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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.