Album Reviews

Celtic Frost – Monotheist

(Ian Robinson) UK release date: 29 May 2006

Celtic Frost are regarded as one of the pioneers of death, black and gothic metal, creating some groundbreaking music in the mid to late ’80s, and influencing many of the following generation.

They gained respect by continually morphing their sound and pushing back the boundaries of heavy music development, with their first three albums rightly considered as classics. Unfortunately, the release of the glam rock-tinged Cold Lake alienated fans and press. The band never fully recovered from this and stopped producing original material in 1990.

A few years back, shortly after collaborating on Dave Grohl’s Probot project, frontman Tom Gabriel Fischer spent time remastering and revisiting the Celtic Frost songs of old, got back in contact with bassist Martin Eric Ain again, and a new album was slated.

Monotheist is the fruit of that endeavour and has already been under the scrutiny of many. This album is Celtic Frost bringing what they pioneered into the 21st century, fusing death metal with electronica and classical, leeching out the darkness in each style, and so transporting the listener into a different, haunting world.

So we begin. Progeny stomps into the room and bludgeons the listener with a full-on crunching riff. The stall has been set out, and this is going to be a heavy one. Ground continues in the same black blood vein, gradually slowing the pace down, but never losing the doom-laden heaviness. A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh builds a dark cloud slowly, before thundering through to its conclusion.

The truly atmospheric Drown In Ashes takes some enthralling vocals and overlays some slower electro-goth chords to create a mini-opera sound and flows into Os Abysmi Vel Daath, which continues the operatic theme, and ends with a welcome tempo change to speed things up.

Obscured is Pink Floyd in Doc Martens and a trenchcoat, and probably goes on for a little too long. However things become more up-tempo with Domain Of Decay and Ain Elohim, which round off this section of the album, and showcase Fischer’s growling, guttural vocals.

Then on to the Triptych section, with three “tableaux” attempting to make a full story. Totengott features some very distorted vocals within an exceedingly disturbing piece of music. If you listen to this without your Horlicks, you’ll never get to sleep…

At 14� minutes long, Synagoga Satanae was an opportunity to become more creative. However, it just is too long without much in the way of invention. Winter wraps things up with some darkly enchanting classical music, leaving the Triptych – and the album – closed and complete.

Overall, it takes a while to get used to where the vocals are in the mix on Monotheist. Initially they sound slightly muted and low, but once the ear gets used to it, it sort of works. The slightly disembodied mature of the vocals does add to the atmosphere, but for me it also took some of the power away from them.

In today’s world of iTuned, three-minute fix hit songs that are cherry-picked from albums, it is refreshing to listen to an album that has been crafted, nay hewn, with thought and diversity, taking any listener who is dedicated enough on a musical journey.

The drawn-out and somewhat repetitive nature of the songs will not be to everyone’s taste, and this is not radio-friendly, instantly grabbing stuff, but fans of dark metal should love Monotheist – as well as anyone else brave or curious enough to discover something new.

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Celtic Frost – Monotheist