Yeah, we’ve been here before. Celtic Frost have made comebacks before. Everyone in metal tips the hat to these Swiss-American gods of gothgrind (to hear why, check out ‘85’s To Mega Therion and ‘87’s Into The Pandemonium). But absurdly, it’s perhaps better, and certainly more helpful to your enjoyment of Monotheist to hear this as a debut salvo. The last time I spoke to Tom Gabriel Fischer (CF’s mainman and co-founder alongside bassist Martin Eric Ain) was in 2000 and he tantalisingly hinted that Celtic Frost were gonna record again but he was debating whether to release it under the Celtic Frost moniker, “Cos it feels so fucking new”.
Six years on, he’s clearly twigged that such boundary-busting innovation is precisely what Celtic Frost exist for, and Monotheist finally seeps out with a retooled CF ready to roll stagewards worldwide till the end of 2007. And fuck me, I don’t want them to play any of the old stuff. Cos Monotheist is so damn good.
Understand – there have been so many rip-offs of CF’s elemental sound (epic doom riffola, swathes of orchestral beauty, sudden ambient ruptures of synth) you’d expect them to be backed into a position of repeating not just themselves but the rest of metal’s current cutting edge. but what’s so great about Monotheist is that it never really feels like a retread, always seems to be emerging from a brand new, even more richly cinematic vein in Fischer’s songwriting, informed by the degradations of age and with its intimations of mortality brought even closer up now we’re all so much older. The opening triumvurate of ‘Progeny’, ‘Ground’ and ‘A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh’ take in the most sublime fantasies of romantic Europa, the most aggravated impulses of industrial decay and the bluesiest, folkiest black depths of doom in that order and play them better than anyone else out there. And by seemingly perfecting and surpassing both themselves and the generation of copyists in their wake, Frost are then free to go wherever the hell they like. ‘Drown In Ashes’ is aggressively camp suicide-balladry for the police to find playing next to the corpse/open window that ends on a lovely caesura of drone, warping into the clanging apocalypse of ‘Os Abysmi Vel Daath’ wherein Fischer and co out-Sab the mighty Sabs, slap on Diamanda Galas-style b-vox, pull doom/death’s preoccupation with evil and holy war into the very body politic itself and then unleash Armageddon in your bumgut.
Awesome awesome shit. Check out the closing ‘Triptych’ for 22 minutes of epic widescreen heroic bloodshed that takes in Goblin, Skinny Puppy, Godflesh and Ligeti without ever deviating once from the feeling that Celtic Frost are looming over your town, writ across the sky, hovering over your house dropping lightning bolts, skittering around your ceiling, watching you sleep and licking their lips. Can’t see metal getting any better than this in 2006. Don’t miss.
(Neil Kulkarni, Plan B Magazine 2006)
Given To The Rising
So this is where The Riff has ended up. It swam out the delta coloured blue, hitched rides out west and back east and up north, picking up lysergic detail, machine-like speed and general thuggery, seeped across oceans and continents, slowed by the currents, tripping down to hell, clambering back to the earth’s surface. Now it wants to ascend stratospherically through sheer primeval will and the opening title track on Neurosis’ fifth album strong-arms it straight to heaven. 9 minutes in and you’re in no doubt that this is a band not just at the peak of their powers, but playing beyond themselves with a seven-league stride in their step.
Cos ‘Given To The Rising’ isn’t just another great Neurosis album, and certainly isn’t liberating or suggestive in any sense: rather what we have here is 2007’s greatest brick wall, most fabulous dead-end, most gloriously impassable peak. It’s this year’s ‘Monotheist’ – rock as full-stop, as last-word before the fall. ‘Fear And Sickness’ which follows that stunning opener, winds up on a rotating nebula of dark-matter and crushed circuitry that seems to spin away into a silence you don’t want to end. That it does end, that you’re only two-tracks into a 10-track masterpiece is both scarifying and dizzying – those opening two-tracks form thee greatest suckerpunch intro you’ve heard in ’07. What comes after includes the following – words that creep out curiously and unleash themselves into bilious oceans (“To The Wind”), drone tapped straight from the earth’s core (“At The End Of The Road”), cosmic static carrying a dim sonic memory of the universe’s birth-pangs (“Shadow”), out-rock dragged back into the synapse and skull (“Hidden Faces”), rock’n’roll smeared with the stink of it’s own demise (“Water Is Not Enough”), the slow emergence of light and vision after the end of everything (“Origin”).
Throughout, Albini does his job and simply lets the band roam and makes sure you can hear everything – the metabolic/metaphysic rhythms, the coalescing grid of noise, the space between the players in that wintry Chicago studio. Cock an ear to this and hear the seas boiling over, the sun swallowing all, the final acceleration and annihilation. Neurosis’ will be done. You will be.
(Neil Kulkarni - Terrorizer Magazine 2007)