If there’s been one sliver of an upside to the bleak circumstance in which we currently find ourselves, it’s the extra free time we have to listen to music, discover new artists and delve into some of our past favourites. Writer Kez Whelan (also known for Filth X Collins, Shrykull and Unbeknownst) has been doing just this, and as a result has found time to rank some of his favourite bands’ albums. Today Kez is taking on the discography of one of the most legendary names in extreme metal history, Celtic Frost. The Swiss band’s legacy is set in stone, but not every album of theirs can be considered a world-beater (to say the least), so which is their worst, and which record has the honour of first place? Read on to find out.
Cold Lake (1988)
I mean, obviously. This one’s just not good, the glammier songs here are hilariously bad. In fairness though, some of it is kinda fun, there are a couple of decent Tom G riffs on it and it’s absolutely nowhere near as bad as that bizarre nu-metal demo they wisely shelved before releasing Monotheist, but HEY we don’t speak of that one in this household.
Honestly, a lot of this isn’t that far removed from Cold Lake. It has a similar sleazy swagger to it, but it’s pulled off a lot better here. It’s much more adventurous as a whole too, with the gospel vocals on songs like ‘Wings Of Solitude’ and the weird Bowie and Bryan Ferry covers. Not a great record but it definitely has its moments, the tracks ‘Vanity’ and ‘Nemesis’ definitely end it on a high.
Into The Pandemonium (1987)
A really weird, disjointed record, I love this one but can definitely see why it was so divisive. ‘Inner Sanctum’ is classic Frost but the rest of it is all over the shop, ranging from goth rock to clunky early hip-hop-esque drum machine experiments. It’s a really creative, bold album and I love the fact that they just did not give one single fuck at this point, but it doesn’t feel very cohesive. It’s more like a random assortment of cool ideas than the enveloping musical voyage it was probably conceived as. But, y’know, it’s still cool.
Such a great comeback record, it really feels like it’s building from where Into The Pandemonium left off and broadening their sound out even more. Monotheist also has a similar scope and eclecticism to ITP too, but with the new-wave and post-punk influences traded for doom and post-metal instead. It feels a lot more focused too – the shifts in style aren’t as jarring either as it maintains the same atmosphere throughout. It’s definitely like proto-Triptykon in many ways but still feels like Celtic Frost. And the guitar tone is HUGE.
To Mega Therion (1985)
Close call between the last two as they’re just two of the best metal albums ever made. This one is just fucking EVIL, the mood is so dark and esoteric, the riffs are devastating and it’s structured so well as a listening experience. As influential as this was, there’s still nothing that really sounds like it. Even Celtic Frost worship bands don’t quite nail the same feeling this gives off. A masterpiece, basically.
Morbid Tales (1999 reissue)
Yeah yeah, I know Morbid Tales and Emperor’s Return are both EPs, but I [and many others – ed.] first heard them both on the 1999 reissue CD that collects them so they’re permanently intertwined in my mind – plus it just flows so well as an album too. To Mega Therion may be darker, but the energy here is just insane and the songs are just that bit catchier and more memorable. So many cool moments and weird little bits in them too, they sound deceptively simple and primitive but the more you sit with them and break them down, it’s like the more music seems to come out of this thing somehow. So, so many tunes, just the best shit ever to be honest.
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Words: Kez Whelan