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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.