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Hah! Checkmate observer-expectancy effect! Though I will say it's unfortunate that so many others have fallen victim.
I'm not going to praise Cold Lake as if it were the apogee of Frost's discography; because truthfully it's not. It's a step down from their more universally accepted efforts for quite obvious reasons. You won't find any Jewel Thrones or Circle of the Tyrants, but rather a uniquely interesting blend of the signature Celtic Frost essence with a hefty peppering of late 80's sleaze cheese (good sleaze cheese at that). I'm willing to bet that the single digit scores this album receives are given by people who can't stand the thought of a band as sui generis as Celtic Frost sticking their toe in the pools of commerciality; even if just to test the waters.
I suppose I can't totally blame the masses for being too quick to turn their heads, as the album in question starts off, well, questionably. Even taking the stylistic change of direction into consideration, the minute long intro will probably cause you to momentarily inquire, "Gee, did I leave my Living Colour CD in the disc drive?" Further exasperating the damage is a number by the name of Seduce Me Tonight. Not an abhorrent track (bar the chorus) but the riffs leave little to be desired. Petty Obsession does little to amend the wound, but then side A concludes with three of the (dare I say?) greatest tracks Cold Lake has to offer. There's not a whole lot to talk about regarding side B, but I assure you there's nothing offensive to be heard.
The team who engineered and mixed the record didn't do a shabby job either. Curt Bryant's bass has a fair amount of bounce to it, Priestly's drums are punchy, and all of the instruments are prominent without overpowering each other. Performance-wise the band is solid, though Tom's voice isn't exactly compatible with the type of music they set out to play. Like the album itself, there's nothing too offensive about his performance.
Someone has to say it, and Ill be much obliged to step up and do just that. It's not impressive by any means. But on the flip side; there's nothing astronomically wrong with this album. Yes, I (along with just about everyone else) would have preferred another To Mega Therion; but I'll take what I get and I won't throw a fit. Cold Lake, like the band who birthed it, is a species entirely of it's own. Give the album a listen, best case scenario, you'll find that it's a unique little gem; worst case scenario, you can laugh hysterically at it. Either way I'll be more than happy to defend the album and appreciate it for what it is.
Final verdict: There's nothing too offensive to be heard, and (Once) They Were Eagles is a badass tune.
The second best songs of Sabaton are those which have never been released. The best songs of Sabaton are those which have never been written. The songs of Celtic Frost's "Cold Lake" are even better than the best songs of the aforementioned velvet battalion of commercially oriented "metal". Congratulations from my side. Nevertheless, they are anything else but good.
The biggest disadvantage of the album is not the music itself, although the majority of the compositions is truly mediocre or even bad. Shit happens. What really annoys me is the fact that Celtic Frost sacrificed their reputation without any cause whatever. Did they really think they will start a rock star career when opening their zippers and releasing simple, mid-paced, fairly powerless songs? If this was the case, I am dismayed. How can people be so naive?
One of the worst and most stupid intros in the history of mankind opens the album. Funny guys at work! Even "Cold Lake" does not deserve such an intro, because some songs have a relatively dark aura, not least because of the slightly dull sound. Too bad that the first regular track does not belong to these tracks. The band made no secret of its desire to enter the charts. All former ideals had been jettisoned. What a shame. Honestly, to listen to Thomas Gabriel (formerly known under a different name, if I am not mistaken) how he is begging "Seduce Me Tonight" - this is no nice experience. Fortunately, a few songs of "Cold Lake" have a higher potential. "Juices Like Wine" suffers from a faceless chorus, but its main riff shines with a certain currishness and, among other things, the well accentuated double bass is responsible for some more or less dramatic tempo intensifications. The less aggressive "Cherry Orchards" contains an effective, desperate chorus. Its atmosphere fits the sub title of the track ("Roses for an Unborn Face") in a very good manner. "Downtown Hanoi" has comparable vibes due to its dark aura. But it would be a lie to say that one can find elements of the "true Celtic Frost" in these songs.
Anyway, songs like "Little Velvet" or "Blood on Kisses" are absolutely meaningless, ill-defined and lame. Needless to say that the slimy "Petty Obsession" also falls by the wayside. All these pieces are prone to sleepy riffs and anaemic lines, but they are crowned by the ridiculous style of Mr. Gabriel, who tries to offer new facets. Okay, this is a very polite description. Frankly speaking, he adds insult to injury. Whenever he intends to sound seductive, his unnatural behaviour makes me sick, but the riffs, the chorus and any other details are terrible as well. Not to mention the icky band photos. For example, the picture of Curt Victor Bryant on the inner sleeve revealed that he was not able to cross the street without foreign aid. Due to his embarrassing hair styling, he was actually blind. Anyway, all band members looked like clowns of the cheapest circus in town. "Dance Sleazy"? Take your last breath would also be a good idea.
Now what has this got to do with a piss band like Sabaton? Admittedly, not much. But guys who release moronic albums like "Cold Lake" deserve to be associated with the most senseless formations of the universe. Our egocentric friend Joey DeMaio also wants to be mentioned in this context? So be it.
In a genre where profanity and lyrics about violence is rather common, there are still some unmentionable things which offend the metal legions. Celtic Frost's Cold Lake is one of these unmentionables. It is regarded as one of metal's worst abominations, sharing a place in a pantheon of rubbish alongside such luminaries as Lulu, Load, Risk, Illud Divinum Insanus and The Unspoken King.
But what happens if we strip away Celtic Frost's earlier and later endeavours and legacy and view Cold Lake on its own? Firstly, contrary to popular belief, the music is not glam metal. This album doesn't have much to do with the likes of Ratt, Poison or even the heavier moments of Twisted Sister or Mötley Crüe. Instead, the music is mid-paced dirty thrash tinged heavy metal with punky vocals. The production is still quite crusty and there is certainly no polished glam metal sheen here. But to be fair, some of the lyrics are on the glam metal side of things. In some ways the albums sounds too old for 1988 since the riff structure and overall sound harkens more to early 1980s NWOBHM.
But then the question arises: is it good? And the answer is: for the most part it's not too bad. In fact, bits of it are quite good for 1980s heavy metal.
For example, "(Once) They Were Eagles" has a nice driving riff, a catchy chorus and a great little solo. Also "Cherry Orchards", which has a massive riff, some nice fat bass and some appropriately slutty female vocals. Even "Dance Sleazy" is a bit of fun with lots of archetypal chug riffs. There are many other cool moments too if you like the 1980's riffs. Some elements could have been better; the intro for example is downright irritating. And Tom Warrior's slightly raspy clean vocals aren't the greatest, but then again, they never have been. At times they grate, but they have done so on other releases before. The lyrics are dismal for the most part.
Some songs are quite poor; "Blood On Kisses" sounds like a meager version of some of Anvil's mediocre modern moments, but is generally inoffensive enough to allow continued listening. But even though the album does run out of steam closer to the end, Cold Lake is far more consistent than the schizophrenic, and in my opinion seriously flawed, Into The Pandemonium. The at times strained clean vocals and lame lyrics aren't that far removed from what Celtic Frost had done in the past either.
Don't listen to the album if you want proto-black or avantgarde metal. Certainly don't listen to if you have expectations of what Celtic Frost is meant to sound like. Listen to it if you want a sleazy, gritty and thrashy heavy metal album with some cool riffs.
Well, well, well...Celtic Frost's worst album, the rocker "Cold Lake". This album is Celtic Frost's worst experiment, but is it as bad as everyone says it is? Well...This album should not have been released by the mighty Celtic Frost. It should have been made as a side project, because this album really does not deserve to brand the Celtic Frost name. The band is not even thrilled with this album, which is why it is no longer in print or available to fans for purchase, unless you're willing to shell out one hundred dollars on eBay. Oh, the 1980's were both a fantastic time for metal, as well as a terrible time for metal. While CF's albums prior to this one showcase the excellence of the 80's metal scene, this one showcases the tragic aspect of it. Thrash and early death/black metal plagued the band's previous albums, making them all classics. This album, however, took a turn down the glam metal/hard rock sound and definitely steered the band in the wrong direction. Now, is this album all bad? No, actually.
This album, as mentioned previously, should not have branded the Celtic Frost name. Because it does, however, it had standards to live up to. "Morbid Tales", "To Mega Therion", and the experimental yet very interesting "Into the Pandemonium" are classic albums, all necessary listens for anyone who is trying to, or already does, listen to extreme metal. They all influenced the then-burgeoning first-wave black and early death metal scenes, but are also considered classics in the underground thrash metal scene. This album came out only one year after "Into the Pandemonium", so I imagine Celtic Frost fans were very excited about new CF music...until they popped the disk into their walkmans. They were treated to some type of radio-friendly metal that sounded like a more musically capable version of Twisted Sister or White Lion, but with more bite and slightly more aggression. I can just imagine the look on some of their faces...too bad I wasn't born until 1994, otherwise, I would have been right there with them. It takes a few listens to even appreciate this album as a decent hard rock album, because if this was released by some other less extreme band, it would probably have been highly regarded as one of the few albums in the glam genre that doesn't totally suck.
The guitar work on this album is actually pretty fun at times. There are plenty of good solos to go around, and this is one thing Celtic Frost has pretty much been good at their entire career. It doesn't really matter which album you listen to, with Celtic Frost, you're going to get amazing guitar work at best, and listenable guitar work at worst. This is their worst, so it's listenable most of the times, and also good at times. Take the guitar solos in "Seduce Me Tonight" (which is otherwise a very stupid song), "Petty Obsession", "Cherry Orchards", "Little Velvet", and "Dance Sleazy" (also a very stupid song otherwise). Those solos kick a ton of ass, and are easily the best moments on the entire album. The guitar work in "(Once) They Were Eagles" should be noted, too, as it is very groovy, especially in the intro. It is probably the most thrashy song on the album. This song does have a pretty cool solo in it as well. The guitar work is the best part of the album, and is usually not what Celtic Frost fans generally complain about when talking (or ranting, rather) about this album. "Downtown Hanoi" features some more good riffage, although it sounds like it could be on the radio, easily, which is one of my problems with this album. While the guitar work is actually cool most of the time, the sound overall is very commercial. What happened to the rawness of "Morbid Tales" and the experimental complexity of "Into the Pandemonium"?! Well...they wanted to be cool. So, they decided to be cool? Oh well, the guitar work is definitely somewhat of a highlight of the album, if not the only real highlight.
The drums are just generic. In fact, it seems like Stephen Priestly, who only played on two full-lengths with Celtic Frost, one being this one and the other being "Vanity/Nemesis" released in 1990, just played the same drumline throughout most of the album's duration. He is not playing the thrashy drums that Reed St. Mark played when he was in the band. Instead, he plays in a style that 1990's Metallica would use: simplistic drumming with no double bass or blast beats. Now, for what the style of music this album has, this style of drumming does its justice. Blast beats on a glam metal albums would sound like shit. They would be out of place and messy. So, if you came to this album for spectacular drumming, look away. If you wanted blast beats, double bass, d-beat, or any other style of drumming that comes with thrash metal, you won't find it here. The drumming is so simple, I am actually capable of playing it. And I don't consider myself a drummer, at all. The bass is not even audible so it's not worth talking about.
Now....here we get to the worst part of the whole fucking album: the vocals. Or the "singing" or whatever the heck you want to call it. It's pretty bad, though. I don't know what Mr. Tom G. Warrior was thinking. Well...he obviously wasn't thinking clearly, because he let this album be released, but in all seriousness, this is his worst vocal job in the band's entire career. I'll be honest, I love Celtic Frost, always have and always will, but Warrior was never my favourite vocalist. Sure, he's good at what he does (except for this album) but there are definitely better vocalists out there. The vocals on this album sound very whiny at times, with the songs "Little Velvet" and "Dance Sleazy" in particular. However no matter how whiny the vocal performance on those songs are, "Downtown Hanoi" is his worst on the album. Just the way he says "Downtown Hanoi" irritates me. It's awkward and cheesy. If it weren't for the decent guitars on this album, the vocals would overshadow the guitars more than they do already and the album would be a lot worse. The lyrics are also downright stupid. See "Seduce Me Tonight" for example. I mean...really? The entire album's lyrical content is similar to that of Motley Crue's.
So basically, what we have here is something different from Celtic Frost, and while there is a silver lining in the form of guitar work, the albums is overall listenable at best, generic, average, nothing special at all...etc. If you want to get into Celtic Frost, check out their "Morbid Tales" album first.
Guitar work, particularly solos
The drums work for the style of music
Vocals aren't that good
While the drums work fine, they are generic
It takes too much influence from glam metal
Too much of a drastic change from their evil thrash sound of old
Not enough variation
As if anyone needs another person telling them that this album should be passed up on when browsing this timeless band's discography, I figured I'd give the notion even more reinforcement. If you're wondering why I myself have and have listened to this album (willingly), it's actually really simple. I had every other album, so I figured I'd complete the collection. And to be honest, that is the only reason you should get this album. As far as entertainment value goes, this is a big ol' doodee dud. It stinks and is quite painful to listen to.
But if it were any other band (ya know, like a glam band), it'd be fine. Comparing this to Motley Crue and Twisted Sister and what have yous that I've listened to, musically this is actually better. The Warrior has always been a master songwriter, able to put that dreary, sludgy vibe on any riff he writes, and his ability to play unique solos has always been a subject of awe for me and others. Here, however, it seems as though he watered himself down to reach a more commercial sound. Where his guitars once had that great odd tone coupled with such force, like a haymaker thrown at an odd angle, now they kind of throw lazy jabs. No real force behind them, just a little taptaperoo to let you know it’s there. But the tone is still vaguely there, that weird guitar tone that Tom still uses today on Triptykon (as I said, he gets that atmosphere on whatever and wherever he plays). Couple that with his drunken frog vocals he displays here as opposed to his tortured roar of the past and I must ask, 'how the fuck was this supposed to be commercial?'.
There's no doubt that’s what this was an attempt to do; to try and get a foot in that mainstream door after the moderate buzz the band got after Into the Pandemonium, but who the fuck thought this would work? All in all, the album still sounds a bit darker than what the radio listeners want to hear, and your singer sounds so off-putting. Seriously, I don't think there is a vocal performance more awkward to listen to then on this album. This style of 'singing' would be used again, albeit much improved on Vanity/Nemesis, but here it's a bit of a mess. A mess that I could still get into if it wasn't for the main reason I leave this album with a bad taste in my mouth.
So this actually sounds better than most glam albums, and I don't mind glam (LOVE YOU DAVID BOWIE! ;)). But what drags this album down to the bottom of the shit pile, is having to hear Tom Warrior, the man who challenged the metal (in particular extreme metal) world by writing thoughtful lyrics that are about subjects beyond sex, drugs, partying, women, and Satan, sing these lyrics. I laughed out loud when I first heard him awkwardly squeal "Seduce me.... TONIGHT!" It just isn't right. It doesn't fit the music, it doesn't fit his voice. From sexual serial killer Gilles de Rays and what’s beyond life and all a matter of great subjects to tackle, to this drivel, in a feeble attempt to appease the masses petty obsession (ha) with the superficial. Dancing? Women? Sex? Come on Tom!! It almost physically hurts to hear these things by a band I so adore.
Do you really need me to tell you about the bass tone and the drum fills and everything else? Why are you even still reading? Well, I will say as far as the stuff that keeps this thing's ugly head from going underwater goes, side 1 actually has a fair number of memorable moments. Ignoring the lyrics to Seduce Me Tonight, the chorus riff actually gets me bobbing my head a bit. They Were Eagles has some of that old school Frost thrash flavor to it that makes it probably my favourite on here. Cherry Orchards and Juices Like Wine are actually pretty decent overall, and though not as memorable musically as the aforementioned, they at least don't suffer too much from mind-numbing lyrics.
Side 2 is mostly worthless other than the pretty rocking riffs of Downtown Hanoi. These recommendations really are just me grasping at straws, though. If you're going to buy this to complete your Celtic Frost collection, it's actually a pretty neat collectible as they probably will never re-release it. But, like me, even when you own it, you're going to have to force yourself pretty hard to listen to it, but I'll give it some points for its cool factor as a collectible and for the few memorable classic Warrior riffs. For those who don't collect and only buy to listen, I listened to it so you don't have to!
For trying to get their foot in the door while planting firmly on our faces, Cold Lake gets a generous 30 out of 100 or a 1 out of 5.
(Once) They Were Eagles
It's rare, and I like that kind of thing.
The outfits in the band pictures are worth a few chuckles.
It's confusing how a band can be scaling towards the summit of its creative expression one year and then diving off a cliff the next, but in the case of the much maligned Cold Lake, that is exactly what transpired. I purchased the album when it was released in stores, with zero foreknowledge of its stylistic deviation from Into the Pandemonium, no advance screen of the "Cherry Orchards" video. About the only hint I had that the mighty had possibly fallen would have been the purple cover art, removal of the classic Celtic Frost logo and replacement with some iconic, chrome and cherry tinted logo against a nebulous purple haze. But frankly, this was nothing really unusual for the time. Saxon's Destiny, Van Halen's earlier output and a host of other metal and hard rock recordings used such stripped down, emblematic images to represent themselves, so it wasn't a deal breaker.
However, I could never have expected what came next: the enormously disappointing paradigm shift in the band's songwriting, a complete antithesis to the exotic wizardry that defined Into the Pandemonium or the leaden crushing of To Mega Therion. Celtic Frost had more or less 'gone glam', its creator surrounded by a host of new (and old) musicians and perhaps too accommodating to their desires and ideas. Tom G. Warrior has since condemned this record, citing that its faults were a result of the new four piece band dynamic and his desire to let loose and have a little fun, letting guitarist Oliver Amberg (who played briefly in Hellhammer) write a chunk of the material. That after a disappointing US tour and a perhaps too hasty decision to end the band, he was only too thrilled to experience its swift resurrection and share its fate with eager band mates. But I do have to wonder, as the heart and soul of this band, if part of the change in style was due to some inner fascination the man had with glam metal or commercial hard rock...I mean, whatever the excuse, he still signed his name to it, played on the record and appeared in the video.
There were a lot of fans who crossed over between the popular MTV garbage and the heavier speed/thrash, one dominating the mainstream, the other the underground. Both had their presence in high schools, colleges, clubs and radio playlists everywhere. But it's hard to qualify Cold Lake as a pure transformation into 'glam metal', because it didn't sound a hell of a lot like what you were hearing out of the shitty party rock bands like Poison or Warrant. This is more like 'pseudo glam'. There is still an ugly, chugging monstrosity lurking somewhere under the eaves of this record, only it'd been obfuscated beneath the facade of a bunch of hair sprayed Euro-rockers who seemed more into racing Aston Martins through Alpine speedways with a martini in one hand and the lingerie of some hair sprayed groupie slut in the other, than continuing to excel and expand the boundaries of their genre like the album's predecessor. I must admit, my very first thoughts upon listening through this album were that the band was being ironic, 'trolling' the audience with some avant-garde mockery of a scene they all loathed, thinking so far outside of the box that they placed themselves back INSIDE the box.
As history reveals, though, this was clearly not what was happening. Now, before I proceed any further, let's talk about 'image'. The fact that the band were dowsing themselves in ozone depletion or dressed in tight fitting, frilly or fancy clothes was not necessarily a huge concern of mine. I get the whole 'glam' thing, as much as I rebelled against it through high school and still sneer at it to this day, it's always been a park of the rock world. Boys like to play dress up just as girls do, and while some took and still take it to broad extremes (Japan's 'visual kei'), but for many in the Sunset Strip or traditional European metal scenes, it was just how things were done, an acceptable practice in the 80s by the raving legions of drooling fangirls and by extension, all the dudes who wanted to get in their pants. For me to write off Celtic Frost's momentary lapse into vanity as a critical fumble would be hypocritical while simultaneously ignoring the dolly wardrobes of Fifth Angel, or W.A.S.P., whose dress codes were absolutely ridiculous (i.e. retarded) and almost never seem to draw ire for it; or the many other bands who felt such a superficial allure when their music and lyrics were drawn from a deeper well.
So if Celtic Frost wanted to look like a mirror image of Hanoi Rocks, so what? The real issue for me is how this image and attitude also permeated the musical content. While Into the Pandemonium was no stranger to intricate seductions through the sensual female vocals or lyrical prose, the shallower chorus sequences to "Dance Sleazy", "Juices Like Wine" or "Tease Me" are unquestionably lame. You're still getting a lot of mystical, oblique imagery here in lines like 'obsessed with lies, in arms of sleep' or 'masking fears of silent decline', redolent of what you might read on the prior record, but the context in which they appear feels cheesy and dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. What's worse, Tom's voice sounds like a transvestite frog with a severe hernia. We'd heard his Gothic whining in the past, and it suited the music pretty well for several of the cuts off Pandemonium, but here it becomes almost unbearable when he hocks a loogie of 'check this out' during the first riff of "Seduce Me Tonight", or erupts into the plaintive whimpering of the chorus to "Juices Like Wine" or "Little Velvet", the latter of which is the second most painful point to experience on the whole album.
The first, of course, is the horrendous hip hop intro "Human". I was more than willing to excuse the amateurish proto-industrial beats of "One in Their Pride" from Into the Pandemonium, because it was an interesting choice in subject matter and experimentation. Here, though, such 'open mindedness' doesn't seem even remotely like a good idea, nor does it match the tone of the remaining record, and so Cold Lake is automatically off to a terrible start. Another questionable decision was to leave in the snippets of mic chatter after the band did their takes at the ends of many of the tracks. I realize they were trying to seem all lighthearted, organic and raw, but they make the songs even more difficult to approach with any semblance of seriousness. I must also point out that there are a few riffs here which seem to have been lazily or unconsciously retread through the album: the opening guitar in "Blood on Kisses" sounds quite a lot like "Seduce Me Tonight", and the groove in "Little Velvet" sounds similar to the verse riffing in "Cherry Orchards".
Yet, despite its many flaws and disappointments, the sense of utter revulsion and betrayal that the album evokes in me as in many others, I cannot entirely write it off, and never have. The reason being that, for what its worth (and that's not a lot), I generally find myself nodding along to various of the riffs, digging some of the guitar progressions. In fact, had the goal of Warrior and his new crew been solely to write a raw, back to basics Celtic Frost record, I don't think it would have received such negative blowback. Tracks like "Cherry Orchids", with its straight and airy guitars, pumping bass, male/female vocal interchange, or "Petty Obsession", bristling with memorable mutes and chords in an admittedly charismatic flow, would have been more than acceptable if not for Warrior's sobbing timbre. "Downtown Hanoi" and "Roses Without Thorns" have some muscular, semi-memorable riffs as well, the latter with a cute and bluesy curve to it around 1:10. "(Once) They Were Eagles" and "Juices Like Wine" have some solid, inherent melodies in their chords which wouldn't have been out of place for a band like Queensryche or King Diamond.
That's a pretty good chunk of the album, that, handled differently, might have salvaged some dignity. Granted, even if this were recorded with a more modern Monotheist production, Tom growling throughout and far heavier drumming, it still wouldn't be as interesting as the two previous albums, but I certainly feel there's enough to the song structures that they're not a total waste, and thus I've never held this album so low as a lot of those staggering disappointments of the 90s that were foisted upon us by more popular acts. I hold Cold Lake in higher regard than, say, Load or Diabolus in Musica, The Least Successful Human Cannonball or Stomp 442, but that's not saying a lot, since these are essentially feces given musical form, so bad they stink across the decades. But then, it's not like Cold Lake is a whiff of fresh breath, either, and many of the criticisms leveled at it are all too glaring with veracity.
From a studio standpoint, one might argue that Tony Platt's production job did the material little enough service. Quite an experienced engineer, his experience lay in a lot of NWOBHM or hard rock albums from AC/DC, Samson, Trust, Krokus, Motörhead and so forth, so it's not an inappropriate terrible match, but the vocals and leads feel a bit on the loud side, and though I don't have a personal problem with the airiness created through the reverb (a common trait in the 80s), it doesn't make for the most potent rhythm guitar tone which might have contributed to overall heaviness. Jan Nemec's work on Into the Pandemonium was far more impressive and refined. Stephen Priestly had previously appeared on the Morbid Tales EP, but his drumming here is little more than standard hard rock fare circa Bobby Blotzer, Tommy Lee, etc. The leads are relatively interesting, messy and wailing, yet well defined enough to shift favorably alongside the supporting rhythms. There's not a lot wrong with Michelle Villanueva's sultry guest vocals, but in the Cold Lake context ("Cherry Orchards", "Little Velvet") they come off almost as corny as Warrior himself.
In summation, this is not an album I feel so strongly against that I'll curse it to the end of my existence. Of the many thousands of metal recordings I've experienced through my years, there are a good number I find more irritating and outright offensive. But at best, the songwriting is weak and misguided, a textbook case of what NOT to do when your band is an established cult favorite, regardless of how much you're seeking acceptance after a perceived slump in momentum. What were they thinking? That their underground audience was going to somehow forget who they were, or what they represented for extreme metal? That somehow the larger glam audience was going to accept their dirty, heavier riffing and herniated toad eroticism in lieu of "Talk Dirty to Me", "Smokin' in the Boys Room" or "Living on a Prayer"? It boggles the mind, but more regrettably, it's a tragedy that some decent riffs were thrown to the wolves, sentenced to drown, down with the rest of the ship. I wish I had more to say in its favor, as I don't hate it down to the guts like so many others, but there's just no happy ending for Cold Lake, and there never will be.
Celtic Frost never betrayed me. For one, I was born two years late to even be alive at the very instant this was released. However, while the band’s fanbase was indeed pissed off (for the most part), it would be another seventeen or so years before I even checked out Celtic Frost for myself. I didn’t really care much for them, considering that I latched onto my second wave black metal tighter than a baby and some candy. A little while later, sure, I checked them out again, but it was Vanity / Nemesis that won me over with its nasty riffs and bitter attitude. The vocals were one thing, and I never considered Tom G. that good of a vocalist – he’s like Mustaine (his vocals only work for his own band). However, I will admit that I knew about Cold Lake and its notoriety and was curiously lured into it more than the famous material that legitimizes the band…
… and Cold Lake is indeed catchy. “Cherry Orchards” was my introduction, and for everything negative that I will say about this in a few moments, I will say that it is pretty addicting. The rest of the album doesn’t nearly hold up to the same infectious-levels of this one song because they’re all disjointed. However, this one “hit” - the incredibly simplistic riff, the hollow drumming, the lifeless persona, and the laidback vibe - all make for one easy song to be interrupted by. Once again, the whole album doesn’t exactly have this taste to it, but this one song always brings me back to laugh at and cherish in my own special way.
To be the Devil’s advocate, it’s not really an entirely bad album at the core. It’s a far shot away from 1st wave black / thrash and all that, but Vanity / Nemesis is just a 10X better version of this without all the negatives. The image is one thing that definitely lures you into the wrong direction, but the bass guitar is furious and grumbles well among the mid-paced tempo of the album as a whole. It catches your attention when the guitars move between tame-thrash and typical glam rock riffs (“Juices Like Wine” and “Downtown Hanoi” (a little, but not to say that they’re good)) – straightforward, but effective in providing a memorable groove. Rarely is solo halfway decent, like with “(Once) They Were Eagles” where the solo bends and twists passionately before spiraling like fireworks. Production isn’t too bad overall, with the bass once more the liveliest of the bunch.
Now excuse me while I go do some stretches…
All right, Cold Lake is a sorry excuse of an album that failed heavy metal fans, failed attracting new fans, failed music as a whole, failed attempting to be half-decent glam rock (even by piss-poor ‘90s standards, which are gutter-level), failed in it’s image, and ultimately failed to have any purpose to exist any longer than one measly release day. It’s such bogus, regurgitated garbage with no character except that of its infamy. It’s laughable, primitive, and incredibly embarrassing to have this thing clinging to your legacy, and it’s tough shit that Tom had to give up on the creative control to ease the burden with the band and the record label.
Mind you that I’m not even that big of a Celtic Frost fan, nor was I there to be betrayed by them, but I’ve heard Zarach ‘Baal’ Tharagh demos I’d consider just a hair above this (I’d still take this over those, though). Going back to “Cherry Orchards,” we see everything that’s wrong even for glam rock. For one, the music video is atrocious and incredibly fake – poodle-hairdos flailing from guys who look like blue-collar moms in clothes that’d make Vanilla Ice turn tail and run. Tom, while never really that great of a vocalist, really sounds like a retard. I’m not sorry that I have to use that word to accurately describe these vocals – he’s literally eating and whining his way through the song – and he’s putting effort into doing them properly like he needs to get the style down correctly. This, plus the addition of those dull, meandering, inert female vocals will make any man go limp in a second; plan backfired there, Amberg.
The riffs run together pretty quickly and no urge arises where you feel like listening to these songs again. It’s catchy, I guess, but nowhere near the level of Mötley Crüe or most any other heavy metal / glam rock band. Warrant’s “Cherry Pie,” as much of a bullshit waste of imagination that song happens to be, stands tall and mighty over this album. These Cold Lake riffs don’t have any real hook to keep you interested, and the rest of the band members don’t do much to spice up the songs. Bass is one thing, but to have a piss-poor back-up plan like bashing cacophonous drums and a zombie on vocals doesn’t sound like a back-up plan I’d be comfortable with. The rest of the solos on the album are squeaky and too sharp compared to the dry (structure and) music, but none of them compare to “(Once) They Were Eagles” – the only thing all these other solos spiral like is shit spiraling down the toilet. Those drums are the real coffin-nailer, though; the hollow snares are so unbearable and similar beats constantly dominate the patterns.
The guitar tone itself gets old quickly – this dehydrated tone with no power or resonance that represents the shallow songs they serve. “Little Velvet” builds up overwhelmingly at the start, but by the time Tom’s vocals grovel their way into the mix the whole thing is finished. The pop structure and exact same formula for each song (except the intro, which is abysmal anyway) has no method of persuasion and bores me to death, which is odd since most pop songs following this formula end up being catchy enough to keep me interested for another ten seconds.
Just stay away from this – no real good can come out of it. You might enjoy one thing from it (maybe), but it’s not worth the time and energy when you can be listening to any of the band’s other albums or pretty much damn near anything else. Shit, just check out early Mötley Crüe and W.A.S.P. for some real killer heavy metal that wipes the floor with Cold Lake.
Celtic Frost is a great band, and Tom Warrior is one of the most creative guys out there as far as songwriting goes. However, you certainly wouldn't know that by listening to this piece of garbage. Not that you would be exposed to them through Cold Lake, as it has deliberately been skipped over when Celtic Frost's albums were all remastered, thus making it hard to find. Also, with all the rave reviews of Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, compared to all the damnation this album has received (especially by Celtic Frost themselves - it was once even listed as an "Abomination" on their website instead of as an "Album"), it is highly unlikely that anybody would buy or download this lump of shit instead of one of their other albums. It is far more likely that somebody downloaded this album out of curiosity, wanting to see if this album is really as bad as it's made out to be. Now, this isn't the worst album ever made. This isn't even the worst "metal" album ever made. It is better than St. Anger (though definitely not by very much). However, it's still pretty godawful and is certainly ranks very low as far as metal albums go.
For those who have heard Celtic Frost before (and who hasn't?), try to imagine Celtic Frost playing an album of covers of hair metal songs after having had their balls crushed by sledgehammers on anvils (see what I did there?). If you can comprehend that, you should have a pretty good idea of what this album sounds like. The guitar tone completely lacks power, and for every potentially decent riff played there are about 15 totally forgettable ones (there are maybe 30 riffs on the entire album of 12 songs). The bass is somewhat audible, but it might as well not be because it adds nothing to the music. The drums are very unremarkable, except for the snare drum, which sounds like St. Anger's quieter cousin. Tom's vocals, however, actually have power... the power to make you want to puke just listening to them. Instead of the signature grunt he uses for Hellhammer and the other Celtic Frost albums, he uses an unbelievably obnoxious, nasal, half-shouted whine that is about as far from metal as you can imagine. It's pretty funny to listen to for a little while, but it ultimately leaves you with a feeling that you lost brain cells from listening to them.
After the intro passes (which happens to be called Human, just like the intro on Morbid Tales, even though the two intros couldn't sound any more different), you are greeted with the two best songs on the album: Seduce Me Tonight and Petty Obsession. Each song has a riff that isn't 100% forgettable (instead being 99% forgettable). They also have solos that, in all honesty, aren't any worse than the completely unnecessary catscratch solos that are on a couple of early Celtic Frost songs. That said, these songs are still pretty bad, and if they're the best songs on the album, that must mean that this album is going to get really awful, right?
Well, the next song is Cherry Orchards, which may very well be one of the most annoying hair metal songs ever written (including songs by Poison and the like). The shit-tastic riffs almost seem good compared to Tom Warrior's "I'm trying to impersonate a child with down syndrome" vocals, which are at the absolute worst on this song. But wait - that's not it! Once he shuts up, you're greeted to a pathetic attempt at being "lustful" with a female spoken word passage. Then, you listen to Tom sing again, then the same female bit is played, then you get a really shitty solo, then the song's over. The rest of the album isn't quite this bad (though Downtown Hanoi gets pretty close), but it is entirely forgettable and is a complete waste of time to listen to. One thing to note is that, in the middle of the bonus track Tease Me, the riff for Procreation of the Wicked is played for a few seconds. I found this to be in very poor taste - what are they doing trying to shit up that riff by putting it in an album like this?
All in all, this is a really bad album, even for hair metal. If you wanted to listen to it just for shits and giggles, all you need to do is listen to Cherry Orchards. Every other song on the album sounds the same (though not QUITE as annoying, and without female vocals), and listening to just that one song should deter most from wanting to listen to the rest of the album. Plus, you would only be wasting 4 minutes and not 45 minutes by listening to it (seriously, how the fuck can they make 45 minutes of shit this bad and repetitive?)
8%, because it's better than St. Anger (which would be a 6-7%) and bands too bad to mention, metal or non-metal. That doesn't mean you should listen to this album if you have ANYTHING better to do.
Celtic Frost and Glam Rock are both things I know next to nothing about. My knowledge of Celtic Frost begins and ends with the one Hellhammer EP that I own, and my knowledge of Glam Rock is based entirely on the annoying-but-still-catchy strains that I hear on the radio all the time. 'Cherry Pie', 'Girls, Girls, Girls' and a few random Poison ballads.
So while my opinion on these two completely different takes on music are uninformed (to say the least), I don't need to know much to realize that they're effectively incompatible. Hellhammer was trashy, dirty and rebellious, whereas Glam Rock is all about being attracting the ladies and rocking out to some MTV-approved tunes. "Perhaps," I thought, "Perhaps Celtic Frost subtly changed their style over time, so it might fit well?"
And that is were this album fails.
Because as far as I can tell, this is effectively Hellhammer (played by much more skilled musicians) being squeezed, forced, hammered into a Glam Rock mould. And so it's not surprising to see that it fails on both fronts. The riffs are really, really quiet, and it would be an epic understatement to say that they're 'watered down'. They've been watered down until there's almost none of the originial content left- but yet, there's enough of the old sound to give the more glammy tunes a real sour taste in your mouth.
And this, really, is where Celtic Frost let us down. Now if they had sold out and released a decent mainstream rock album (think: Metallica's s/t), then I would've been a lot more lenient. Perhaps a 50%. Instead, though, we have one of the worst glam rock albums- one of the worst albums of any genre- ever. Let's start with the vocals. It seems pretty clear to me that for a glam album to succeed, you need a good vocalist. One with "attitude". Now, I'm sure Tom G has that, but there is one thing he's lacking: vocal skills. Everything is just yelled kind of awkwardly, with no consideration whatsoever to catchy melodies (or staying in key for that matter). It's one of those rare performances that is both incredibly irritating and yet instantly forgettable.
And don't get me started on the rest of this abortion. Pointless, incredibly boring thrash/glam guitar riffs that make you want to stick steak knifes in your ears, one of the most obnoxious snare drum sounds EVER, and annoying incredibly wanky solos. Oh, and the incredibly bad attempt at sounding sexy with the spoken female word bit in 'Cherry Orchards'. Damn, this sucks balls. This was so bad that upon hearing the first song, I thought it was a joke, a parody. But it doesn't seem to be the case, which is unfortunate. Failure on an epic level, AVOID at all costs.