From the opening, rampagingly heavy riffs of "Progeny", it's obvious that the legendary Celtic Frost are back, and back with a vengeance. The band that brought such classic albums as Morbid Tales, To Mega Therion, and Into the Pandemonium back in the 1980's, return with Monotheist, their brand new release on Century Media Records. Tom Gabriel Fischer and Martin Eric Ain are once again at the helm, along with new drummer Franco Sesa, and the band sounds envigorated and ready to once again take their place atop the extreme metal pile, now some 20+ years after inititally breaking onto the scene. Monotheist contains eleven songs, many of them fairly lengthy, allowing the band to pummel the listener with brutally heavy and doomy guitar riffs, as well as moments of speed metal urgency and plenty of the avant-garde experimentation that the band has been famous for. It's a welcome return to say the least.
Produced by the band alongside help from Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtgren, Monotheist really packs a punch from a production standpoint, as the guitars sound larger than life, the vocals powerful and menacing, and the rhythms tight and crisp. "Progeny" and "Ground" kick off the album, each piece being snarling heavy metal numbers with beefy guitars and Tom's raging vocals. The spooky and atmospheric "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh" sees the band once again capturing that avant-garde and progressive element that they were successfully able to execute back in the day when no other extreme bands were trying material of this nature. With dark spoken word vocals and textured guitar work at the intro, the band then crashes in with brutally heavy and doomy guitar dirges and the most evil sounding vocals from Fischer that he has yet to lay down on any album, perhaps thanks to some prodding from Tagtgren who is no slouch in that department. Ain's huge bottom heavy bass and Sesa's pounding drums also add to the ominous nature of this piece. "Drown in Ashes" features lovely female vocals alongside Fischer's more melodic style, the piece itself a slow paced and atmospheric number with a slight gothic edge, which then segues into the piledriver "Os Abysmi Vel Daath", another avant-garde song that combines experimentation with doomy power chords and a variety of vocal styles from Fischer, who also once again comes up with some of the most sinister and evil guitar riffs around.
Progressive and gothic rock take center stage on the almost King Crimson meets David Bowie-ish "Obscured", complete with plenty of tortured vocals, wild guitar passages, and haunting atmospherics. On "Domain of Decay" the band approaches almost Black Sabbath intensity, with dark and menacing riffs, deep and heavy grooves, and Fischer's angry shouts, and then they switch gears for the thrashy "Ain Elohim", which gives Sesa plenty of room to show off his flashy side with raging double bass drums and wicked fills.
The two-part "Triptych" is a chilling and demented epic, with "Totengott" kicking things off in true black metal fashion, with an assortment of evil screams and spoken word from Fischer, brooding atmosphere, and effective percussion, before the band blasts in with the lengthy "Synagoga Satanae". Fourteen minutes of death & destruction, as the band moves from eerie sound effects to pummeling doom metal, thanks to the huge wall of riffery created by Fischer and Ain. The album closes on a somber note with the calming "Winter", an instrumental that is all classical soundscapes which provide a quiet outro to this very heavy album.
I think that last statement sums things up perfectly-this is a very heavy album, heavier than the band has ever recorded, and I think more brutal than most fans would have expected. There's plenty of different styles here, as the band seems to have channelled an almost Into the Pandemonium "part 2" sort of feel, but much heavier. Any way you slice it, it's a triumph from one of the most beloved metal bands of the last few decades. Welcome back guys!
1) Progeny (5:04)
2) Ground (3:56)
3) A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh (5:40)
4) Drown in Ashes (4:24)
5) Os Abysmi Vel Daath (6:42)
6) Obscured (7:05)
7) Domain of Decay (4:39)
8) Ain Elohim (7:34)
9) Totengott (4:28)
10) Synagoga Satanae (14:25)
11) Winter (requiem, Chapter Three: Finale) (4:33)