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A classic with one major obstacle to overcome - 65%

Thrashterpiece86, June 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 1987, 12" vinyl, Noise Records

I really want to give this a higher rating. I truly do. And by all accounts, I should. There’s no denying this album’s status and influence on the extreme metal and avant-garde genres. And, for the most part, it’s easy to see why; it's got some amazing riffs, tight playing, and great experimentation with instruments and song composition. But there is one fatal flaw that almost ruins the album for me, the only experiment on this album that fails miserably: Tom G. Warrior's vocals. Let me set the stage for you a little bit: It's a couple years ago, and I've been a Frost fan for quite a while. I've played my copies of Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion more than a few times. It's at this point that I decide to sample one of the band's more famously eclectic albums in their catalogue, Into The Pandemonium.

The first track, "Mexican Radio," starts up, and I'm instantly impressed. Even though it's a cover, Celtic Frost make it all their own, thrashing it up and throwing in a few random instrumentations (i.e. "more cowbell") for extra flavour. I knew this album had a reputation for being experimental, so these little nuances weren't the least bit surprising. In fact, I though it was a welcome addition to the bands sound; a natural evolution from the subtle symphonic/operatic touches of their previous albums. The band members themselves sound in top form. Tom Warrior's trademark guitar tone cuts razor sharp through the mix; his classic grunting vocal style is on display in full glory, replete with as many "OOH"s, "AAH"s and "HEY"s as any fan could hope for.

So once that groovy little number is done, we get into the next track, "Mesmerized," and again I'm instantly impressed. It starts out with a nice, doom-laden groove, quickly transitions into an almost funk-like section, and then...Tom opens his mouth.

When I heard him sing the first few lyrics, I froze. Any semblance of groove my body was experiencing, foot tapping, head-bobbing, anything at all, instantly ceased. What the fuck did I just hear? It sounded like some whiny, nasally cartoonishly over-the-top vampire! I tried to shake it off, but alas, the song continued...and so did Tom's "singing." As it turns out, on this track and several others on the album, he decided to "experiment" with a new vocal style. And by that, I mean he sounds like Bane slitting his wrists and reading emo poetry through his mask.

Seriously, this vocal choice was so out of fucking left-field that I burst out laughing. I was LAUGHING at Celtic Frost! Not since gazing upon the unspeakable horrors of the "Cherry Orchards" video had I felt such shame, such guilt for a band I admire. And I usually love unique vocal styles in metal; one of my favourite thrash bands, Vio-lence, has a singer that sounds like Invader Zim revved up on bath salts! But Tom's vocals just sound so outlandish, so (almost purposely) over-the-top that they completely pulled me out of the experience. And the worst part is, there really wasn't any reason for this vocal style; Tom's grunting style would have suited this song just fine, seeing how effectively it was used on earlier quasi-symphonic material like "Necromantical Screams." Thankfully this track is a short-lived one, and the raging "Inner Sanctum" starts soon after. As soon as this song kicked in, I felt a wave of relief. This was one of the few songs from the album I'd heard before, and rightfully so; it's a mighty beast of a Frost track with great riffs and a memorable chorus. And the best whiny vampire-vocals to be found! Thank fucking god!

After that slice of thrashy goodness, "Sorrows Of The Moon" begins. Once again, a promising start. I calmly began to think the horrendous vocals were just a one-off deal. But to my horror, as soon as the slow melodic section starts, emo-vampire Tom Warrior rears his ugly head once more. Now I admit that it would make a bit more sense to use "softer" vocals on a track like this, but as before, his performance completely destroys any mood the song may have had.

As the album unfolded before my ears, I began to notice a pattern emerge. A new song would start, and sound very intriguing, indicating various places to go and styles to incorporate. Then Tom would start wailing and groaning like a moron and any momentum the song may have gained would halt in its tracks. This is made even worse on songs like "Babylon Fell," where Tom randomly switches between both vocal styles for no apparent reason. And what really gets me is that almost everything else on this album works in the band's favour. Every experimental twist they add to each song, every subtle musical nuance they incorporate, from operatic back-up vocals to tribal rhythms, it all points to a band maturing and progressing with their career, ready and willing to try new things. Even the really weird stuff like "I Won't Dance" or the instrumental filler "One In Their Pride" sound different and interesting enough to hold your attention. But then here comes Tom Warrior, wailing and moaning like he's getting the best blowjob of his life, pissing away any build up of mood or atmosphere. How he decided to go with such a weird style and think it would work is beyond me. If he would have just stuck to his trademark growl and let the music do all the experimentation, I would probably be hailing this album as a masterpiece.

By the time it was over, I felt somewhat hollow. This album seems like its trying to shine with all its might, but is hampered by one fatal mistake that nearly ruins the whole experience, at least for me. Maybe some time in the future I'll be able to look past this flaw and appreciate the album even more, but for now I just can't. But in spite of what I've said, I still encourage people to check the album out for themselves. After all, it's become an influential landmark for a reason; it certainly sounds like no other metal album I've heard, and definitely has a lot more to offer than that abomination of a follow up, Cold Lake. Maybe you'll be able to look past the vocals on this album, maybe you'll hate them like me, or maybe you'll fall in love with them instantly. Go have a listen and judge for yourself.