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Obviously, it's not easy for a band like CELTIC FROST to release a new album after all these years. With so many jaded metal fans expecting a shallow cash-in or another 'Cold Lake' and so many die-hards simply wanting 'Morbid Tales part II' it must have been difficult for Tom G. & co to go ahead and make the music that THEY wanted to make. As it happens, they have managed and 'MONOTHEIST' is all the better for it.
The album opens with howling feedback signalling a return to a much harder brand of metal and the beginning of 'Progeny'. While immediately satisfying, the track seems to drag a bit and, while very heavy, is a tad directionless. All is forgiven when 'Ground' kicks in. Many fans will have heard the demo and rehearsal versions of this track on the band's website. The finished version is the best yet; a vitriolic expression of existential angst with the most brutal blood-'n'-guts guitar tone ever heard on record.
'A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh' has a much slower pace to it and is somewhat reminiscent of early MY DYING BRIDE but with a distinct twist. 'Drown In Ashes' is an altogether more atmospheric track with haunting female vocals, subtle, yet powerful electronic musical textures and Tom sounding akin to Andrew Eldritch.
'Os Abysmi Vel Daath' is another crushing doomy number enhanced by the addition of a french horn and the occasional death grunt (Uhhh!) in a manner which reminds us where they came from without the band sounding like a parody of themselves. The doomy, gothic number 'Obscured' has an altogether unique feel to it and really grows on you with each listen.
'Domain Of Decay' will be familiar to anyone who has heard the band's 'The Nemesis Of Power' demo. Tom has taken the riff from 'Pearl Of Love' (arguably, the best thing about 'The Nemesis Of Power') and used it seamlessly in this old-school crypt-kicker. It serves as a bridge, almost, between the band's past and present. 'Ain Elohim' is another 'speed song' in the same vein as 'Progeny'. While not remarkable, is definitely listenable.
Where 'MONOTHEIST' really shines is how the tracks seem to lead perfectly into one another and nowhere is this better illustrated by the magnificent 'triptych' of 'Totengott', 'Synagoga Satanae' and 'Winter'. 'Totengott' is a magnificently atmospheric and uncompromisingly grim soundscape with Martin Ain providing vocals that sound like an angry dalek in the depths of the abyss. 'Synagoga Satanae' is an epic number and the highlight of the album. A brooding masterpiece which flows and metamorphosises as you listen to it. 'Winter' caps off the album giving you a chance to collect your thoughts as well as being a wonderfully minimalist yet moving piece in it's own right.
I couldn't help but smile after the album was over; I found it very cathartic but most of all, I was glad that CELTIC FROST had delivered everything they'd promised and more. You may well have to listen to 'MONOTHEIST' more than once to get it's full effect; it's definitely an album that grows on you. Even if you didn't like it the first time, give it a chance.
Rather than just caving-in to 'fan' pressure and making another 'To Mega Therion', CELTIC FROST have, once again, shown themselves to be innovators and a band who, love 'em or hate 'em, you simply can't ignore. I'm proud to call myself a fan.