In Memory of Celtic Frost
by Scott Hefflon
No one will agree on this one. We all have our favorite Celtic Frost songs, and many of us wish they’d been left intact as pure genius, inhuman brutality, and not covered – accurately, interpretively, whatever – at all. If, by some terrible misfortune, you don’t already own at least one copy of everything Celtic Frost did up to and including 1987’s Into The Pandemonium, you must get them all. Even if you have to get them on CD. You’ll miss the nightmares caused by the full-size gatefold layouts by H.R. Giger and Hieronymus Bosch, but the sonic evil will be forever crisp and clear. I believe ownership and digestion of the full catalog is a prerequisite to the statement “I enjoy heavy music.” The true fanatic might seek out the Hellhammer demos and EP, but it may be a difficult quest and it’s not mandatory. Neither is owning post-Pandemonium C.F.. Browse the cut-out bins, though you may regret it.
In Memory of Celtic Frost does have the excellent side effect of making one really appreciate even the “simpler” Celtic Frost songs. That’s not much of an incentive to purchase this CD, but despising well over half of these “tributes” not only inspired me to pull out the originals, they warned me to stay away from (in most cases, again) bands that aren’t very good at being themselves, much less Celtic Frost. The few covers that didn’t make me scream, “Why? Why? How could you?” were rather pleasant. One or two are actually damn fine versions. The rest merely made it very clear that covering a song means far more than playing the same notes.
Opeth‘s version of “Circle of the Tyrants” was immaculate, right down to the “Circle of the Tyr-ugh!” chorus. Then again, Opeth can do no wrong to these ears. Grave, usually a blood-drenched, fist-pumping fave, fell totally flat with “Mesmerized” when the now-ex-singer Jorgen tried T.G.I.Warrior’s goulish lament and ended up sounding like a mewling patsy. Apollyon’s Sun got C.F.’s guitar sound right on the mark during “Babylon Fell,” but seeing as how it’s Warrior’s new band (with sporadic Celtic drummer Stephen Priestly), they ought to! I don’t remember the chorus being so similar to that of “Shout at the Devil,” but if that’s their new direction, they’re welcome to it. The bonus tracks, “Danse Macabre” and “Triumph of Death,” covered by Emperor and 13 respectively, are just plain out there. As songs from Hellhammer’s Apocalyptic Raids, I’m not too familiar with the originals, but Emperor’s thinly produced sparseness, and snake spit vocals have always appealed to me, as has 13’s tuned-so-low-you-think-ya-got-the-record-on-the-wrong-speed dirge roar. I’ll spare you the rest of my song by song analysis because whether a song is true to the original, interprets it to your taste, or falls shy of expectation, is really up to you. The carefully detailed history of Celtic Frost, and contributing band bios, are alone almost worth the price of the CD. You should be able to find this in most stores that don’t totally suck.