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This is Celtic Frost as you have never heard them before. This is not an opinion, this is a fact. You may or may not enjoy the music contained within "Monotheist", but there is no denying that Celtic Frost have never stylistically ventured into the sonics they cover in "Monotheist". This is an entirely different sound for Celtic Frost, and ultimately I think is pretty damn good. This is not the Blackened Death-Thrash of the "Morbid Tales", "To Mega Therion" or "Into the Pandemonium" records, nor is it the Avant-Garde of "Vanity/Nemesis", or the Glam Rock of "Cold Lake". "Monotheist" is an entirely different beast. Tinged with elements of Black Metal, Doom, Gothic, Ambient and even Groove, "Monotheist" has invented an entirely new genre of aggressive music.
First, let us talk about Tom G. Warrior (now preferring to go by Thomas Gabriel Fischer), and all of his contributions to "Monotheist". First, his voice sounds better than it has in years. During the years of "Vanity/Nemesis" and "Cold Lake", his vocal delivery was so contrived and stale it was almost impossible to listen to without cringing. Those days are over. Gone also is that ghastly growl/shriek (which I personally enjoy) from the early "To Mega Therion" and "Morbid Tales" days. Warrior (er, Fischer) has now taken on a very bitter, cold, and sometimes pseudo-meldoic voice. His voice sounds especially intriguing when put up against the angelic voice of Simone Vollenweider, who is featured on a couple of tracks. The contrast is unbelievable, and creates a haunting, refreshing atmosphere. Warrior hasn't completley abandoned his harsh vocal style though - in contrast to his previously mentioned quasi-melodic delivery, he also quite frequently sings in a gutteral, almost barking kind of voice during the heavier hitting portions of the disc. Which occur frequently, mind you.
Alot of people are saying that this is a more mellow Celtic Frost, when compared to the violent fury and slash-and-burn tunes of their early recordings. The tempo has been slowed down, for the most part - but this hardly means Celtic Frost has mellowed out. If anything, I would say the general sound has intensified a great deal - there is no playing around these riffs. The riffs are fierce and titanic, epic in scope. CF has covered more sonic ground here, in my opinion, than they did with their first two full-length efforts combined. The riffs are gargantuan slabs of metal, grinding against the sometimes ferocious and sometimes groovy (yes, groovy) drumwork to create such an interplay that you can't help but bang your head. Many of the songs range from slow to mid paced, but that does not mean there are no breakneck-speed sections to be found on the record. For instance, to opener, "Progeny", one of the best tracks off the record - moves at a pretty frantic pace - the whirlwind drumwork keeping the pace even as Fischer and second guitarist Erol Unala detour into some doom-like riffery.
I think it is quite obvious, especially with borderline progressive tracks such as "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh" (featuring one of the most beautiful melodies CF has ever conjured) and "Drown In Ashes", that this is the most musically ambitious Frost album ever, but there should be no speculation amongst the critics that lyrically, this is without a doubt their most ambitious work to date. Warrior has always been pretty well versed in history and the occult, but this truly shines on "Monotheist". Featuring passages directly inspired, and sometimes even lifted, directly from works such as the Necronomicon and The Book of Lies, as well as from such prolific characters as Aliester Crowley, Friedrich Nietzsche, and H.P. Lovecraft - Warrior has really covered alot of ground lyrically here - combining the usualy historical and occult themes, and applying his own inner rage, angst and turmoil to them. Some call this album angsty. And with lyrics like "My darkest mind - my love, destroyed...", it is easy to see why - but if you read these lyrics in the correct context and apply them to the grand scope of things, you will see that these are not teenage angst or mallcore-gothboy angsty rants. This is deep shit, friends and neighbors.
The general mood conjured from this record is an epic one: grand in scale, dense in atmosphere, ambitious in execution and Celtic Frost manages to pull it off without coming off as cheesy and pretentious. If Celtic Frost are to continue down this path, assuming they do truck along, I will await the albums to come eagerly. But if this is the last of the mighty Celtic Frost, then I will proudly dub this one of the greatest swan songs in the history of dark music.