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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Celtic Frost: To Mega Therion


1) Innocence And Wrath; 2) The Usurper; 3) Jewel Throne; 4) Dawn Of Megiddo; 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.

Not a serious departure from the style of Morbid Tales, Celtic Frost's first proper LP is still a vast technical improvement. Although not featuring the classic lineup (bassist Dominic Steiner is employed here as a temporary replacement for Eric Ain), this is probably as heavy and relentless as these guys would ever get — fully justifying the album's title (The Great Beast in Ancient Greek, and yes, apparently, this is where Therion, the Swedish symph-metal monster, also got their name from). You may hate this record (understood), you may not remember one track from another (even better understood), but you do have to respect its total lack of compromise, and, with (perhaps forced) repeated listens, its weird strife for melodicity and complexity behind the superficial monotonousness of the songs.

It is almost a pity that in this black metal business, a trade-off has to be made between melodic purity and brutality. A couple listens into ʽThe Usurperʼ, for instance, and you might perceive the song's riff as a potential jawbreaker, but because of all the constant dirty feedback engulfing the notes and because of the overtly loud drums adding to the onslaught, everything fuses together in a sludgy mess. (Where's the London Symphonic Orchestra when you really need it?). The same complaint is applicable to almost everything else, though most of the other riffs do not sound all that original to me — mostly variations on everything from Sabbath to early Metallica. But at least the production is noticeably better: the drums actually sound powerful, unlike so many speed metal albums where it feels as if the drummer is barely alive, just trying to catch up to the insane guitar tempos — and the lead guitar parts achieve the desired «now-for-some-thunder-and-lightning» effect, usually the only reason to put a lead guitar part in a speedy black metal song.

For the sake of keeping this review running a little longer, let me quickly list everything that is found slightly outside the standard black metal formula. The introduction, ʽInnocence And Wrathʼ, features guest musician Wolf Bender on French horn, adding a suitably Wagnerian dimension to the short track — actually, the French horn sounds very much in tune with the metal guitars, and it is a pity that Tom did not exploit this guy's talents any further (he does reappear on the mid-section of ʽDawn Of Megiddoʼ, but playing exactly the same melody). On three of the tracks, guest vocalist Claudia-Maria Mokri makes very brief vocal appearances — sometimes appearing, in Valkyrie fashion, on just one or two lines, goofy and ghostly, in a «what the heck was that?» kind of way. And ʽTears In A Prophet's Dreamʼ continues the tradition of ʽDanse Macabreʼ, a spooky noise track well fit for a horror movie with caves, skeletons, and spiders, or at least an Elder Scrolls dungeon. Uh... that's it. Oh, wait! There are some odd chiming percus­sion effects on ʽNecromantical Screamsʼ, the last track. And some big timpani shit going on at the end, because the album has to end on an epic Wagnerian note, too.

Other than that, there is nothing to discuss, unless you really want to dissect all these riffs note-for-note, and trace them back to their nearest relatives in the extended heavy metal family. Since this obviously does not represent Celtic Frost at the peak of their creativity, I find it hard to actively recommend an album with such an utterly limited formula — and, for what it's worth, I think Bathory did the whole black metal schtick with even more fervor and creativity — but I can understand why it is so highly regarded in professional metal circles, so, ultimately, the record gets a thumbs up because of the sheer curiosity factor. Oh, and the cool title: these literate fel­lows did not even forget to include the proper neuter gender article, so how could this not be counted as the finest linguistic achievement in black metal history?

1 comment:

  1. Great review as always, but it's "striving", not "strife", that you're thinking of. Unless they actually hate melody.