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I wasn’t going to write this review, but a friend of mine challenged me saying that I couldn’t pen down something less positive being a most avid metal fan. Well, I have chosen to “sing” odes to my favourite bands and albums here (well, not exactly) leaving the negative reviews for my site, and I see nothing bad in that. There’s certainly a fair number of albums that I genuinely dislike, to put it mildly, but it took me awhile before I settled down on one.
The main reason why I chose the Frosts’ “pioneering” work was that a few weeks back I was sitting down, listening to the Hellhammer demos, pondering over the gigantic metamorphosis this band had experienced in the span of mere five years… the fastest road down to complete fiasco in the annals of metal. One could have seen them riding the top of the death metal, or the gothic/doom wave in the-90's, but nothing like this "sleazy hollow" that we, the fans, have been staring at for over 30 years now...
I juxtaposed other bands’ trajectories from the beginning to the flop: it took Metallica 13 years (“Kill’em All”/”Load”), Kreator 13 years (“Endless Pain”/”Endorama”), Destruction 10 years (“Sentence of Death”/”Destruction”), Anthrax 12 years (“Fistful of Metal”/“Stomp 442”), Megadeth 14 years (“Killing is My Business…”/”Risk”), Helloween 10 years (“Helloween”/”Chameleon”), Overkill 8 years (“Feel the Fire”/”I Hear Black”), Exodus 7 years (“Bonded by Blood”/”Force of habit”), Bulldozer 7 years (“The Day of Wrath"/the horrible ”Dance Got Sick!”)… Yes, Celtic Frost were pioneers indeed; they provided the shortcut to the total career disaster, before anyone else had ever thought about such "infinite possibilities". Thumbs up.
I was never the band’s biggest fan, but I admired their aggressive adventurous spirit reflected in the Hellhammer “atrocities” and the first steps they made under the new moniker (“Morbid Tales”), the first EP’s I listened to from this new/old camp some time in the late-80’s. Then the next thing I remember is my poor self exposed to the sounds from “Cold Lake”; this guy who gave it to me put the utmost effort to convince me that those were the same guys who were parading a few years back as Hellhammer, and were horrifying the world with their unbridled brutalities. This was the first time when I felt uneasy seeing how my favourite music could actually be subjected to such awkward transformations. “What the fuck happened?!”, I wondered, and logically decided to track down the previous efforts, between “Morbid Tales” and this… There had to be a seed planted earlier somewhere for this travesty to fully bloom... cause, man, was it blooming with all the colours of the rainbow!
I liked “To Mega Therion” quite a bit, I have to admit; and I still listen to it on regular bases. This is where the actual innovative arrangements and additives had been exhibited for the first time. After I heard the album reviewed here I was sure that it was the “trash can” of its predecessor where the band had thrown away the needless material. It’s a big mess out here, no organization, no order, exactly the way one would feel rummaging through a recycle bin. On the positive side, you’d be able to realise all your fantasies, anything you desire, from “Oriental masquerades” to “Mexican radios” (no Thai massage though), all within an arm’s stretch. A mish-mash of the highest disorder, I tell you… with a twist.
So our revered Swiss masters decide to open this most earth-shattering of albums with a cover; now that’s a novelty by all means, of course; but what’s more interesting is that they have chosen the hit of one of the most obscure entities known to the metal world in order to make the five metal heads who have heard the original cry their hearts out with nostalgic crocodile tears, with the fond childhood memories from the good old days when they were barely 3-4 years old… A poignant, really poignant moment from metal history, and I can’t help but take a short break and wipe those tears of mine although I’ve never ever listened to the original; so please, make your own conclusions about the timeless significance of this “Mexican Radio” with which I instantly replaced the "Chinese Radio" I bought from some London Boys around the same time.
Ground-breaking stuff so far, and we’ve only been through one song; I guess we leave the rest for another day cause this is really too much to take at one go. All right, fine; we soldier on: if the Wall of Voodoo cover has failed to mesmerize you with its voodoo dolls… sorry, spells, then “Mesmerized” should do the trick, a relaxed gothic cut with Tom G. Warrior wailing throughout like someone whose first-time girlfriend has just dumped him. It’s interesting to hear him trying something entirely different vocal-wise, but it’s intimidating at the same time to envisage how far down the “pandemonium” this album can reach. It’s also worth of note that the motifs heard on this “mesmerizing” number are a precursor to the gothic/doom elegies of Paradise Lost; and this is where I start to like this effort a bit which follows with “Inner Sanctum”, a pleasing heavy cut which even captures some of the refined aggression of “To Mega Therion” the Warrior’s vocal bravado brought back with full force. A sigh of relief for sure, but “Sorrows of the Moon” will bring more “sorrow”, including all the way to the first astronauts on the Moon, being another impotent exercise in atmosphere, providing another template for the future gothic/doom metal hordes not without the help of Warrior’s tear-jerking performance again; but this doesn’t sound as interesting anymore provided that there has already been a very similar track served earlier.
“Babylon Fell”, but not our Swiss friends who persevere with this not bad at all piece where even the good old thrash shows its head courageously to “scold” these new elements that have been “staining” its reputation here. One may wish the remaining cuts to be “Babylon…” copies, but unfortunately it’s not Christmas time yet for those wishes to come true, and Santa Claus doesn’t come from Switzerland, but from Sweden. Regardless, no hope is lost on “Caress into Oblivion” which aptly captures the galloping vigour of the preceding song Warrior mixing it in the vocal department, creating full-blown gothic drama in the process, to these ears for the better. Two in a row; now that’s a feat to be remembered, and I can’t wait to hear the next cut. “Third time’s a charm”, as they say, but this “charm” here comes drumming in a scary dancey manner, and I bet quite a few fans out there in the good old days had bet on whether this would be a disco, or a rap anthem: yes, the disillusionment would have reached such proportions towards the end. It’s none of the above, and the bank has to collect all the money; good luck next time as this piece remains a drum-driven extravaganza with voice samples scattered around, setting the scene for the ultimate dance floor sweeper, “I Won’t Dance”. "You won't dance" my ass; I'd like to see you sitting still on your chair with these playful rhythms bouncing all around you... It should come as no surprise that Sabrina and Sandra terminated their careers after the release of the album reviewed here (CC Catch survived the threat, though; what an amazing woman!); not surprisingly a female vocalist assists Warrior in creating the definitive “beauty vs. the beast” duet only that “the beast” in this case has already been tamed, and at times can even be mistaken for “the beauty”.
Few would be those to stay with the album after this hit, rushing to the nearest clubs to dance the night away; which would be a real shame since the closing “Rex Irae (Requiem)” is an assured doom/gothic metal masterpiece with an outstanding female soprano hovering over Warrior’s tortured wails/moans; one would have no chance, but to adjust his/her senses to an extent to the band’s new face, and if the adjustment has been successful then this “requiem” won’t be such a shock; there were bigger shocks aplenty provided earlier…
Yes, I found the source for the “cold lake”, but this didn’t make me happy back then; in fact, it made me quite depressed. I tried to imagine apocalyptic future in which many other thrash, black and death metal acts have followed in the steps of these Swiss pioneers… Scary picture by all means. I was especially horrified about Coroner, my favourite act, since they grew under Celtic Frost’s wing. To my utter delight, these nightmares never came to pass, at least not instantaneously; the scene wasn’t swept away by a transformational “avalanche” coming from the highest mounts of the Swiss Alps. The former Hellhammers’ ideas didn’t prove contagious, at least not tangibly. They may have influenced Paradise Lost again although this can be disputable as the annals point at other Swiss “lecturers”, Messiah, who provided a much more compelling, and more aggressive “textbook” on gothic drama with the excellent “Extreme Cold Weather” (1988).
So was this album a pioneering work, after all? Again, that’s debatable; a ground-breaking piece of art should also be judged according to what impact it had on the creators themselves, how it influenced their future endeavours provided that they carried on after it, and didn’t split up. Where did it take them next, is a good question to ask? For example, Beethoven’s 8th Symphony led him to the 9th Symphony, both equally as grandiose musical phenomena (now if this isn’t the most relevant example ever!). Where did this “pandemonium” take Celtic Frost? To the “cold lake” where they drowned, never to be recovered. How much credit can one give to a work of art that ultimately paves the way for the artists’ inevitable “suicide”… Not much, I guess. No wonder “Cold Lake” has the lowest score among the works of the top 100 metal bands on the archives here excluding Destruction’s mid-90’s period (but that’s already been denounced, so…).
It beats me why the band never developed these gothic/doom ideas more fully… The tendency was already started with “To Mega Therion”, and those hints that were made here could have become “Gothic Lake” on the next instalment, and the guys would have been the flagmen of one of the most massive movements of the 90’s. If this had happened then I was definitely going to give the album reviewed here a higher score. Instead, they gave Paradise Lost the opportunity to bathe in fortune and glory, condemning themselves to oblivion with their choice to join Motley Crue and Cinderella on the other side of the Atlantic by providing the more aggressive analogue to the thriving glam metal “sisterhood”.
I believe quite a few Celtic Frost fans must have tried to force themselves into liking this album. They must have struggled self-hypnotizing themselves into tolerating it; they had worshipped at the altar of the Swiss for wholesome 4/5 years, so why denounce all this for the sake of several gothic and dancey motifs? At some stage they had to face the reality, that there were not two acts named Celtic Frost on this planet, and that this new offering was a fact, and that they had to live with it. I wonder whether they had tried a similar “therapy” for “Cold Lake”, too? Nah, self-hypnosis wasn’t going to do the trick there; with that opus one would need a serious expert; a very serious one to help him/her develop even a distant liking to it.
I also felt sorry for “Vanity/Nemesis”, a really good album with which the guys tried to restore some dignity posthumously. Alas, very few were those who were still interested in anything coming out of their camp. At least they did release it showing to the listless fanbase that they still had it in them… “Monotheist” (2006), the comeback saga, was another pretty strong recording although it had very few ties to the band’s older works; at least the dark doomy references were nicely extended and turned into a standalone style; finally. Carving a new path to be walked on… Well, the Warrior has to walk it alone without his colleagues, and under a new name (Triptykon), and judging by the several steps he’s already made, it seems as though he won’t “dance” any time soon… and this is the rightful option, Tom.
Wow, I finished the longest review I’ve ever written for the archives, and yet this is the lowest score I’ve given here so far; paradoxes, paradoxes… pandemoniums, and then again paradoxes. There’s no logic in this metal world of ours, and the album/band dissected here was one of the earliest proofs of that. I can’t go any lower than that in my evaluation, though; after all, this is Celtic Frost, for crying out loud; not some lunatics full of sorrow from the fucking Moon. And, as I think of it, there were some moments that caught my ears the other day when I was listening to it in order to prepare for the review. It’s not a complete waste after all, so why not give it another go… but I promise I won’t dance; I won’t fall into the voodoo traps; and I won’t call the Mexican radio DJ’s to give them tips for their playlists. Over and out.
I really want to give this a higher rating. I truly do. And by all accounts, I should. There’s no denying this album’s status and influence on the extreme metal and avant-garde genres. And, for the most part, it’s easy to see why; it's got some amazing riffs, tight playing, and great experimentation with instruments and song composition. But there is one fatal flaw that almost ruins the album for me, the only experiment on this album that fails miserably: Tom G. Warrior's vocals. Let me set the stage for you a little bit: It's a couple years ago, and I've been a Frost fan for quite a while. I've played my copies of Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion more than a few times. It's at this point that I decide to sample one of the band's more famously eclectic albums in their catalogue, Into The Pandemonium.
The first track, "Mexican Radio," starts up, and I'm instantly impressed. Even though it's a cover, Celtic Frost make it all their own, thrashing it up and throwing in a few random instrumentations (i.e. "more cowbell") for extra flavour. I knew this album had a reputation for being experimental, so these little nuances weren't the least bit surprising. In fact, I though it was a welcome addition to the bands sound; a natural evolution from the subtle symphonic/operatic touches of their previous albums. The band members themselves sound in top form. Tom Warrior's trademark guitar tone cuts razor sharp through the mix; his classic grunting vocal style is on display in full glory, replete with as many "OOH"s, "AAH"s and "HEY"s as any fan could hope for.
So once that groovy little number is done, we get into the next track, "Mesmerized," and again I'm instantly impressed. It starts out with a nice, doom-laden groove, quickly transitions into an almost funk-like section, and then...Tom opens his mouth.
When I heard him sing the first few lyrics, I froze. Any semblance of groove my body was experiencing, foot tapping, head-bobbing, anything at all, instantly ceased. What the fuck did I just hear? It sounded like some whiny, nasally cartoonishly over-the-top vampire! I tried to shake it off, but alas, the song continued...and so did Tom's "singing." As it turns out, on this track and several others on the album, he decided to "experiment" with a new vocal style. And by that, I mean he sounds like Bane slitting his wrists and reading emo poetry through his mask.
Seriously, this vocal choice was so out of fucking left-field that I burst out laughing. I was LAUGHING at Celtic Frost! Not since gazing upon the unspeakable horrors of the "Cherry Orchards" video had I felt such shame, such guilt for a band I admire. And I usually love unique vocal styles in metal; one of my favourite thrash bands, Vio-lence, has a singer that sounds like Invader Zim revved up on bath salts! But Tom's vocals just sound so outlandish, so (almost purposely) over-the-top that they completely pulled me out of the experience. And the worst part is, there really wasn't any reason for this vocal style; Tom's grunting style would have suited this song just fine, seeing how effectively it was used on earlier quasi-symphonic material like "Necromantical Screams." Thankfully this track is a short-lived one, and the raging "Inner Sanctum" starts soon after. As soon as this song kicked in, I felt a wave of relief. This was one of the few songs from the album I'd heard before, and rightfully so; it's a mighty beast of a Frost track with great riffs and a memorable chorus. And the best part...no whiny vampire-vocals to be found! Thank fucking god!
After that slice of thrashy goodness, "Sorrows Of The Moon" begins. Once again, a promising start. I calmly began to think the horrendous vocals were just a one-off deal. But to my horror, as soon as the slow melodic section starts, emo-vampire Tom Warrior rears his ugly head once more. Now I admit that it would make a bit more sense to use "softer" vocals on a track like this, but as before, his performance completely destroys any mood the song may have had.
As the album unfolded before my ears, I began to notice a pattern emerge. A new song would start, and sound very intriguing, indicating various places to go and styles to incorporate. Then Tom would start wailing and groaning like a moron and any momentum the song may have gained would halt in its tracks. This is made even worse on songs like "Babylon Fell," where Tom randomly switches between both vocal styles for no apparent reason. And what really gets me is that almost everything else on this album works in the band's favour. Every experimental twist they add to each song, every subtle musical nuance they incorporate, from operatic back-up vocals to tribal rhythms, it all points to a band maturing and progressing with their career, ready and willing to try new things. Even the really weird stuff like "I Won't Dance" or the instrumental filler "One In Their Pride" sound different and interesting enough to hold your attention. But then here comes Tom Warrior, wailing and moaning like he's getting the best blowjob of his life, pissing away any build up of mood or atmosphere. How he decided to go with such a weird style and think it would work is beyond me. If he would have just stuck to his trademark growl and let the music do all the experimentation, I would probably be hailing this album as a masterpiece.
By the time it was over, I felt somewhat hollow. This album seems like its trying to shine with all its might, but is hampered by one fatal mistake that nearly ruins the whole experience, at least for me. Maybe some time in the future I'll be able to look past this flaw and appreciate the album even more, but for now I just can't. But in spite of what I've said, I still encourage people to check the album out for themselves. After all, it's become an influential landmark for a reason; it certainly sounds like no other metal album I've heard, and definitely has a lot more to offer than that abomination of a follow up, Cold Lake. Maybe you'll be able to look past the vocals on this album, maybe you'll hate them like me, or maybe you'll fall in love with them instantly. Go have a listen and judge for yourself.
Into the Pandemonium is not my favorite Celtic Frost production, but it's by far their most eclectic and creative, as evidenced by the wide array of styles implemented through its course. It's not at all dismissive of the slight intervals of evolution which led to its being, but if we were to compare any two of the Swiss legends' releases side to side, it would represent the largest solitary gulf. I realize there are those who would argue that its glam infested successor, Cold Lake was their biggest deviation, but I've never thought of that as more or less than a foundation of traditional Frost grooves and riffs drowned in an unfortunate, limp wristed whining and and unwelcome change in the band's image. Into the Pandemonium, on the other hand, feels as if the trio had gone on some worldwide vacation for two years, smoked from a variety of pipes and hookahs over numerous continents, and then returned by elephant back to their native Zurich.
This was a brave album, born almost entirely of exotic, worldly compulsion and a clear desire to bend the boundaries of possibility for not only Celtic Frost alone, but the entire metal genre. There were a lot of other bands evolving and enriching their sound at this time in both the US and Europe, but where an act like Running Wild, King Diamond or Savatage was centered on shaping and refining itself in the familiar environs of its earlier albums, the Swiss trio were reaching for the stars, consuming entire outside genres of music and then forging them into an impressive armor of eccentricity. To that effect, I can certainly understand the hesitation or outright resistance some felt towards the idiosyncratic gravity of Into the Pandemonium, but it's not one I can in any good conscience share. Growth and innovation are not mandatory traits in my enjoyment of a metal recording, but if I were to ply through a database of all time favorites it would prove a component of the vast majority. Music (and by extension, much of reality) is a kinetic voice. Not static. One can expand with its near endless variations, or contract from it and seek shelter beneath its prehistoric statuary. Celtic Frost chose the former, and so did I.
Of course, one of the beauties of this record is that they've done so without abandoning the backbone of their earlier works. Much of Into the Pandemonium is still comprised of the signature, sludgy thrashing rhythms they are known for circa Morbid Tales, only polished up a bit to match the hazy mystique of their neighbors. "Inner Sanctum", one of the most substantial 5+ minute tracks on the album is cast in the same vein as much of To Mega Therion, hook after hook of primal, pummeling goodness with Tom's traditional, constipated vocal barking. There is some slight increase of complexity from, say, a "Jewel Throne" in the sheer variety of riffs and the drumming, but it's not likely to offend expectations for further, mosh ready fare. "Babylon Fell" would have fit in perfectly with the prior album, it's huge and unforgettable palm muted grooves some of the heaviest in the Frost lexicon. Even the symphonic ingredients are not necessarily news. The beautiful "Oriental Masquerade" has a similar texture to the "Innocence and Wrath" intro, with horns, timpanis and sluggish riffing redolent of a Japanese giant monster movie from decades past...only the violins are truly top shelf here.
As much as I enjoy such songs, however, I can't help but drift towards the more extrinsic pieces that mottle the playlist. "Tristesses de la Lune" is perhaps the most ambitious track they've ever summoned forth, a sweeping and gorgeous string orchestration with a beautiful female guest spot in French, worthy of some of the better European composers of past centuries. The lyrics are eloquent, and the imagery evoked through the performance is like something you'd probably rent a suit for to witness at an opera hall. The Anglicized metallic version "Sorrows of the Moon", available on most of the CD releases, is less appealing, perhaps, but there's no doubt it was easier to pull off live and justifies inclusion. "I Won't Dance (The Elders Orient)" is another total standout here, a leaden rocker upon which Tom asserts a cleaner, passionate Gothic tone to his verses, returning to his usual barking temperament for the pre-chorus and chorus on which he's backed up by a 'soul' style female voice. Motown meets metallic, Mesopotamian antiquity.
I would also point out "Mesmerized", which has a similar Warrior vocal treatment and a glint of lush acoustics threaded through the verse, and a somber melodic passage through the bridge that inspire at least two dozen Paradise Lost tunes. Or "Rex Irae (Requiem)" which is this exquisite, 6 minute Gothic doom operetta with more of Mark's beloved timpani strikes and yet another lovely intrusion of strings. The vocal interplay between Tom and the female opera strain is impressive, especially where he's backed up by a blaring horn note, but there's also a more intricate, percussive thrashing in there with some driving, double bass kicks and a sequence of narrative exchange which is stunningly effective. With ease one of the most intricate tunes in all of the band's litany, passing beyond the realm of mere music to that of sensory experience as the listener's imagination drifts through ancient empires, passions and ritual incense. I DARE one of this album's detractors to create something so immortal and compelling.
But then, of course, the Swiss go even further out on a limb here, with the inclusion of the proto industrial track "One in Their Pride". This is not the greatest cut on the album, In fact it's one of the few exceptions to its near flawless musical interior, but nonetheless it was a fascinating departure for the band, a paean to the first man on the moon (Neil Armstrong) and a testament to human achievement. Musically, though, it's completely different for Celtic Frost. Primitive electro kicks reminiscent of some missing link between Kraftwerk and early Ministry (or Nitzer Ebb). Wailing, atonal strings and myriad speech samples abound in its swirling vacuum, to the point that it seems to conjure the image of some satellite spinning off beyond the earth's atmospheric envelope. Even stranger, perhaps, was the decision to open the album with a cover of the Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio". Don't get me wrong, the LA New Wavers' hit is in good hands here, just given the Frost 'treatment' with heavier guitars and angrier, gruff vocals in between the backing shouts of the chorus, but, really...who woulda thunk it?
Into the Pandemonium trumps expectations at nearly every turn, but its decisions never feel rash or impulsive, no matter how unusual. Once again, as upon To Mega Therion, I felt that Warrior was trying to train his audience in the act of a wider, aesthetic appreciation. Take a few minutes to cross-reference the lyrics here with almost anything else in the metal spectrum in the mid 80s and you'll discover just how poetic and eloquent they are, how out of place amidst the usual volley of machine gun testosterone. These aren't mere hymns to nuclear war and TV Evangelists, but deeper reflections upon mortality, nature and the fate of archaic civilizations. Of course, as in "Babylon Fell", these are easy enough to relate to current events, but the prose is so simple and classy that it feels as fresh today as on its original release. What's more, the partial use of the "Hell" scene from Hieronymus Boschs's early 16th century triptych The Garden of Earthly Lights is perfect, its colors, structures and figures so immaculately in sync with the atmosphere of the songs that you wonder if they were written while staring at it...
All of these ingredients add up to what I'd dub the last of the 'essential Frost' recordings. Not that later albums like Vanity/Nemesis or Monotheist lack their charms, but they're nowhere near as imaginative and ageless as most of this content. "One In Their Pride" doesn't hold up for me in terms of quality so much as an example of experimentation gone awry, and the cover of "Mexican Radio" is naturally not so intriguing as the originals, but otherwise this album should be remembered as nothing less than an anomaly. A phenomenon whose alluring lyrical imagery, intricate variation and balanced production ensure that it survives as one of the finest examples of the avant-garde to arrive in heavy rock since the proggish embellishments of the 70s. Mood and inspiration, songwriting and distinction. This lacks none of it. Feast your ears.
And this is where the mighty kingdom/legacy that the mighty Celtic Frost helped created started to change. "Into the Pandemonium" is an album which came after two e.p.s, and one full length album that were nothing short of genius. Well guess what happens on LP number two? They threw the fucking rule book out the window and literally gave birth to more genres: most specifically goth metal and avant-garde metal while STILL being extremely influential to all of the other extreme metal genres at the time in the 80's...which blew every metal head's mind away and that was the problem. Nobody expected this radical progression/change after the monumental "To Mega Therion" album, and it still has people scratching their heads. Celtic Frost again goes into uncharted territories here where they start incorporating other forms of musical influences. This was right before their career suicide with "Cold Lake" but for 1987 "Into the Pandemonium", which was not really their absolute apex of their career which would go to their final album "Monotheist", this was definitely paintings more hues of gloom and doom in the kingdom of Celtic Frost before it went into a watery descent.
Celtic Frost has always had a high priority of incorporating the right artwork for the albums. "Morbid Tales" had the evil heptagram signaling the beginning of it's evil incantation. "To Mega Therion" saw that noisy bastard child grow into a great beast of a man and "Into the Pandemonium" is a glimpse into it's lair of darkness. Much like Cocytus in Dante's "Inferno", we see and hear the river of wailing where the emperor drinks from. The painting is by none other than the great Hieronymus Bosch and is actually a tiny portion from a triptych painting called "The Garden of Earthly Delights." Listening to the album, it perfectly suites the artwork where the gates to CF's domain are opened and we see what are behind those cold walls of solid stone. And yes it's shocking to say the least.
Production-wise "ITP" sees CF at their most professional, because everything is just clear. Most of the songs sound like they are presented in a very theatrical type way where the listener is left to shock and awe. There is a new bounce/sound to this album and it's capturing that bottom-end heaviness of the reverberation of the guitars. Not that CF's sound productions prior did not capture them, but this album is giving off just a heavy echo. A loud echo that is bouncing off the stone walls much like shown in the album cover's artwork.
"Into The Pandemonium" starts off with....a Wall of Voodoo cover? That's a pretty huge risk for a band like CF. I am sure this confused the shit out of people back in the day, but may be they had to have something that would raise an ironic chuckle out of metal heads because after the up-beat 80's one hit wonder cover, it gets fucking depressing. It's not fast or thrashing but way more doomier and way more goth/electronic-influenced. Even the vocals are so damn morose and self-loathing you wonder if these guys were simply playing along to the likes of Christian Death and The Sisters of Mercy. Oh the riffs are still there. If that is one thing you can rely upon from Celtic Frost is that they had riffs. Heavier than a sack of donkey balls. But here we see a lot of the songs slowed-down to a Sabbath doom chugging rarely getting anywhere near the previous material from these Swiss Gods. "Mesmerised" is exactly what I am referring to. There are a couple of songs where it is more old-school flavored such as "Inner Sanctum" and "Babylon Fell" which I could have seen easily as part of "To Mega Therion" or even leftovers from the "Tragic Serenades" e.p., but everything else is: weird. Female vocals and classical instruments "Tristesses de la lune", to mini-like sonnets "Rex Irae (Requiem: Overture)" with what sounds like Tom G. Warrior sounding like a Rozz Williams strung out on heroin. Lyrically speaking, this goes beyond anything that Tom G. Warrior has written:
We stood before the portals of Babylon
And saw it's petrified fall
... Have seen your decline's symbols
But carried another life
We tasted the wine of Persepolis,
As mute as our era's breath
Death was never a fragment of
Exalting fantasy ...
[REMEMBRANCE III :]
This last region - Last of fire
Orgasmic cries - Tears and words
Wrath and strenght - Oh, gods! For you!
Before the throne ... - Death" - "Rex Irae (Requiem: Overture)"
or another prime example:
"This evening the moon dreams more lazily
As some fair woman, lost in cushions deep
With gentle hand caresses listlessly
The contour of her breasts before she sleeps
On velvet backs of avalanches soft
She often lies enraptured as she dies
And gazes on white visions aloft
Which like a blossoming to heaven rise" - "Tristesses de la Lune"
Then there is the one song that people cannot seem to get straight and I will defend this song because it's good; "One In Their Pride". This is NOT a fucking hip-hop song. Just because something had drum machine, samples, and loops does not merit it to anything dealing with rap or hip-hop. This is nothing short of what would be found on Ministry's "Twitch" when Al Jourgenson was making the switch from new romantic to drugged-out rivothead. There are two versions of this song and the only difference is that one isn't as multi-layered and again sounds like early Ministry. I love this song because I love 80's industrial and that cold mechanical feel of the music from that era and for Celtic Frost to have incorporated something like that into an album, this is why I love CF so much. they were not afraid to try different things. The best song on here is "I Won't Dance" with it's infectious jazz-like drumming and it's pop-like chorus. It's excellent in the riff department and simply sums up everything about the album: experimental, multi-layered with lyrics and themes that make you scratch your head.
"Into The Pandemonium" is an album that signaled the end of the classic era of Celtic Frost, what happened extremely shortly afterwards is pure tragedy. Very ironic when considering this album is very much steeped into the whole theatrical sense of tragedy and the descent into sorrow afterwards. Again, with everything else up to this and "Monothiest" is pretty much essential to a metal head's music library because of what those albums meant at the time. And what this album represented at the time was the warrior's trip into the pandemonium...and yes I will say it.....never to be seen again.
This review is dedicated to the memory of The Celtic Frost, one of the forerunners of basically anything metal invented since the beginning of the 80's. The band is dead, and should you see it walking around, playing gigs or simply existing, it is not the real Celtic Frost, but a zombie-like animated corpse; only the return of Tom G Warrior can bring it back to the kind of unlife today's metal needs. Rot in Pieces, oh beautiful one.
When asked, people's opinions on the location of the low point of Celtic Frost's career point invariably at Cold Lake, but whether or not there's a wider depression around the single glammy sinkhole is a matter of serious discussion. Depending on whom you ask, the slump may contain either Into the Pandemonium, Vanity/Nemesis, or even both. There are those of us who beg to disagree, and while Vanity/Nemesis certainly has its share of fans and also more than token respect among the less-fanatic fans of the band, Into the Pandemonium is a definite opinion-splitter of epic, Opethian scale. The album is a classic, a graphite grey granite tombstone to things that once used to be avant-garde, but the teeth of time have been gnawing it like a schoonerful of black rats.
The 80's was a decade of metal, synth pop, exceptionally ugly clothes (save for stone washed jeans, of course), Miami Vice and humongous silicone tits. Since Celtic Frost is definitely metal and not synth pop, the clothes on the non-hair metal crowd have always been rather sensible, and comparing Into the Pandemonium to Miami Vice would be unfair to both sides of the equation, we are left with silicone tits. And we are not talking about any tiny, cosmetic 2 dl additions that shape the bosom to a fuller hemisphere. No, Into the Pandemonium is comparable to those enormous, 80's silicone bombs that looked like a pair of overfed spherical piglets, have probably killed a few of their owners by blunt trauma to the forehead, and are most likely called, from left to right, Misters Wilson and Spalding, respectively.
The comparison is not a bad one. The enormous silicone boobs installed on starlets of the 80's have probably gone through a process of erosion similar to Into the Pandemonium, and both were children of their times. Both took things forward (a full foot, measured from the breastbone). Both have suffered, both are out of fashion in the way they were made in the 80's, and both still have their fans despite the opinion splitting. Both have also been unsuccessfully augmented later, and the results are worth lamenting. Let us take a closer look at the analogy, and dive deeper both Into the Pandemonium and into the cleavage.
To call Into the Pandemonium avant-garde by today's standards is a stretch. Any band trying to emulate the songs found on it are followers, not the advance guard of the art as real avant-garde is supposed to be. The album is 20 years old. But it certainly was avant-garde back in 1987, and Celtic Frost, upon releasing it, slammed a bold, brave manifesto on the centerfold for everybody to see. The hindsight of two decades can be a cruel way to measure the success they had, but to really see if they were the advance guard back then, the influence of the album must be examined.
What were the new ingredients Celtic Frost brought into the metal kitchen in 1987? Well, the most obvious one is of course the use of classical instruments and clean female vocals in their songs, both to add doomy grandeur and to bring into the mixture a measure of beauty. Rex Irae alone shows so many new elements, with the distant horns echoing in the great caverns of Hell, the violins licking their ominously devilish sharp tunes, almost like riffs from a rack-stretched guitar, and the alto voice sounding like a pissed-off, voluptuous angel of retribution hovering above a procession of doomed souls staggering into Tartarus.
The other things, the original way to compose their songs and the intentionally and arrogantly pseudo-sloppy way to play their riffs, the vocals that are either whiny or tired depending on the listener's interpretation, and the simultaneously excellent and unrefined production that has certainly had its own tiny effect on the later black metal standards, are lesser, but had they been the only items on this album, they would have been big enough details to mention. They play the second fiddle to the glorious avant-garde here, however. And of course, there's the bizarre misstep, One in Their Pride, which was probably intended as a hardcore avant-garde shock item in the same sense as Danse Macabre on Morbid Tales was, but failed in a spectacular way. But to be on the leading edge means taking risks, and sometimes it means terrific failures, be they implants so heavily encapsulated in scar tissue that the mammaries look like WWII-era naval mines, or a whopping whole of two versions of One in Their Pride on re-released versions. Trial and error, and sometimes a pair of trials and errors.
In any case, in 1987, Into the Pandemonium was a bold album. It was the biggest pair of implants ever, and boy, did it catch the eyes of a few casual passers-by! The originality was unparallelled, the music was new, and the concept arousing. The two decades since have had their effects on the album, but still, a similar work has not been released. Knowing for a fact that a huge fraction of old-school metalheads have at least heard the album, and that a considerable part of that fraction has found it enjoyable, it's unbelievable that it still inhabits the niche it carved virtually alone.
But to get back to the issue at hand, the silicone boobs. The enormous rubber udders of the 80's have most likely lost their shape, and I bet that most of them have met the scapel a second time, becoming small, scarred titties again. Alternatively, they may resemble a pair of cantaloupes packed in the legs of a pantyhose, the said pantyhose being stapled to the owner's ribcage through the crotch part. Yup, they are paired pendelums of flesh, fat and synthetic joy for the truly depraved. Is that what Into the Pandemonium has become? Have we witnessed the gradual downfall of an enormous rack over the years, until the navel is located where the cleavage is supposed to be?
The answer is a definite "No". Into the Pandemonium is not the end result of two decades of wrinkling, stretching and aging on an artificial pair of funbags. It's more like the forgotten pin-up calendar from the year 1987 on the back of a garage: it shows its novel dating muscles in the shape they were when they still vaguely resembled the idea the scalpel-wielding insane architect had in mind when he cut the first incision and began forcing sacks of polymers between the real thing and the ribcage. It's a frame from the year it was made, and whatever has happened to the jugs in it afterwards, the picture is still there ...and, incidentally, most probably available for download somewhere on the internet for those who wish to find it again.
Is it possible to enjoy the album afterwards? Can the younger long-haired dude appreciate the still picture of what once was, the virtual boobage that was new, insane and enormous back in the day, but now, even as a frozen, preserved moment in the musical pin-up calendar, looks so 80's? Perhaps. No one can force a young metalhead to look upon the mountains of yesteryear with appreciation, but there will always be a minority that finds audial or visual pleasure in vintage things.
Perhaps the two oddities discussed here can only be enjoyed by those who were around when they were, for the lack of a better word, erected. But tits never go out of fashion, just the ways they are displayed, covered and manipulated change. The metal evolution has had its share of dead ends, but the silicone monstrosities of Tom G Warrior were not one of those; Into the Pandemonium has influenced many things from behind the curtain in the strip club: there are doom bands with strangely familiar, grandiose songs that nod humbly to Rex Irae. There are symphonic black metal bands that owe something to the arrangements found on the album. Hell, there's Therion, playing covers of both Celtic Frost and Manowar, both live and on their albums, just to show their immense respect to the great old ones. Somewhere, right now, a bedroom musician is secretly trying on a custom-made faithful copy of Tom G Warrior's EEE-cupped bra, just believe me.
Into the Pandemonium was and is a classic, and a construct different from anything done before it. Enjoy it or hate it, it had an enormous influence. Those of use who enjoy it will keep on finding new angles to view it from. Those who hate it... well, you just might be wrong. Just avoid the re-released versions, this album is one of those that have been spoiled by later editions; the original order of the tracks is perfect, and the additions on later versions do not fit the whole.
What about the relationship of the reviewer and the silicone wonders of the 80's, you may ask? Doesn't, in the words of Josef Stalin, "quantity have a quality of its own?" Well, they never were my thing. Sometimes being natural beats any artificial enhancements. And in case you haven't noticed, the letters in "melon" can be rearranged as "lemon", and organically farmed lemons can be very, very good. Just don't tell my wife I told you that on the internet, she'd kill me.
If it is, it's not a funny one. Apparently people either love or hate this album. As you can see, I don't like it... it's pretty much a textbook example of how to NOT go mix genres.
The big difference from previous CF albums is that the influences from outside rock and metal are much more prominent now, for example there's some orchestral stuff too and a track named "One in the Pride", which is a hip-hop INSTRUMENTAL. It's more than that, though, it's a hip-hop instrumental about the moon landing. I wish I was lying. I really do.
However, the attempts at combining genres are just plain half-assed. The dabblings with non-metal genres found on this album don't do anything else than confuse listeners who aren't so spectacularly pseudo-intellectual they think experimental music can't possibly be bad.
Oh yeah, there's an exception... the Wall of Voodoo cover, which is easily the best track on the album because it appears to have been written with another purpose than impressing music critics who are extraordinarily pretentious even by their profession's standards.
Then we get to the songs that stick to the old Celtic Frost style that's not quite thrash, not quite black metal and not quite death metal either. They lack any of the energy or direction that "Morbid Tales" or "To Mega Therion" had, and it doesn't help that Tom G. Warrior's vocal performance sounds like he's totally bored.
Whatever happened during the making of "Into the Pandemonium", the end result is... a bloated waste of effort that's mostly boring save for a couple of big "what the hell was that?" moments, and those are more annoying than amusing, and a nifty cover song.
Listening to this album is alot similar to eating a delicious fat laden meal. After eating such a meal you'll feel full; and if you're smart you stop eating. Some of us however are not smart and we continue eating until it feels like our insides are going to explode in a glorious shower of blood and intestines.
What does this album have to do with dietary habits? Into the Pandemonium is like that delicious meal that could make you sick if you devour too much of it. I've had this album for a year now, and until now I could only listen to it once through. It isn't because the album is horrible, but because it literaly makes me sick. The tracks are so varied that it seems like Celtic Frost couldn't decide what style they wanted to play. Thankfully for this band they're talented enough to get away with mixing several genres that make absolutely no sense. (A good example is the song: One in Their Pride.)
This band has been heralded as the inventors of Avante Garde metal. Before that they were black metal, but apparently the members decided that was much too normal.
The guitar riffs on this albums are reminiscent of thrash and prog, but much more experiemental. When I say experiemental I don't mean that they played around with their guitar pedals to create some fucked up sound. No, it's more like they knew the rules of guitar playing and then broke them, but still made it sound good.
In fact let me blunt. They did this with all of the instruments. Studied them, and then broke the rules. Amazingly it sounds good for the most part. Highlights of this album include Mexican Radio; Babylon Fell; I Won't Dance; and Rex Irae.
Of course this album has it's share of "What the fuck was that?" moments. The first moment comes in by the song, Tristesess de la Lune. A somewhat amusing songs that sounds similar to an average highschool musical with the main female vocalist singing. Interesting, but was it really needed?
Then there's the two versions of One in Their Pride. An electronic hip hop song. Come to think of it one of the members of this band, (Tom I believe) is now always shown wearing a snow cap, and some weird corpse paint. Truth be told he looks like a grim, white rapper. Perhaps that and One in Their Pride is Celtic Frost's subliminal confession that they like hip hop. Nevertheless those two songs are like those Andes Chocolate Mints. Pretty nice, but not something you'd want to eat everyday.
This album would have gotten a higher score, but unfortunately Celtic Frost broke way too many rules. It's fantastic that they played a more unique style with the four main instruments of metal, but adding in a hip hop song and a high school musical song is just too much.
Recommended for abstract artists, vanilla icecream lovers; and metal heads with a secret love affair with hip hop.
Not recommended for normal people.
After releasing the epic 'To Mega Therion' a couple of years prior, Celtic Frost
return with a much different effort, the experimental metal work 'Into the Pandemonium'. Firstly, I can live without much of the melodic vocal work, especially by T.G Warrior himself. The production for the heavier songs is similar to that of the last album, if not a bit more clear. The avant-garde stuff is well produced, and such epic tracks as Rex Irae are more lisenable
than if they were covered in static.
The guitar tone is still fairly thick, but this time around there are not as many killer riffs to back up the definitive tone, the bass is present but lacking punch, and T.G Warrior's vocals shine on the heavier songs, but are pretty hideous when he actually tries to sing. For me, the highlights of the album are the parts which are reminiscent of their earlier work, such as the crushing 'Babylon Fell', the fast paced 'Inner Sanctum', and even 'I won't Dance' is a pretty catchy track with some decent riffs. The shit really hits the fan on some of the melodic work though, as songs like 'Sorrows of the Moon' (and its French-sung counterpart) stink up the album with their sheer lack of anything aggressive or memorable, and the cover of 'Mexican Radio' is pretty mediocre, if not somewhat listenable.
Rex Irae is somewhat of an operatic metal track, but Warrior's moaning hinders the listen, as do the violins, which are right up front in the production. The riffs are buried under the strings, and while it can be considred 'epic' or whatever, it really goes nowhere until the last 30 seconds of the song. Oriental Masquerade is a bit better, just because it is instrumental and shorter, and actually would suit
as a segue piece between two heavier songs. Shame that 'One in their Pride' is on here twice, and both versions are truly horrible, notably the completely unoriginal and monontonous breakbeats.
So yeah, this album is really nowhere as good as either 'Morbid Tales' or 'To Mega Therion', both of which are 90 point albums. While certain songs (Babylon Fell, Inner Sanctum, In the Chapel, in the Moodlight) are keepers, the poor avant-garde work on this album makes it a hard listen.
CELTIC FROST was a band WAY ahead of its time. Even the music Tom Warrior and Martin Ain released as HELLHAMMER, the precursor to CELTIC FROST, was a heavy and brutal style that had a major influence on the death, thrash and black metal to come. In 1984 CELTIC FROST released “Morbid Tales,” considered by most to be a true metal classic. The band were early pioneers of thrash and death and began to build a following, although they never received the fame they deserved. In 1987 the band released “Into the Pandemonium,” considered, depending on who you ask, as the pinnacle of their creative genius, or a giant step backward that served as the first step in the creative demise of the band. Since you’re asking me—hey, it’s my review—I’ll say it definitively: not only is this CF’s best album, it is one of the best metal albums of all time. There, I said it.
Now, I realize that some of you are reading this and yelling at the screen “Has this guy lost what little mind he had?” and others are thinking that they should go out and pick this up post haste—one of the best metal albums of all time, and such. A word of caution/disclaimer: this album is not for everyone. There are several songs that are consistent with CELTIC FROST’s earlier work. “Inner Sanctum” and “Babylon Fell” are the best examples of classic CF. However, there are several songs that demonstrate significant experimentation and development of their classic sound, and a few songs that are just plain totally different from anything they have ever done.
Rex Irae (Requiem) is a masterpiece that serves as a perfect example of many of these innovations. The song has booming, doom percussion, female co-lead vocals, and strings. Warrior’s vocals include a combination of his usual gruff bark and a technique he uses on several tracks, a clean tortured moaning vocal. The result is magnificent. I’m not sure there is even a category for this sound, the band blends sounds from several categories, many of which weren’t even categories yet. Remember, this is 1987, you just didn’t hear bands using operatic vocals and symphonic arrangements, much less some of the other tricks these guys had up their sleeves. Sampling--in metal--in 1987. Not that nu-metal stuff, but the track about the moon landing “One in Their Pride” contains vocal samples and either a drum machine, or a drum machine impression. Contrast that with another example, the haunting “Tristesses de la Lune” a song that contains strings and female vocals performed entirely in French. The companion track “Sorrows of the Moon” is in English. Also exceptional are the R&B style backup vocals on the otherwise very heavy “I Won’t Dance (The Elders Orient)” and the bizarre cover of the new wave WALL OF VODOO song “Mexican Radio.” Including the song is strange enough, the fact that it opens the album is just plain odd.
Critics claim that “Into the Pandemonium” tried to mix too many genres and add too many new sounds and influences, and as a result the album is just a disjointed hodge podge. No doubt, it took major cajones to release this album, especially when the band was gaining momentum with their earlier stuff. However, the talent, innovation and variation on this album make it worthy of a place in every metal head’s collection and for many, a place as one of the most revered albums in that collection. Pure and simple—“Morbid Tales” got me into CELTIC FROST, “Into the Pandemonium” hooked me for good.
It's very difficult to choose the best CF album, but if I had to choose one I would probably chose this one.
It's not their heaviest nor the fastest album, but by far the most innovative and avantgarde thing they have ever recorded. 'Into The Pandemonium' was released a decade before its time. It's easy to comprehend why many people has never understood it.
It still has some of the violence and the heaviness of 'To Megatherion', in fact songs like "Inner Sanctum" would have fit perfectly in that album, but there are a lot of innovations as well. Tom Warrior mixes his traditional screams with some melancholic vocals very much in the vein of bands like The Cure, there are lots of orchestral arrangements with violins, choruses, viola, cello and the same French horn they had already used on 'To Megatherion' (remember songs like "The Usurper" or "Necromantical Screams"?)... and perhaps the most atonishing improvement: the use of programmed drums in the remix of the instrumental song "One In Their Pride".
Lyirically there are some big impreovements as well, as this album is much more romantic (not in the sense of love, but in the sense of romanticism). "Mesmerized" is pure poetry and the same happens with "Sorrows Of The Moon". "Rex Irae", with its dialogues, is a perfect example of the influence of the so called Opera Rock in the album. Almost all lyrics deal in some way with old oriental traditions (Babylon, Carthage...) and music helps to bring to the listener this oriental feeling.
I can't imagine modern Metal without this album. Where could be bands like My Dying Bride or Therion without 'Into The Pandemonium'?
Listening to this album is really hard on me. It reminds me of the time, recalling the awesomeness that was CARNIVORE, that I heard Type O Negative. I couldn't get an erection for weeks until I consulted some Death Strike.
There are a few songs that don't completely suck. They are "Inner Sanctum", and moments of "Sorrows Of The Moon" and "Babylon Fell"(in between all that fucking gothic remorse shit).
Gothic, that's the way I would describe Warrior's vocal change. Instead of kicking ass like he did before, he changed his vocal patterns and sounds more along the lines of bands like Christian Death, Sisters Of Mercy, etc. He intermixes these gothic vocals with his old school vocals which made albums like To Mega Therion and Morbid Tales, and the material by Hellhammer classic. Unfortunately, those sort of gothic vocals don't compliment this album very well. They sound good in the sort of music that bands like Bauhaus play, but not in the kind of stuff Celtic Frost do.
The worst song (and best for comedic value) is "One In Their Pride". This song has a fucking break beat in it: everytime I listen to this song I keep expecting to fucking see LL Cool J start rapping while some dudes are breakdancing in the background. Not exactly what I was looking for.
So to sum it up: Fuck this shit. I'll take songs like "The Usurper" and "Into The Crypts Of Rays" anyday over this garbage.
This album just rules. It's simple, heavy, raw, primitive, dark, gloomy, but at the same time, beautiful, unique, emotional, powerful and atmospheric, thanks to experimentations with classical instruments and opera singers. These adjectives aren't seen together very often, and that right there shows how special this album is. "Into The Pandemonium" is the quintessential Celtic Frost album in the way that all the songs are very strong overall, but also because this is where all of the band's experimenting came together.
The band shows off their "classical-meets-metal" side with "Tristesses de la Lune", "Rex Irae (Requiem)"(both include a female singer, with the former being sung completely in french) and Oriental Masquerade. The band still keeps their primitive, heavy as hell metal songs that are comparible to getting a sledgehammer to the head in this album, but some of them have been added a little something to make it more than just simple musical sledgehammer to the head. "Caress Into Oblivion" has a chanting monk at the beginning and tribal instruments in the background for some of the songs. "Mesmerized" and especially "Sorrows Of The Moon" play with atmosphere to nice effect, while "I Won't Dance(The Elder's Orient)" includes R&B background singers to the mix. This album also includes a very heavy version of new wavers Wall Of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio"! But not to worry people, the no-frills,simple but sweet headbangers are here as well and very well-represented by "Inner Sanctum" and "Babylon Fell". Hell, the band even experimented with electronic influences and sampling, with "One In Their Pride (Porthole Mix)" and "One In Their Pride (Extended Mix)".
It's true, this album did help usher in black metal, but to me, this album is much, much more than that. Into The Pandemonium is an album full of weird, gutsy, but very sucessful experiments, and they do it without alienating their fans, which is what they would do, however, with their next album, Cold Lake, with it's more radio-friendly sound and pictures of the band all glammed up. This is a very unique and groundbreaking album that no one should miss.