Celtic Frost
Monotheist

The glut of reunion and comeback efforts continues with Celtic Frost’s attempt to get back in the ring with their first album since 1992. Though no introduction should be necessary to readers of this site, I’ll give the brief one. Celtic Frost formed from the ashes of Hellhammer and released a couple of fine black/death/thrash blended albums, Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, before completely destroying their credibility and career with a major lineup change and a turn to the hair band style on 1989’s Cold Lake. Though the band trotted out a couple of albums after that disaster, most of their fans had already left the building.

So now, it’s 2006, and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer has reunited with bassist and founding member Martin Eric Ain to try to bring Celtic Frost into the 21st century. While I’m not sure it accomplishes that goal, Monotheist at least returns some of dignity to the Celtic Frost name.

Opening with the tribal drumming and heavy riffing of “Progeny,” it’s obvious that the band is up for a return to heavier days. Those expecting a rehash of To Mega Therion, however, will be disappointed. Monotheist has a dark and drab atmosphere about it, highlighted by plodding goth pieces like “Drown in Ashes” and “A Dying God Come into Human Flesh.” Surprisingly, “Drown in Ashes” really reminds me of British alt-rockers Sisters of Mercy. The long, mellow sequences, with sometimes almost whispered lyrics, aren’t the first thing that come to mind when you hear the name Celtic Frost, but for the most part, they are effective, in a Danzig-ish sort of way.

Monotheist is one of those records that’s crafted as a whole. There probably won’t be a particular song on the album that you’ll listen to over and over, but the ebb and flow of the entire work blends into one larger piece — which is, of course, what a good album should do. Still, I miss the fist-throwing tunes like “Procreation (of the Wicked)” that the band recorded in their early days.

The album then morphs from goth to doom for the next sequence of songs, “Os Abysmi Vel Daath,” “Obscured” and “Domain of Decay,” before returning to a more expected thrash/death hybrid for “Ain Elohim,” which happens to be my favorite piece here.

The record closes with a group of three songs dubbed the Triptych, “Totengott,” the 14-minute epic “Synagoga Satanae” and “Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale).” The first of the three is basically a long intro, with some white noise and a distorted spoken word piece. “Synagoga Satanae” opens in the same vein, before taking on a blackened doom vibe a few minutes in. It’s the best of the three, but probably not worth 14 minutes, as it gets a little repetitive over that stretch. “Winter” plays the three-song set out with a classical feel. It’s cool for occasional listening, but probably not on a regular basis.

I’ll also add that my copy of this record had another factor working against it, and that was the muted beeps that pass for copy protection on the advance. I found them incredibly annoying, particularly during the quieter numbers, and that probably didn’t help my feelings about the record any. The commercial copy shouldn’t have that problem, though.

Ultimately, Monotheist isn’t a bad album, but it comes nowhere near the heights of the band’s first two releases, which remain essential parts of any metal collection. So, it’s not a return to glory, but certainly a big step back in the right direction.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
June 1st, 2006

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