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Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here - 100%

televiper11, March 14th, 2012

Few bands have practiced the dark arts with such alacrity as Celtic Frost. Their music spans deep divisions, alters dimensions, and supplants structures that they themselves had a heavy hand in creating. They are the elder gods, transcendent. They have stumbled, they have fallen. Having wielded power beyond most bands imaginings, they sank into derision before vanishing into dormancy, recultivating, awaiting the right moment to arise through flame and supplant those who dared worship at the altar of others. Monotheist undoes years of damage with a dark tongue. It is a monolithic statement on the enduring quality of transcendent art and a testament to those few restless souls unafraid to embrace it.

Few bands have crafted a legacy as enduring and encompassing as the almighty Frost. Their crude initial outbursts as Hellhammer formulated thrash and death metal. Morbid Tales embraced a radical template for experimentation in speed and groove. To Mega Therion forged a doom different from those intent on gimmicking Sabbath. And Into The Pandemonium demonstrated a crystalline dedication to outside influence and experimentation that ultimately wrecked the band. That said, the linear evolution left long ley-lines of influence, gathering nearly all forms of crude, heavy, aggressive music under one ever-altering banner. With Monotheist, Celtic Frost discards all failed experiments to once again stand alone on a precipice of excellence few bands ever dare approach.

As always, Frost challenge themselves. The music recorded here is fuckin' bleak and harrowing, laced with tension and a darkened atmosphere against which few others can truly compare. This is true doom: end-of-the-world within music, despairing and transgressive at once -- catharsis through heaviness and earnest emotion, the wrestling with themes and feelings beyond oneself. Martin Ain and Tom G. Warrior have crafted lyrics resonant of poetry and philosophy without sinking into pretentious trappings of pseudo-intellectual nihilism -- there is transcendence here, a working through pain and grief via auditory incantation: an exorcism recorded.

The music is vicious and snapping. The guitars snarl like mutant hellhounds, cutting across wide swaths of aggressive, repetitive chord figures. Threading the needle of blackened textures that weave darkened beauty into dementedly heavy chugging grooves has become a Tom G. Warrior specialty. The riffing on this record is so far removed from Morbid Tales and yet it sings singularly of Frost. Martin Ain's bass is cranked deep and rumbling, his voice shading in terrified harmony behind Tom's varied vocalizing. The drums are are especially noteworthy, hitting resonant tribal rhythms akin to Goths set loose in Rome.

The songwriting is dense and complex, embracing strains of avant-garde classical, ambient, and industrial passages that sing out for a moment and then scatter, reintegrated into the moribund heaviness like the last gasp of a dying civilization under the tramping foot of an unstoppable army. Tom's duet with Lisa Middelhauve on "Drowned In Ashes" is hauntingly beautiful; as is the divine "Incantation Against You," with its soft Gregorian choral work undergirding Simone Vollenweider's ethereal singing. Entirely acapella, this track flirts with Dead Can Dance level gothic beauty. But such beauty is fleeting beneath the punishing wrath of such tracks as "Progeny," "Ground," & "Os Abysmi Vel Daath" -- twisted compositions of charnel house horror with superbly punishing riffs and hypnotic vocal invocations. These tracks are a fresh twist on an ancient sound: Celtic Frost 2.0 and beyond.

In recognition of their own dormancy, Frost aggregates their influences as well, handing listeners a complex aural knot of mutual reciprocation: "Temple Of Depression" sounds almost exactly like Coroner circa Grin, just darker and heavier, like an admission to the fact that the greater Frost sound is actually a darkening strain of DNA against which few have managed to innoculate themselves. So if you hear shades of other bands on here, don't think Frost unoriginal. The mythical alchemists have returned to transmute what others have accomplished in their absence. And in doing so, they have (with one quick sweep of the hand) brushed the majority of their peers and followers aside. Monotheist is a dark masterpiece of the highest order and one of the greatest metal records of all-time.