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Morbid - 75%

Felix 1666, March 22nd, 2018

I don't exactly know why, but to me it always seemed as if "Emperor's Return" was doomed to live a tough life in the shadow of "Morbid Tales". Maybe the shock effect of the first EP could not be created again. Okay, already Hellhammer had attacked with uttermost ugliness, but only after the change of name, Tom G. Warrior and his partners in crime (rest in peace, Martin E. Ain) received bigger attention. Moreover, the ridiculous artwork was not helpful in order to promote the EP. Anyway, "Emperor's Return" marks a very solid work. In hindsight, it can be understood as the logical link between "Morbid Tales" and "To Mega Therion", because it combines elements of both outputs. It's not as raw as "Morbid Tales" and it does not possess the opulence of tracks such as "Necromantical Screams" from their first full-length. Nevertheless, five regular tracks form a compact unit and the listener is not confronted with weird experiments like "Danse Macabre" or "Tear in a Prophet's Dream".

The most popular track is certainly "Circle of the Tyrants" due to its brutal yet catchy main riff and additionally in view of the fact that this roughshod anthem was also part of the following album. Here we have the slightly weaker version with some dubious voice effects, but there can be no question that exactly songs like this one are the reason why Hellhammer / Celtic Frost became such an influential formation for later generations of metal musicians. It connects bitterness with desperation and darkness while its musical frame finds the balance between accessibility and excitement. However, I admit that I prefer "Morbid Tales" (the track), because its dynamic and almost smooth up-tempo parts impress me. The screams of Warrior prove evidence that he can say more than just "Ugh" and he asks the mother of all questions: "Are you morbid?" Well, guess I have to add a "yes" here.

But the band itself is definitely more morbid. The ironclad, heavyweight guitars deliver some very degenerated tones and it comes as no surprise that thousands of death and black metal standard-bearers refer to the Swiss trio when it comes to their inspiration. Celtic Frost's early works satisfy the needs of both sides. Of course, don't expect filigree contours. It's a very rumbling approach that they offer, but exactly the non-perfect production lends the EP an authentic touch. The cold lake was still light years away and even the avant-garde sounds of "Into the Pandemonium" did not yet play a role. Celtic Frost were raw, honest and headstrong. In particular the stubborn solos mirrored the very individual demeanor of the three dudes. In my humble opinion, it was to their advantage that they had grown up in a very isolated surrounding where external influences were rare. No doubt, albeit "Emperor's Return" does not mark a milestone in the history of the band, it reflects the innovative strength and the originality of the legend very well.

Thought I'd like this? - 58%

gasmask_colostomy, August 15th, 2016

Well, think again. Celtic Frost are one of those bands that everyone seems to pay homage to or love in a totally slavish way and despite giving the Swiss gents the benefit of the doubt for 7 years (I bought this EP and Morbid Tales a looooong time ago), I've never been able to understand either of those views.

Ok, so I exaggerate slightly about not being able to understand why Celtic Frost are important, but Venom went down the extreme path a good few years before, while Bathory had an album out by 1984 that treads a lot of the same circles as early Frost releases. All that aside, this is really not something I would choose to listen to beyond mere curiosity or musical scholarship. I have never once said to myself "I feel like listening to Celtic Frost right now" and there's good reason too. In the first place, I'm not a big fan of the way they play metal. Sure, there are elements of thrash, speed, and nascent extreme metal, but that guitar tone is pure swill, too low and gritty to make the faster riffs sound sharp and exciting, while the slower parts would work if they had atmosphere or direction to them - which, however, they don't. For a doom/sludge album, maybe, but not for this. Then, there are Tom G Warrior's "revolutionary" vocals, which are so frayed and ugly he sounds like he's drunk too much at the pub and is talking to himself as he wanders home, occasionally bumping into things and letting out a sudden exclamation (that's the death grunts if you were wondering).

Sometimes it works, like on the clearly impressive verses of 'Circle of the Tyrants', but then the sound of that guitar as it shifts chords - usually straight up or straight down in an infuriatingly obvious way - spoils the enjoyment of other parts, plus the fact that a lot of transitions seem to happen at random. The lurching, abrupt nature of a lot of the riffs and introductions really gets on my nerves, particularly some of the speed metal riffs that are just there, while the slower chugging riffs are sometimes alright, although the bass is pretty annoying during the one from 'Morbid Tales'. The solos are fairly impressive, usually shredding through quickly and unexpectedly, but again they emerge from absolutely nowhere and their reason for inclusion seems to be "because we can", not for any real purpose. Considering all that, you would think I had some issues with the drumming too; however, hats off to Reed St Mark because his performance is genuinely great to listen to, playing with a good feel for the dual pace of the band and never stepping on anyone's toes.

Despite the fact that I've mostly been shitting on Emperor's Return, I should point out that it has some worth, especially if you're immune to the ridiculousness of Warrior's voice and the misused guitar tone. There's atmosphere at times, which that sludgy tone can provide when it's bent into darker shapes, while some of the faster riffs are pretty exciting, if some one accepts that some are predictable too. My favourite and most despised parts of this release both come on the same song, since the latter part of 'Dethroned Emperor' has a nice lick added to the chugging riff and a great death doom section, though nothing can redress the sins of Warrior mutilating the title with horrible stress, so that it becomes "dethRONEd emPEror". That and the arduous opening riff are rubbish, while I'm only inclined to say the rest of the EP is alright, not great.

Ssstay awhile. Ssstay forever. - 90%

autothrall, February 2nd, 2012

Snakes and ladies. When you get right down to it, they're the building block of civilizations. Morals. Faiths, or at least one faith. We might not all have lives blessed with the same caliber of coiled demons and chained, moppy headed (or bald) punk harlots who confront us from the cover of Celtic Frost's second EP, Emperor's Return, but I can't have been the only young teenager to have felt a strange seduction at the sight. Fortunately, this packs more than a mere penis pump, but a notable stride forward in the quality and style that were introduced through Hellhammer's Apocalyptic Raids and its direct precursor, the 1984 release Morbid Tales. Sharpened, polished, call it what you will, but Emperor's Return is responsible for at least one of the best cuts in this Swiss band's repertoire, and one of the grooviest, darkest hymns in all of 80s thrash.

Perhaps the writing here represents one of the most marginal evolutions in the Tom G. Warrior canon, for the riffing structure is not a far cry from previous tracks like "Return to the Eve" or "Procreation (Of the Wicked)". I found the production on these five tunes to sound less ruddy, though that strangely grisly and fulfilling guitar tone remains intact. Simple and effective chord sequences which rarely deviate from the band's prior curriculum, but they seem to bear a bolder sense of darkness, an inescapable and suffocating sense of being stuffed into a crypt where the dead dance by day and necromantic rituals and forsaken eros are performed by the few traces of moonlight that filter through the stone cracks of the ceiling. What I'm trying to express in such crowded and colorful hues is that Emperor's Return rocks: pretty much from the first notes of "Dethroned Emperor" to the faster paced speed/dirt of "Visual Aggression", you are getting your ass kicked.

"Circle of the Tyrants" is my favorite of this lot, and arguably the band's career highlight, fully cognizant of the punk and hardcore aesthetics that informed Frost's roots, with a percussive use of chorus to split the verses, and some of their most immense grooves, like the dark and potent riff that erupts about 1:40 into the tune. As usual, Tom G. Warrior places just the right amount of echo on his vocals so he seems to be drifting into your ears from the dust of decay, and there are also some garbled pitch shifted incantations here which add nicely to the context. "Morbid Tales" features a prominent, thudding bass courtesy of Martin Eric Ain, and another classic, unforgettable heavy palm mute in the verse riff, with some of Warrior's unmistakable rock star swagger in the 'ows' and 'yeahs' found therein. Reed St. Mark offers a more muscular double bass in the bridge of the track, and overall I'd consider the drums more consistent and rock solid than those of Morbid Tales, and Celtic Frost proves yet again why they're so influential upon the decades of extreme metal to follow.

The latter tracks on the EP like "Suicidal Winds" and "Visual Aggression" have always held a slightly less important place in my memory than the first three, though they've also got a more grimy interface and rely on some of the faster riffing that I wasn't always so thrilled with on the first EP. In a way, the grooves that often manifest in Frost tunes would not be so effective without a change up from this almost pure dirtcore momentum (the NY band Sheer Terror would later channel this into excellence on their classic LP Just Can't Hate Enough), but I just never found the note sequences to be so enduring. That said, both of the tunes are admittedly consistent in disposition to the forerunners, and they certainly don't break the 21 minutes of bludgeoning, grooving and driving momentum.

Hands down, Emperor's Return is the best of Celtic Frost's non full-length fare (unless you're experiencing it in conjunction with the first EP on the CD reissue), and the ramp up towards the band's most brilliant album. Normally it might lose a little luster in the fact that "Circle of the Tyrants" would also appear on To Mega Therion, but I honestly prefer this less atmospheric version for its earthly charms, and alongside "Dethroned Emperor" and "Morbid Tales" it belongs on any highlight reel of their stronger work. I also love the cover art, the immortal lyrics ("are you morbid?"), and the truly oblique atmosphere the band is able to evoke through the riffing and bare minimum of other effects: it feels tangibly, invariably evil, like the musings of a mummified despot who longs to slake his thirst on the sanguine essence of the world once more. Whether you've got an original tape or LP or picture disc or you're loving it up alongside its older sibling, it belongs wherever there is good taste. Blood and concubines optional.


A classic all its own. - 93%

reignmaster, August 21st, 2009

It is a very sad fact that when certain non-informed metal fans are asked about Celtic Frost's second EP "Emperor's Return", the collective response is a very loud and infuriating "What?"
While that response may cause true metallers to tear their hair out in frustration, cooler heads will find it quite understandable. After all, "Emperor's Return" was often released in tandem with "Morbid Tales", therefore fusing them into one album. However, it should be noted that this second EP by itself is a standout contender. While it may not have the instant classic status of "Morbid Tales", "Emperor's Return" is still able to capture its fair share of attention.

The music itself is done in the traditional early Celtic Frost style, which means a plethora of crushingly heavy riffs mixed with faster guitar work. Opener "Dethroned Emperor" is about as heavy as Celtic Frost ever got. From the opening riff to the guitar solo to Tom Warrior's sinister vocals, this song encapsulates Celtic Frost like few others do. "Circle of the Tyrants" provides a bit more variety but is ultimately eclipsed by its slightly longer (and better) version on "To Mega Therion". Still a good example of how songs evolve over time.

It is strange to see the song "Morbid Tales" on "Emperor's Return", especially when that song was not on the original pressing of the "Morbid Tales" EP. Despite this anomaly, the song rages, and includes that classic line (Are you morbid?) "Suicidal Winds" and "Visual Aggression" also follow the same blueprint of downtuned thrash with catchy riffs.

"Emperor's Return" is essential Celtic Frost despite its obscurity when compared to titans like "Morbid Tales" and "To Mega Therion". The music is first-rate and a must have for any CF fan, whether die-hard or casual.

And with the return of the emperor came tyranny - 88%

Gutterscream, April 20th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1985, 12" vinyl, Noise Records (Silver labels)

“What will the wind bring these days?”

The wind? Gale force wind of a Pacific typhoon would explode with a double hernia trying to lift the cavernous, molten din of Morbid Tales, and may very well be suicidal.

During the hiatus between the debut ep/lp and To Mega Therion, it was decided a five-song ep would stave the hunger of Frost hordlings and perhaps give their new drummer a little more time to get acquainted with an over-the-top metal clamor that was about as well-traveled as the northern most tip of Greenland. Session drummer Stephen Priestly would decline an invitation to pound skins for the band on a eternal basis, but it is said all it took was a thirty second display of Reed St. Mark’s prowess for him to get the job.

So it had two tracks from Morbid Tales on it (we Americans were spoiled as we already had these songs on our Metal Blade-released version) – didn’t matter, it had three new songs, and for fans who slept with Morbid Tales under their pillows, they were worth their weight in blue twisted steel. Besides, there was always hope of an unannounced difference in the original versions.

Unfortunately, “Dethroned Emperor” and “Morbid Tales” weren’t revamped, but for the tenderfoot Frost listener they are a sheer example of the trio’s lust for titanic slog, bludgeoning force, and fatalistic lyrics puked forth by one of the first vocal dins resembling death metal. The diabolical Phil “whatever happened to him?” Lawvere cover artwork wasn’t something you were going to flip by in a yawn, either.

To Mega Therion would be a few months away from release, so “Circle of the Tyrants” wasn’t yet the Frost national hymn it would later become, and with most notably the famous establishing riff played faster, the hellish background bellowing textured a bit differently, and a tad more echo slanting Tom’s lungs, the versions are only a few nuances apart. “Visual Aggression” would be the trio’s most rabid speed track as well as Mark’s public trial by fire and the band’s speed quotient for the millennium. Perhaps one of Frost’s most forgotten tracks prior to Into the Pandemonium is “Suicidal Winds”, plugged with a slew of tactical, moderately-paced rhythms, a great discordant Tom Warrior noise solo (patent pending), and even supplies more of the anti-drone that “Visual Aggression” sonically paraded with.

Okay, the production isn’t as meaty and thick as on the debut, but it’s obvious when To Mega Therion hit the racks (and God-fearing people gasped), this is the sound route the band had intended. For the avant-garde and majestic atmosphere Frost had prepared for their sophomore effort, it probably needed it.

My fave Celtic Frost... - 90%

Snxke, July 10th, 2004

Celtic Frost made quite the little EP with this record. While it lacks the speedy violence of the Hellhammer material, it's "hell's furnace" sound never worked better than it did on this record. I don't really "like" or "dislike" Celtic Frost, as I find MOST of it to be Hellhammer watered down like the beer at a terrible bar, or cocaine cut with mostly baby-ass-powder. This still manages though, in it's playing and capture a certain mood and darkness that made a large impact. The band here is thick, aggressive and on the ball! The musicianship and production are better than Hellhammer...but the mood is more relaxed and the songwriting a bit less extreme.

"Dethroned Emperor" and all of the other tracks just clobber like a punch-drunk boxer with arms of steel. It grumbles and stumbles but does so gloriously, as if it were a machine slowly smashing steel plated together. Tom put together his best tracks post-Hellhammer here, and I can say nothing but good things about them. It's doomy, it's's brutal! Tommy may not have matched the evil of Hellhammer, but he did create a mood of darkness and doom previously untouched.

If I have to tell people to buy ONE EP it's this one. It's meaty thickness and vile mood show a classier side to doom-black metal that was rarely show before, or after this release. I could honestly give a fuck about Tom G. Warriors work after this...and you'd be foolish to pass it by. It certainly works for what it is...possibly influencing more doom-black styled metal than any other band before them.

You know...that's some neato artwork there too.