the kind of obsession with the vinyl clad overblown that made Cold Lake such a nightmare, but have a similarly expanded range of harmony and melodic hook.
However, the price is that it's more like the other stuff at the time, and fades into the background, although the Prong-ish chord progressions and tempo changes like a leaping cat in a forest fire throw some spirit back into the mix. If anything, it shows Tom Warrior under too much influence from his hired hands, but with his essential power as an artist shining through, suggesting again that smart people should be sent to isolated studios and left alone until they come up with something that isn't crap.
The "Carmina Burana" rendered on drums and guitars in gothic metal style is intriguing, but somewhat overblown, and makes us wonder why metal bands are good with soundtracks and pop classical but not hard classical like Beethoven or Wagner. This demo wavers on the line, but repeated listens thrust forward its good qualities while the others, generic, fade into the comfortable oblivion of memory for repetitive archetypes.
Review: Returning to metal after years of absence is like escaping prison after five-year sentence, because nothing is as one would expect normal to be. For this reason, escaped cons and weatherbeaten metal bands alike second-guess their audiences and sometimes try too hard to please or to be current. The return of Celtic Frost, "Monotheist," is both the sound of this band grasping their future firmly for the first time in many years, but also of an attempt to both fit in and innovate that ends up separating internally like oil and water into its component styles, which become correspondingly dramatic. Like all Celtic Frost works, this album is built around the concept of both God and the individual human being monotheistic entities.
The music remains in essence metal, although it has been "updated" with the type of bouncy rhythmic offset riffing that distinguishes both Pantera and Meshuggah, although the result here is more like later Prong as it prefers both greater ranges of melody and less incessantly abrasive rhythms. While this gives the creative minds of Celtic Frost new creative texture with which to work, it brings about a fundamental conflict: Celtic Frost was a band built around the grandeur of non-linear presentation, a slow building of emotion, and then a graceful contrast like morning sunlight through thousand-year old ruins. The abrasive style they adopt for about half of their metal content is unfortunately a two-step, and gives them no room to develop; the other half of the metal content is descended directly from Black Sabbath with some of the stylistic updates one might expect from Cathedral, and allows prolonged chord progressions to be forged into staggered layers of doomy riffs that dissolve the bouncing, jubilant, frustrated Pantera-style noise.
3. A dying god coming into human flesh
4. Drown in ashes
5. Os abysmi vel daath
7. My domain of decay
8. Ain elhohim
9. Incantation against
10. Synagoga satane
11. Winter (requiem)
When in chugging point-to-point riff mode, Celtic Frost rely on the surly shouted growl that modern metalcore bands use to convey the idea that they're both tough and hurting inside; it's reminiscent of a cross between Biohazard and The Haunted. Luckily, for much of the album, Tom warrior unleashes his vocal pipes and is able to slip between a crooning gentle vocal to a thick Gothic nocturne that is reminiscent of Sisters of Mercy or a synthpop bands like Wolfsheim. As the most perceptive songwriting accompanies these vocals, it is not unwise to assume that the band have sympathies which induce them to head in this direction, and as this reviewer sees it, that is positive thing: they can bring the doomy riffs in later but they must escape the artistically-confining nature of their "modern metal" influences, even if Prong and Celtic Frost both do better with that than any other band known.
Musically, this album has some of the finest moments yet heard from this band, and like previous industrial/metal crossover attempts "Grin" from Coroner and "Renewal" from Kreator, its rigidity hides a good deal of the experimentalism and playful subtlety of the experienced musician. Consider the rhythmic tribute to Motorhead's "Orgasmatron" on the second track, or the lightly sardonic and beautiful duet with female vocals on track four, or the history of metal riffs from Metallica to Disembowelment found on track 10; even moments that might considered interlude, such as the epic outro "Winter" with its brightly melancholic three-note landscapes or the transcendental, Middle-Eastern sound of "Ain Elhohim" -- these are creative moments that any band would be proud to call their own.
Like many recent metal bands, Celtic Frost try too hard to be angry, to emote, to identify with and communicate with their audience. People worshipped this band because, like the kid on the beach who made intricate sandcastles just for fun, they were at peace with creation and made worlds those of us trapped here in modern society could not wait to experience. Death became meaning, life became battle, the night opened itself with uncountable demons. For a comeback CD, this is of phenomenal quality, but the band must find their range first in style and next in songwriting, and that may take another release to get right. The music is good, but the aesthetics need work; it's too symmetrical, obvious, non-magical. Look to the next album for the art to match its concept.