Thursday, February 01, 2007

top50 - #7

7. celtic frost - 'monotheist'

Tom Warrior (or his real name, which he uses nowadays, Thomas Gabriel Fischer) had a lot to lose here. Celtic Frost are a sacred name in metal history, one of the most essential bands of the 80s and pioneers in every way, responsible for the existence of much of the quality extreme music we hear today. They're so important that most fans have forgiven them for the unforgettably horrible sell-out that was 'Cold Lake'. Therefore, to reactivate a band like this after over a decade is a very risky move. The panorama is different, tastes are different, Tom and his other Celtic Frost half, Martin Eric Ain, are older and there's the ever-present 'you're doing it for the money!' accusation. So despite the name, there's no guarantee of quality, in fact, the name could weigh them down negatively.

Well, forget all that. 'Monotheist' is a staggering achievement. From the very first listen it is very clear that Fischer's soul is all over this album, as much of its darkness seems intensely personal. And there's plenty of darkness to go around here. Even though the opening one-two of 'Progeny' and 'Ground' pretty much picks up from 1985's 'To Mega Therion', with its doom-laden stomp, 'Monotheist' soon starts twisting itself into stranger, more obscure shapes. More than anything, Celtic Frost have gone down in history for their courage to take risks and innovate, and that tendency still remains. Third song 'A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh' is the first typical frost wtf? moment, with its gentle, vaguely foreboding start slowly building into a bleak, hopeless piece of nastiness, with such wild outside reference points such as Neurosis or even Xasthur. 'Drown In Ashes' follows this monolith, and introduces haunting female vocals to the mix. The rest of 'Monotheist' alternatively pounds you down with more bouts of heavy doom or freaks you out by metamorphosing into piercing blackness. The one prevalent theme throughout the album is its sinister feel. Never is 'Monotheist' comfortable, in a bad way, never is it conformist, never is it conventional.

As final confirmation of this triumphant return, if you had the luck of catching Celtic Frost live during the shows promoting this album, you will know that this is no strike of chance. The band is revitalized, hungry, alive and that much is obvious by the vortex that is a Celtic Frost concert, these new songs mingling perfectly with the timeless classics.

Celtic Frost's past is glorious, but the best compliment that can be paid to this new incarnation is that the present and the future seem to carry on that glory faultlessly.

song of the day:
'A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh'


  1. Yes, I know your mags quite well! I write for a buncha mags myself including doing the metal column at AMP.

    This made like 5 or so on my year's end. They were the 3rd best band I saw last year behind Boris and Isis, and my intie with Tom was really cool. I was thrilled to hear him humble himself about Cold Lake. The Frost is back for sure...

  2. ray: that is cool, maybe someday we'll be part of the same staff of some mag. :)

    i think frost were my prime live experience last year, even if opeth and tool put on some great shows too. tom is one of the coolest guys to interview, so honest about his work. more than this record, which is great, i'm really excited about the forthcoming ones... i think the best chapters in celtic frost's history are yet to be written.

  3. Well, I'm thinking some mutual back-scratching in the future can make that a possibility. I have something in mind for you but I need to wrap on it beforehand.

    I do hope this momentum Frost has gained will continue. Monotheist was a monster statement.

  4. Anonymous12:11 am

    Your taste in music strangely resembles my own. Great list!