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Celtic Frost - Into the Pandemonium
Review: When civilizations collapse, an intermediate stage manifests itself where all of the abilities and many of the ideas of a greater past persist, but the organization that united them is gone, and thus the whole resembles a television as seen by a drug addict on the nod on a nearby couch: disconnected visions shuttering between data so irrelevant to any whole concept that in retrospect it appears as grey, ashen, television static noise.
Into the Pandemonium is exactly this in that it has three songs that approximate the intensity of older works, and then the bulk of it which have moments of the same greatness lost in a diffusion of focus brought about by doubt of style and intent to reach for a new height, yet being unable to control its new style to the degree it could direct the older, more rugged material could be. It has left behind the unselfconscious channeling of emotions and thoughts that were other works, and has entered a postmodern phase of self-awareness that leads to deliberately stylized and "different" impulses among the raw pathos for which the band is legendary. Some might say this is merely an intrusion of art rock, but it occurs simultaneously with a heightening of elements of aesthetic -- introduction of more backing vocals, vocal styles, classical interludes and guitar fills -- and while these in themselves are welcome, they indicate a shift toward Celtic Frost observing their older works and trying to dress them up as something new. Riff changes are slightly more abrupt and without foreshadowing and there are more passages where invariant repetition is disguised with female voices or Tom Warrior moaning like a rent boy; some riffs seem simplified at the same time they become more like the stadium heavy metal background this band originally was hellbent to escape.
Kept at faster but still mid-paced tempos, with a friendly bounce throbbing from the drumkit at all times, many of these songs will have a pair of excellent riffs -- subtle yet revealing like a cranial x-ray, a mixture of rhythmic directions and contrast between chromatic and melodic intervals -- but then fade out into directionless muffled strumming in linear repetition. Re-mixes and alternate versions of several of these tracks do not, like the Etape I-III on Kraftwerk's Tour De France Soundtracks, reinforce depth of concept with a geometry of multiple views, but bore into us repetitively. While the ideas here are good, they have not been mulled in the minds of these artists over time, and have an air of temporary or hasty construction; where older Celtic Frost was a suburb of hell, this is a trailer park on the dark side of purgatory, and the band are hanging out on the stoop in white undershirts stained with sweat, scratching their hairy bellies and belching.
It is not much of a surprise when an electronic track appears, followed by a song on which an actual diva makes her presence known in a style better adapted to techno than metal. What is surprising is the quality of much of the material on here, both traditional metal and operatic-vocal enhanced tracks, if one can see past the confusion, and how much better this album could have been with some quality editing. On the whole however it is distracted and unfinished enough, as well as clearly polluted with mainstream heavy metal in what looks like classic envy of the more popular bands, such that those who want to like Celtic Frost should seek earlier works.