Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Totengott By Celtic Frost, Album: Monotheist 2006

I chose the song Totengott for todays Spooktober edition because of its disturbing sound and haunting lyrics. While the band doesn’t host a myriad of tragedy in their past they do posses an interesting history, originality and collective talent.

The influence of Celtic Frost (/ˈkɛltɪk frɒst/) on the extreme metal scene is undeniable. Since forming, the Zürich band – led by Thomas Gabriel Fischer (then opting for the surname Warrior) – released six albums and two EPs.

Celtic Frost and their primordial predecessor, Hellhammer, have long been an immutable part of early extreme metal’s most unholy triumvirate (alongside Bathory and Venom). From the earliest, messiest days of Hellhammer up to and including the band’s weighty final statement, Monotheist, Celtic Frost consistently and fearlessly seared their black mark upon rock ‘n’ roll history. Whether they were busily introducing the avant-garde to metal or simply hammering out one of those goddamn riffs, it may sound hyperbolic to say, but there’s no denying it: Celtic Frost changed the world.

Contrary to popular belief, Hellhammer never changed its name to Celtic Frost, even though the band formed very quickly after Hellhammer’s demise.

The classic Celtic Frost lineup circa 2006.

They first disbanded in 1987 but six months later Warrior reformed the band. When they reformed in 2001, they founded their own record label called Prowling Death Records and their own publishing imprint called Diktatur des Kapitals, to gain absolute control over their music. Later, Celtic Frost and Prowling Death Records signed a worldwide licensing deal with Century Media Records, so the rights for their new material is their own and is released by Century Media.

A demo tape called Prototype exists. Among other tracks, it contains two Apollyon Sun tracks, “Relinquished Body” and “Deep Inside”.

Cold Lake is largely different from anything else they have ever recorded. The band has repeatedly disowned this release and attribute the shocking change in style to pressure from the record company.

Singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer announced his departure from Celtic Frost on 9th of April 2008, due to “the unresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile, and ambitious.” It was confirmed in a joint statement by Fischer and Martin Ain in September of that year that Celtic Frost had disbanded again. Fischer later founded a new band called Triptykon and Ain planned to carry on with a new project with drummer Franco Sesa.

Monotheist is the fifth and final studio album by the Swiss extreme metal band Celtic Frost. The album was released in May 2006 and was the first new recording released by the band in sixteen years. Upon its release, the album was met with critical acclaim.

Celtic Frost’s earlier work melded elements of thrash metal and black metal. The sound of Monotheist has been described as difficult to reduce to specifics, as the songs vary from doom metal to “blackened thrash” to gothic metal to symphonic metal. The result is a wide-ranging but very dark heavy metal experience. Don Kaye at Blabbermouth called it “a monstrously heavy and oppressive slab of metal” which goes “into even heavier, blacker territory” than previous albums. Adrien Begrand of PopMatters said that the album was nearly a masterpiece of “brutally heavy” metal, “completely devoid of light.” Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic noted more subtle touches such as the “instantaneously infectious melody” of “A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh”, and the “haunting female voices” heard in duet with bandleader Tom Warrior on “Drown in Ashes”.

According to Fischer, some of the lyrics were influenced by the writings of the English occultist Aleister Crowley. This influence manifests itself in tracks such as “Os Abysmi Vel Daath”, which is the partial name of one of Crowley’s books.

In an interview with Louder Sound, Fischer would speak in detail on the culmination of the album based on artistic merit and the “spark” to close out their career on a high note:

“Celtic Frost eventually dissolved in the early 1990s and I think both Martin and I felt that on the one hand we didn’t want to have anything to do with Celtic Frost at the time because of the way that it ended, but at the same time, given that these last two albums of Celtic Frost were such failures, we always felt that not everything had been said. We always said, this cannot be how Celtic Frost ends. I think we always carried that little spark in ourselves. We always knew that one day we would probably have to talk about it, whether it should be the end or whether we should attempt to resurrect that. But we weren’t in the mood throughout the 1990s, and that was a good thing. We received sometimes incredibly lucrative offers to reform the band for certain festivals. There was this one offer particularly that was monstrously big, and Martin and I talked about it and we decided we were not going to reform Celtic Frost for money. If we ever reform it, it has to be for artistic reasons, and I’m very proud we did this. So we waited a few more years, but eventually in 2001 we met for dinner in Zürich, and we just said, look, we have to attempt at least to provide some kind of artistic conclusion to Celtic Frost that is worth the name. That’s really when Monotheist became a reality from having been in the back of our minds as a concept for many years, but that’s when it became a reality.

“It’s the album that should have followed Into The Pandemonium really. To me it’s different from the other Celtic Frost albums, but then every album is different to the other Celtic Frost albums, that is why it’s a Celtic Frost album. And to me, Monotheist counts as one of the important Celtic Frost albums. To me, there are four albums that Celtic Frost did that are crucial to the band’s history and those are the first three and Monotheist. And I’m extremely glad that we have the guts to do this and we had the patience to work for five-and-a-half years on that album to make it right.”

— Thomas Gabriel Fischer, Louder Sound

On 15 September 2006, Century Media released a music video for “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh”. 

What would follow would be the band’s most extensive touring cycle of their entire career, with over 120 shows spanning over the course of two years. Even more notable is the band managing to perform more live shows in these two years than in the entirety of their initial run.

Adrian Winkler and a team of camera crew followed the band on these tours, filming for a documentary entitled Celtic Frost – A Dying God. The documentary aired on Sunday, 16 November 2008 on Swiss national TV station SF1 (After the band’s demise.)

In May 2008 Fischer would form a new band in Triptykon with former Freitod bassist Vanja Slajh, Dark Fortress guitarist V. Santura and former Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark (though he would be replaced the same year). This new band would evoke a similar sound as to what was displayed on Monotheist, with the band also performing classic Celtic Frost and Hellhammer songs live.

This new band has two studio albums and an EP released to date with a third on the way.

Notably in 2018 Fischer would begin involvement in two new musical projects: Niryth (A triple-bass project whose music has yet to be revealed and thus “Unclassifiable”.) and Triumph of Death (A Hellhammer tribute band with a host of festival appearances set for 2019.)

Martin Eric Ain stopped actively playing music entirely and owns a DVD shop and a bar in Zurich called Acapulco. He is also a co-owner of the music club Mascotte, which has become well known for hosting upcoming international bands. He would however perform spoken word on occasion and contribute his voice to a handful of releases. Ain would pass away from a heart attack on 21 October 2017.

On 30 March 2010 Bazillion Points Publishing would release a book of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost entitled Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History of Hellhammer and Early Celtic Frost 1981–1985, featuring an introduction by Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone and a foreword by author Joel McIver. Two follow-up books have since been announced in the works: A revised version of Are You Morbid? detailing the entirety of the band’s first run and a book detailing the band’s reunion and Triptykon.

In the fall of 2016 BMG would acquire the Noise Records catalog with plans to do expanded reissues of many classic albums among the label, with Celtic Frost being among those artists. BMG would approach Fischer about participation in the reissue project to which he would contribute to it, including unheard bonus tracks, new liner notes, photos and a re-mastering by Fischer and V. Santura. Cold Lake would once again be omitted as Fischer considers it “an abomination”. However on 17 May 2017 Fischer would announce that due to censoring and editing of proposed liner notes he would no longer endorse the reissues.

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