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Review: Celtic Frost - Monotheist
Celtic Frost

Label: Century Media Records
Year released: 2006
Duration: 73:15
Tracks: 12
Genre: Gothic Death/Doom

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: June 11, 2006
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating

Rated 3.42/5 (68.31%) (65 Votes)

Hard to believe that 22 years after their much-worshipped debut EP Morbid Tales Celtic Frost are just now releasing their fifth full-length album. Sometimes it seems like all the really influential bands only release a handful of albums. Anyway, reviewing this is hard, because you have to balance what Celtic Frost have become with what they were, you have to balance the fanboying for this album with the fanboying against it, both by legions of fans who have no doubt not even listened to this album, and you have to balance how cool this disc actually is with what a colossal twat Tom Fischer has turned into lately. So a disclaimer: I am making no apologies for Celtic Frost's musical direction or choices, and I'm not commenting on their past quality or relevance, I'm just reviewing a frigging album here.

If you want another Hellhammer album, then go look somewhere else, this is not it. I mean really, do we expect a band that's been around this long to sound like they did 20 years ago? Every band changes and evolves, and CF have done more than their share. Monotheist is classic Frost reinvented as a Gothic Doom band, which I think happens to be pretty cool. Good stuff first: the album is punishingly, ruthlessly heavy, and the lyrics are dark and serious, totally ditching the lyrical vomit of Cold Lake and Vanity/Nemesis. Tom and the bunch were trying to do something ambitious with this slab, and they mostly pulled it off. "Progeny" is a decent opener – heavy and pugilistic, but rather repetitive, the best part is Tom doing the "Ugh!" which is an obvious bone tossed to the old fans. "Ground" is pretty good, and it brings up one of the albums sonic touchstones: the repetition of simple choruses while the riffs slam in the background. The repetition is obviously intended to render the words hypnotic and chant-like, but the effect is iffy – just because I can tell a choice was made in order to achieve a certain effect doesn't mean it actually worked. The first really good song is "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh", which is moodier and more melodic than the first two songs, and segues effectively between heavy attack and moody, gothy passages. Tom's clean vocals are not so great, but he more intones than really sings, so it sounds ok. "Drown In Ashes", and "Obscured" are the two ambient gothic songs on here, and "Ashes" is the better one by far, "Obscured" goes on too long. The real crushers are to be found after this point: the awesome "Os Abysmi Vel Daath", which is like "Ground" only way better, "Domain Of Decay" has the best riffs on the album and sounds almost like a lost track off To Mega Therion. "Ain Elohim" is similarly killer. "Temple Of Depression" is the bonus track on the digipack edition, and it's pretty disposable – not bad, but not great either.

There's a lot of fuss about the 'triptych' that closes out the album, but to be honest the opening "Totengott" is four and a half minutes of sound effects and screaming and other crap – it sucks. The closer "Winter" is better, but hardly arresting. Fortunately the meat of the thing is the almost fifteen minute "Synagoga Satanae", which will slaughter your ass like a goat. It probably didn't need to be that long, but it never bores me.

So I have to come right out and say that I like this album a lot. I can't say it was what I was expecting, but then I was expecting a bunch of shit like Cold Lake. Instead CF have managed the seemingly impossible: they recorded an album that honors their old albums without just being a shallow rehash. They took some chances on this disc, and a lot of old-school fans will hate this because it isn't Morbid Tales II, just as some people will hate it for not being Vanity/Nemesis II. Sorry fuckers, Monotheist is its own thing, the good is that thing is a giant brooding monster of a metal album. It took a few spins for this disc to grow on me, but it was well worth it. All I can say is that people who spin this once – expecting to hate it – and then toss it out with a sneer are missing out. This is not the old Celtic Frost, but Monotheist can hold its head up with pride.

Other related information on the site
Review: Into the Pandemonium (reviewed by Brett Buckle)
Review: Monotheist (reviewed by Lars Christiansen)
Review: Morbid Tales (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: To Mega Therion (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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