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“Alluring children for his masses
Robbing and buying young souls
Sacrifice to morbid demons
Satisfy his repulsive sexual lust”
Hearing that blaring from your speakers, from the first song gives you an idea of what this album is about.
Definitely groundbreaking, this came out right after Hellhammer broke up and kept up the tradition. Can this be better than Apocalyptic Raids? Yes it certainly can and it is. Cleaner songwriting, production, and maybe a tad bit more professional Celtic Frost’s debut blew Hellhammer out of the water. A mixture of black, death, and old school thrash and not to mention the ultimate guitar tone. Listen to that tone of Procreation of the Wicked for a taste of that. Around this time thrash was poking its way into the metal world showing a deadly increase of speed. Along with that, Venom and Mercyful Fate were still planting the seeds of black metal with Don’t Break the Oath. But Celtic Frost held an original sound that was somewhere in-between, mainly leaning towards the Venom sound. Another thing to add is that this album just isn’t complete without the added EP Emperor’s Return. It really rounds off the album, not to mention has the best Celtic Frost song ever, Circle of Tyrants. The only thing that brings the album down is the sometimes monotone moments that you start feeling by about track 6. But don’t worry it isn’t that bad, its still 84. Maybe around ‘87 is when that feeling started getting annoying, but here it’s still fresh and brutal.
Probably a bit terrifying for back then, Human is a short little intro of moans and screams that runs right into one of the fastest songs on the album and a great little piece of old school thrash, Into the Crypts of Rays. I was surprised when I heard this because all I had heard from Celtic Frost was their slow bludgeoning songs but this had plenty of thrashy type riffs and a nice chorus and goes in-between fast thrashy to midtempo, keeping things interesting. Also note the molestation on the drums from Priestly. “Visions…” have always been a bit boring to me for some reason and is somewhat of a throwaway track.
Dethroned Emperor is more along the lines of what I expected from Celtic Frost, midtempo heavy as fuck metal. They throw around a good riff that first comes around 1:20 throughout the song. Listen to that guitar/bass sound, its completely menacing. This sounds something that upcoming doom/death legends would sit around jamming to. Next is the classic title track, Morbid Tales. It starts off slowly put picks up with a shriek from Tom G. Warrior and keeps up the speedy pace with a nice pre-chorus and the classic “Are you morbid?.” And then it’s over almost as soon as it starts.
Oh god, such unholy guitar tone!!! Procreation (of the Wicked) kicks so much ass with that opening OUGH from Tom to that main riff to the crushing chorus. What the fuck at 3:30 how hardcore/necro is that, some distorted vocals about killing an old man in the background. What an ending. Return to the Eve is something a bit a different, which is not a bad thing… for the most part…; its still gut-busting metal. They take a different approach on the vocals especially in the verses, leaving you with a few “wtf was that” moments. A nice solo thrown in there as well. Speaking of “wtf moments” they throw in this odd female sample toward the end that’s a little unnecessary. If this song didn’t have nice riffs I’d probably skip this song much more often.
All right, after listening to what we have so far, an attempt at atmosphere would end up being laughable after those Return to the Eve episodes. Well Dense Macabre has a fitting title and damn well lives up to it. With just a mixture of chimes and random effects you get a feeling of pure doom, especially 2 minutes into it when they begin adding morbid (whoops) chants and more wind effects. It begins to linger and slightly fades into calm desolate atmosphere… Holy Damn what do we have here. What a song Nocturnal Fear is. It has that slaying opening riff, the speedy kickassness, not to mention the killer solo. In Celtic Frost fashion it slows itself down a bit for some more violent midsection riffage. Everything freezes at 2:00 with just a quiet bass line and then they hit you AGAIN with that opening riff and speediness. Then they go in between midtempo and speediness until it’s all over.
But wait, it isn’t quite done yet. We still have Emperor’s Return.
And thank god we do because here it is, the most punishing Celtic Frost/ Hellhammer song around, Circle of Tyrants. Oh god what a fucking riff we have here. That trademark “UUGHH” kicks this thrasher off the ground and into your bleeding ears. It doesn’t stop there, after this thrashing has exhausted you out for the time being there comes this BRUTAL slow section. Nice drumming and more riffs. The thrash comes back for a good solo and then at 2:55 the most tortured scream I’ve heard. Visual Aggression starts out with a surprisingly more upbeat sound, sort of like Motorhead mixed with Venom but it turns into a thrasher real quick. Nothing to fantastic riff-wise or technical-wise but it has a lot of energy and a cool little break with nice drums. Then there is another gem and a perfect way to end this album, Suicidal Winds. It’s got a nice pace and a crushing riff and speeds up double time for some more headbanging material.
You pretty much have to get Emperor’s Return (if not just for Circle of Tyrants) for the whole sense of “classic” to sink in. If you think you’ve heard it all from your Hellhammer albums you’re very mistaken for this is the much better logical step up from Apocalyptic Raids. They have the formula down on this record and this is the peak of the member’s career. Unfortunately this formula would be exhausted to the point of plain shit after a couple albums and the experimental stuff doesn’t work out either. But why dwell on what will come; this is still ’84 when you listen to this album. So get your hands on this if you can.