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Welcome, gentlemen. - 98%

Absit_Omen, December 20th, 2007

After a long anticipated hiatus, the legendary Celtic Frost has returned to the studio and is shattering all the limits of the heavy metal world again. Let’s go back twenty years to one the band’s previous full lengths, Into the Pandemonium, first of all. The album was a strong statement and change of form that managed to pin an ‘avant-garde’ tag on the grimy surface of the metal world. That peppy, balls to the wall thrash metal outlook is long since gone.

In seventeen years, headman, Tom G. Warrior has cut his hair, and ditched his stage name. Fischer has risen from the ashes of Warrior and he has brought along a completely new style to Celtic Frost… gothic metal. While gothic metal is typically noted for its beauty and usage of heavy symphonics and alluring female vocals, this is not to be seen in Monotheist. Rather, Celtic Frost has chosen to yet again reinvent a prominent genre of music and reshape metal, as we know it.

The album begins with the spine tingling screech of Fischer’s severely distorted and down tuned guitar before tearing into a powerfully deceiving thrash riff. This song is Progeny and is easily the most comparable to Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion days. The fast paced thrash music quickly dissolves to expose a far colder and darker core that the legendary band has never once touched on before.

The remaining tracks take the listener on a monster of a roller coaster ride with underlying ambience and precise instrumentals that aren’t made to please the common person, but to rather aid in conveying this message of isolation and depression that the band has never been daring enough to express before. The album’s only single, A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh, features eerie, but beautiful vocal work by bassist, Martin Eric Ain with an underlying repetitious melody by Fischer on guitar that quickly shatters the harmony just as it sustained it and breaks into a heavy, doom track. In addition to this single and the opener, Progeny, Monotheist delivers several ambient as well as punching doom songs that could almost bring the listener to their knees in fear.

The album at last closes with the fiendish three tracks dubbed the “triptych” of the album (much in the vain of macabre artist, Heironymus Bocsh). First is Tottengott, which plays on heavy distortion and almost prayer like shouts by Ain. This track plays calmly into the real beast of the album, Synagoga Satanae, a fourteen minute long ride of pure paranoia and regret accompanied by some of the heaviest riffs on the album and even some German prayer chants by Ain. This track slowly breaks down and fades into the final blow, Winter which is a soft and melodic orchestral piece that is made to place the image of the dust finally clearing on the wasteland as the chaos at last dissipates.

The simple message that the album expresses on its own, without the aid of members’ explanation is this: Monotheist doesn’t care about anything but itself. This is a completely new direction for Celtic Frost, a direction that has proven that texture and atmosphere speaks louder than a catchy riff. It certainly takes an acquired taste, but that’s precisely what the band intended from the start.

Fischer has matured (which is apparent by his shortened hair and rejected stage name), as have his lyrics. Celtic Frost has always been a band in the past to incorporate dark concepts of philosophy and history into their lyrical themes, but this goes completely beyond that and emphasizes the despairing, fragile individual. Loosely a concept album, Monotheist describes the despair in losing faith and turning to what you most hate, simply out of desperation and not definite belief.

To summarize, Monotheist is not for the typical fan of Celtic Frost and certainly not for the typical listener in general. Rather, Monotheist is there to pierce through the sunny exterior of your being and it wants to linger menacingly in your mind. It is isolated and cold and it wants the listener to feel the same way. While the tracks are generally slow paced and somewhat repetitive at times, the album makes up in sheer expressive quality and in carving a new name into the stone fortress walls of gothic/doom metal… That is Celtic Frost.

The living legends that rose from the ashes of the pivotal Hellhammer are back and better than ever. They’re back in a far different sense and they want to see you quiver in fear. After years of anticipation, Celtic Frost has lived up to the hype and still stands tall as a truly unique and fresh metal band that doesn’t intend on throwing in the towel yet.