Celtic Frost

Picture of Celtic Frost

Morbid Tales

Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales ©Noise Int
1. Human (Intro)
2. Into the Crypt of Rays
3. Visions of Mortality
4. Dethroned Emperor
5. Morbid Tales
6. Procreation (of the Wicked)
7. Return to the Eve
8. Danse Macabre
9. Nocturnal Fear

Celtic Frost's birth came from the ashes of Hellhammer, a band whose notoriety came from the rather, um, primitive recordings and utterly stripped down raw embryonic extreme metal. Having decided that the Hellhammer name and legacy was too limiting, Tom G. Warrior and Martin Ain decided to form a new act with a different name in hopes of pursuing a much more ambitous musical approach. The resulting project did certainly step away from the very amateurish former band and as you are probably aware, ended up being one of the more notable extreme acts of the 80s. And unfortunately, not entirely for their forays into experimental, avantgarde metal. (You'll just have to skim down the review page to find out about Cold Lake for yourself.)

The band's first release was a mini album called Morbid Tales that, although still showing some signs of youthful exuberence extending past their actual technical ability level, manages to be a rather impressive step forward for the members of Celtic Frost. Coming up with a thick, thrash based sound, Celtic Frost managed to take their somewhat limited abilities to summon forth some very creative dark metal. Offering up varied tempos of occasionally thundering passages alongside speedier segments, the album doesn't show its hand within the first two minutes (something many metal bands end up doing). Although generally just the thick sludge of their guitar, bass, drums and Warrior's odd gutteral voice, Morbid Tales included a strange soundscape ("Danse Macabre") that might have even made members of Zoviet France think, "Wow, these guys are tripping!" They even managed to wrangle some guest musicians into studio to offer up female vocals, among other things. Not bad for some kids from Switzerland recording their first serious record.

Morbid Tales has since been reissued probably fourteen hundred times with various bonus tracks tacked on, including Emperor's Return and the old Hellhammer material, depending on the reissue. But regardless of which copy you come across, this actually is a necessary album for anyone who has any interest in, oh, any sort of extreme metal released since. Celtic Frost may have ultimately had a rather spotty career, but starting with Morbid Tales, their first three albums are extremely worthwhile.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/20/2013

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To Mega Therion

Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion ©1985 Noise
1. Innocence And Wrath
2. The Usurper
3. Jewel Throne
4. Dawn Of Meggido
5. Eternal Summer
6. Circle Of The Tyrants
7. (Beyond The) North Winds
8. Fainted Eyes
9. Tears In A Prophet's Dream
10. Necromantical Screams

It has been ages since I've listened to this album. As a teenager eagerly tracking down all things metal, Celtic Frost had been a huge favorite of mine, but I had never truly gotten into To Mega Therion, which is undoubtedly a mile marker in the development of the current death/black metal scenes. But I must say that being re-introduced to this album thanks to Noise's reissuing, To Mega Therion is one whale of an album.

Celtic Frost, at the time this album originally hit the streets, was certainly pushing the envelope more than nearly any other band of the era, both in musical approach and image and lyrical content. The opener "Innocence and Wrath" introduces the world to the idea of heavy brass bombardment and leads nicely into the C.F. repetoire. To Mega Therion featured a lot of the trademark riffing and slightly unusual chord progressions. They also used kettle drums and slow, eerie guitars to create somber, deadly moods in "Dawn of Meggido". And then of course there is the classic "Circle of the Tyrants" which, barring the production, is quite possibly the heaviest C.F. song of them all. It certainly has been covered by quite a few bands since. The closing "Necromantical Screams" is another excellent use of disparate elements such as female operatic vocals (and we know how often that has been used in the decade plus since). Very haunting and chilling. I still have a beef with the lack of an in-depth booklet with informative liner notes as the digipack only has the bare essentials for information. As important as this album has been in the history of dark metal, Noise should have put a little more effort into the packaging. Regardless, it's good to at least be able to find this album more readily and anyone daring call themselves a fan of black or death metal should have a copy of this in their deep dark dungeon.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Tragic Serenades

Celtic Frost - Tragic Serenades ©1986 Combat/Noise
1. The Usurper
2. Jewel Throne
3. Return To The Eve

This three song EP reprises "The Usurper" and "Jewel Throne" from To Mega Therion and "Return to the Eve" from Morbid Tales. Back then Celtic Frost had the full-on evil thing going and these are three of the stronger tracks. Using ultra-low guitar riffing and crawling tempos as well as Tom G. Warrior's trademark nasty demon vocals, C.F. was an entity unto itself. Though you can find these tracks on the other albums, this little EP is neat to own and if you see it somewhere, snag it.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1999

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Into The Pandemonium

Celtic Frost - Into The Pandemonium ©1987 Combat/Noise
1. Mexican Radio
2. Mesmerized
3. Inner Sanctum
4. Tristesses De La Lune
5. Babylon Fell
6. Caress Into Oblivion
7. One In Their Pride (porthole Mix)
8. I Won't Dance
9. Sorrows Of The Moon
10. Rex Irae (Requiem)
11. Oriental Masquerade
12. One In Their Pride (extended Mix)

Listening to this album in my car, the sudden revelation hit me concerning all of today's black/death/darkwave/ whathaveyou metal bands: they're all trying to accomplish what Celtic Frost did a decade ago. That is, put out a completely groundbreaking album that puts a twist onto an entire generation of metal musicians.

Venom was probably the most responsible for the rise of Satan's Cheerleaders in metal. Though they kept themselves with tongues planted firmly in cheek, they gave inspiration to the likes of Bathory, Sodom, Hellhammer, Destruction, Kreator, et al. Bathory added sheer velocity to the formula, Sodom volunteered vocal gurgle, and Hellhammer submitted bad production (and we know that many of today's bands utilize that). Hellhammer mutated into Celtic Frost and put out a couple of the most evil, death-iest platters to date. On To Mega Therion, their second, Tom G. Warrior & Co. employed heavy brass passages into the mix. That was only a hint of things to come.

Into the Pandemonium came out of nowhere. In 1987, no self-respecting metal band bothered mixing genres and styles like the Frost. The album bursts forth with "Mexican Radio", a Wall of Voodoo cover. Unexpected? You betcha. But Tom's rasps rendered it deathy enough for consumption. The next track "Mesmerized" has Tom using a gothic wail. "Inner Sanctum" is a rhythmic, chugging cyclone. Then comes the first serious deviation, "Tristess de la Lune", which throws a breathy, operatic diva chanting French lyrics over a dynamic base of violins & orchestra. Soothing yet stirring, it had to be quite confusing to all the pentagram and bulletbelt metalbangers of yesteryear.

On the flip side, "One in their Pride" has a programmed drum beat and samples from the Apollo 11 moon mission. Again, C.F. shows experimentation where none had before.

"I Won't Dance" precludes Genesis by at least four years. However irrelevant that may be, it is by far the catchiest and best Frost song out there. Mixing jazz into thrash & female vocal samples, C.F. again stuns the listener and probably gave The Gathering an idea or two. Finally comes the baroque opera piece. Bringing back the brass, Tom & a female soprano enact an entire drama. Every black metal band today wishes they could capture the bleak beauty of this piece.

Sure, Into the Pandemonium has a couple throwaway songs, but the influence has lasted through an entire mutation of the thrash/death genre. Every band today who utilizes classical influences, samples, female singers...they should pay serious homeage to Celtic Frost rather than their current black lords.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1997

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Cold Lake

Celtic Frost - Cold Lake ©1988 Noise Int.
1. Human (intro)
2. Seduce Me Tonight
3. Petty Obsession
4. (Once) They Were Eagles
5. Cherry Orchards
6. Juices Like Wine
7. Little Velvet
8. Blood On Kisses
9. Downtown Hanoi
10. Dance Sleazy
11. Roses Without Thorns
12. Tease Me
13. Mexican Radio (new Version)

There has to be days where Tom Warrior scratches himself on the head and asks himself in dramatic, hushed tones, "What on earth was I thinking?" in regards to Cold Lake. After completely a dark and mindblowing trilogy of unique death-thrash avantgarde metal records, Tom and a new lineup (including the original session drummer of Morbid Tales, Stephen Priestly) poofed their hair up to assume a glam image and a weird hybrid of rock'n'roll/sleaze metal done Celtic Frost style. Though obviously well out of the realm of the crushing music of To Mega Therion or the bizarre left field approach of Into the Pandemonium, Cold Lake is simply a strange album. I'm not one to fixate on band images very much, but Celtic Frost's look on this album is absolutely riotous. Short lived second guitarist Oliver Amberg is utterly pouty, while bassist Curt Victor Bryant and Stephen Priestly both look sassy and ready to woo obese fifteen year old Poison fans. Needless to say, Tom Warrior's mug was not going seduce anyone, regardless of his plea in "Seduce Me Tonight". The second major downfall of the album is the very bad production job of Tony Platt. Apparently the band paid a lot of money to this guy to "capture" their new sound and he fell so short that a toothpick would be the only appropriate measuring stick. The guitars are given the bite of a senior citizens home's pudding night (with applesauce on the side), solos sound grafted on from another studio and the mastering job makes the thing sound like it was recorded at a distance of two miles from the actual site. Even Danger Danger sounded more dangerous in 1988.

But even through all the band's immense missteps and blunders, Cold Lake, taken apart from the context of any other Celtic Frost album, does have a few interesting songs that should have been reworked a more "classic" Frost lineup (and if I remember right, a couple were redone on Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying). "(Once) They Were Eagles", "Downtown Hanoi", "Juices Like Wine" and "Blood on Kisses" actually do have some good guitar riffs that, given a proper makeover, would make the songs worthy of the Frost banner.

Cold Lake is defintely something in hindsight that Tom Warrior probably wishes never happened. Had he released this under a solo artist flag, chances are he would have saved the Celtic Frost name some severe embarrassment. I can understand his assertation that after three ultra profound records coupled with a ton of record label battles, he simply needed to make a fun, lighthearted album. But he should have just kept this one to himself. All of us do things in life that are very embarrassing. Unfortunately for Tom, his just so happens to be released worldwide for the entire metal universe to howl at in anger and mirth. My recommendation is only to pick up this CD used (and for cheap) after picking up every other Celtic Frost release first. Cold Lake does need to be heard simply for the fact that no other band has quite shot itself in the foot like Celtic Frost and the audio evidence is something we should all sit through at least once.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2000

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Vanity/Nemesis

Celtic Frost - Vanity/Nemesis ©1990 Noise/RCA
1. The Heart Beneath
2. Wine In My Hand (third From The Sun)
3. Wings Of Solitude
4. The Name Of My Bride
5. This Island Earth
6. Restless Seas
7. Phallic Tantrum
8. A Kiss Or A Whisper
9. Vanity
10. Nemesis
11. Heroes

Forever to be known as the band that royally blew it, Celtic Frost's last proper studio album was a matter of too little, too late. Having alienated all but sixteen Celtic Frost fans with the gargantuan blunder called Cold Lake, the foray back into heavier material simply did not gel with anyone. The band put out a compilation album a couple years later but eventually broke up. And in a way, it's too bad. Vanity/Nemesis obviously could not touch the innovation, creativity or sheer timelessness of the first three Celtic Frost albums, but it still stands as a solid album. Most of the songs here are quite enjoyable excursions into a classy sort of heaviness with Tom G. Warrior's signature mournful raspy voice providing the reminder that this is still Celtic Frost. There weren't very many elements that graced the band's best work, Into the Pandemonium, except for the occasional female voice (as on "Wings of Solitude"). Again the band included a couple offbeat covers, Brian Ferry's "This Island Earth" and a fully unrecognizable version of David Bowie's "Heroes". While I will never include this album in the same breath as the first three Celtic Frost albums, Vanity/Nemesis is still an album that has its place in any collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1999

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Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying

Celtic Frost - Parched With Thirst Am I And Dying ©1992 Noise
1. Idols of Chagrin
2. A Descent to Babylon (Babylon Asleep)
3. Return to the Eve (1985 Studio Jam)
4. Juices Like Wine (Re-recorded 1991)
5. The Inevitable Factor (unreleased)
6. The Heart Beneath
7. Cherry Orchards (Radio Edit)
8. Tristesses De La Lune
9. Wings of Solitude
10. The Usurper (Re-recorded 1986)
11. Journey Into Fear (unreleased)
12. Downtown Hanoi (re-recorded 1991)
13. Circle of the Tyrants
14. In the Chapel In the Moonlight
15. I Won't Dance (The Elder's Orient) (Radio Edit)
16. The Name of My Bride
17. Mexican Radio (1991 Studio Jam)
18. Under Apollyon's Sun

By the time this compilation of rare tracks and outtakes reached the market in 1992, Celtic Frost had scaled the highest peaks of metal and plummeted about as low as one can get. Their initial trio of albums are, to many, some of the best extreme metal albums you can hear. And then they released Cold Lake, which still is the heavy metal version of "jumping the shark". Although they somewhat got their heads on straight with 1990's Vanity/Nemesis, their time as an influential act was basically up. In theory, this cumbersomely titled album was to be a prelude for another studio release but that idea was eventually scrapped, with Celtic Frost breaking up. Ultimately they would reform in the 2000s for another dreadful album, but that has no real bearing on Parched With Thirst Am I And Dying.

The most surprising thing about Parched With Thirst is the fact that they actually had the stones to includes songs that were originally on Cold Lake. More intriguingly, the band thought highly enough of those songs to go into a studio and re-record them. Studio time often isn't cheap. However, perhaps the band felt that with their 1991 lineup, they could take a couple of the better songs from that album and prove they weren't totally nuts when they made Cold Lake. Both "Juices Like Wine" and "Downtown Hanoi" benefit from a thicker production and heavier approach. However, "Downtown Hanoi" is shown its insignificance to heavy metal in general once one listens to "Circle of the Tyrants", which follows on the album. Needless to say, most fans are still going to gravitate towards the earlier songs that put Celtic Frost on the extreme metal map.

Another nifty aspect of the compiliation is that it actually includes some incredibly hard to find material and otherwise unreleased music. "In the Chapel In the Moonlight" was on a very limited edition 1987 EP that, chances are, was not in the average Celtic Frost fan's collection. The album also includes a couple new songs that were supposedly to be on the next studio LP, but as established earlier, that album never panned out.

I do question including a couple songs from Vanity/Nemesis on this compilation. It's not as though that album was influential such as the first three albums nor did it have the noteriety of Cold Lake.

Parched With Thirst, however, is an example of doing the fans right. It's not a rehash of previously released material and instead provides longtime fans with things they might not hear otherwise. It is respectfully done and as such, should act as a nice companion piece to the band's first three records.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2010

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Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return

Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales/Emperor's Return ©1998 Noise
1. Into The Crypt Of Rays
2. Visions Of Mortality
3. Dethroned Emperor
4. Morbid Tales
5. Circle Of The Tyrants
6. Procreation Of The Wicked
7. Return To The Eve
8. Danse Macabre
9. Nocturnal Fear
10. Suicidal Winds
11. Visual Aggression
12. The Third Of The Storms
13. Massacra
14. Triumph Of Death
15. Horus/aggressor
16. Revelations Of Doom
17. Messiah

Very easily one of the most revered albums in dark metal history, Celtic Frost certainly latched onto something that was to revolutionize thrash metal. Though Morbid Tales sounds pretty tame by 1998 standards, Tom Warrior's grunting and ever-so-evil "ooh" and the subject matter had to be pretty darned unique back at the time. Though I personally prefer 1987's Into the Pandemonium for its truly striking innovation, this particular release (the re-issued package includes the Emperor's Return and the Hellhammer EP) is a fun trip down nostalgia lane. Besides, "Circle of the Tyrants" is undeniably a true metal classic (but if memory serves correctly, there's a heavier version on To Mega Therion). I wouldn't put the musicians in Celtic Frost on any top ten list for ability, it was their vision that set them apart.

As for the bonus Hellhammer EP, it's terribly amusing to listen to it. Sounding basically like a demo version of Celtic Frost with corresponding production, it's quite amazing to think of the influence it has had on thrash and black metal at large. I recall reading in many interviews throughout the years the different bands that named Hellhammer as an influence (and in fact today there are bands using Hellhammer as a blueprint for their sound...sad as that is). This package, though lacking in good informative liner notes (c'mon Noise, quit being so cheap and put some effort into these re-issues!), is certainly a good Metal 101 course.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998

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Monotheist

Celtic Frost - Monotheist ©2006 Century Media
1. Progeny
2. Ground
3. A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh
4. Drown In Ashes
5. Os Abysmi Vel Daath
6. Obscured
7. Domain Of Decay
8. Ain Elohim
9. Totengott
10. Synagoga Satanae
11. Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale)

Reunion efforts from classic bands are sometimes a terrifying prospect. In some cases, such as Exodus, bands capture their old spirit, infuse some current influence and release pretty good albums. However, other bands fall completely flat on their faces and tarnish old legacies. In the case of Celtic Frost, they had already made career choices that plastered tarnish all over the place (Cold Lake, an album that Celtic Frost will never live down, regardless of all the explanations Thomas Gabriel Fischer put forth in his Celtic Frost autobiography, Are You Morbid?). Subsequent bands featuring Fischer were utterly abysmal (Apollyon Sun may be about as awful as you can get without becoming any career choice Vanilla Ice made post-1992). The prospect of Fischer resurrecting Celtic Frost was rumored for years and finally came about in 2006.

First off, Monotheist is poorly titled. If Celtic Frost were to accurately describe the contents of this album, Monotonous would by far be the most suitable title. The entire lengthy album, which features about an hour plus change of tedious material, lacks any sort of identity, impetus or hook to set Celtic Frost apart from the current metal crop. It might have the ugly vocals and thick guitar sound, which 1986 production technology couldn't necessarily create, but it has absolutely no ability to capture a listener's ear. The music is often plodding and cumbersome, with a touch of electronic effects. But on the whole, it just sounds like some guys with good studio equipment and not too many strong ideas. Considering this band was a major influence on so many black and death metal bands, this is shameful. This isn't a single song on here that stands up to any of the original trio of Celtic Frost albums. It's also worth pointing out that if this project were released by Thomas Schmoe, Martin Blow and Faceless Drummer, no one would give this a second glance...or even a second spin. It took me multiple tries to sit through this morbid abortion of an album without instantly wanting to put on something else.

However, it should be noted that Celtic Frost did accomplish something impressive with this midlife crisis record: they finally have something in their catalogue that makes Cold Lake seem like a good idea.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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