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A legend like Celtic Frost could not be overlooked when after 14 long years they release an album, and what an album. Celtic Frost is widely known as a major influence for many black metal, death metal and thrash metal bands. Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion are considered classics of the early black metal movement while Into the Pandemonium and Cold Lake venture into industrial, avant-garde metal and the other one into hard rock. Vanity/Nemesis was just a reheated porridge, trying to go back to their original style. As a result, the band did not last for long, disbanding after releasing a best off.
The early 2000s brought the band back from the ashes. But what could I expect from Celtic Frost back then? I have to admit that the band surely took it's time in preparing to release this album. After all, we speak about 6 years since their re-union until Monotheist was available in stores. I remember that I went back and had a listen to their older records, out of nostalgia mostly. I placed a bet saying that the proper re-union gift would be to turn back to their roots and record a follow up for To Mega Therion but instead I received something totally unexpected and surprising, the least to say.
I would not exaggerate in saying that Monotheist was by far the best album released in 2006, this coming from a band that hasn't released nor played anything for almost 14 years! While Tom G. Warrior activated in an industrial project called Apollyon Sun, the other members were completely out of the scene until the re-union. I was surprised to see the quality of this release. To be more precise, not only that the sound quality was great, but the mixture of elements, genres, influences and atmosphere were absolutely stunning.
I could describe Monotheist as the peak of glory of Celtic Frost, providing a primitive sound which could be heard on the old Hellhammer songs (Apocalyptic Raids) and combining this with Gothic and doom metal elements. Closely listening this record I even managed to identify groove elements specific in songs such as Ain Elohim or the first track of this record, Progeny. It is also pretty hard to label this record as black metal. Though it has some elements of it, the fact that the tempo was slowed down to allow a more atmospheric and somber sound is also quite noticeable.
A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh is by far one of the best tracks this album could give, no wonder that this song was selected for having a music video. This album featured female vocals done by Lisa Middelhauve (ex. Xandria) in the song Drown in Ashes. Simone Vollenweider contributed with her vocals in songs such as Temple of Depression, Incantation Against and Obscured (a song which has many similarities with Drown in Ashes). The rawest song of this album is Temple of Depression which, in my opinion, is the closest to the black metal roots specific for Hellhammer or old Celtic Frost records.
Monotheist stands as the most surprising 2006 record and also as one of the best material Celtic Frost ever released. For doom metal fans, this record is a must while for older fans it might be a sort of surprise, depends on their preferences if the surprise is either positive or negative. For a band that has been inactive for 14 years, I think that Monotheist is a great record which clearly signifies Celtic Frost's revival. If these arguments do not impress you, then at least give it a listen for Celtic Frost's sake a band which is noted as a major influence for a great number of metal bands.