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Celtic Frost - Vanity/Nemesis
Review: A microcosm of the modern time can be found in this album: making the same mistake that drew Black Sabbath into mediocrity, a groundbreaking band tries to gain the same popularity it sees others enjoying on the television screen, and in doing so, makes its expressive music more like the rest, that is to say: not expressive of anything but the mundane concerns that make rock music so vapid in the first place.
As evinced by his confessional book "Are You Morbid?" Tom Warrior (the creative directionfinder of this band) is both enormously talented and self-consciously underconfident; the result is that once his initial creative spurt was over, he tried to reinvent his band as a "success" in the style of modern giants such as Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth, who from 1986-1989 were the most visible bands that were still extremist. Sadly, lifted and tribute riffs from all three make it in here, as well as some slower passages and tediously competent lead guitar that sound like they're lifted from Motley Crue. As with most things, it is easier to memorize the patterns and styles of known success and to execute them proficiently than it is to invent ideas or be perceptive in what one writes about; the former requires diligence and little independent thought, while the latter requires a freedom from diligence (time to think, experience, and err) and extensive independent thought. Europeans fundamentally do not understand American rock styles because they attempt to think through what is essentially image; Americans are accustomed to a society where a book is a great book if it appears to be a great book, which is why "Beloved" is more widely read in schools than "Moby-Dick."
We can see this in the guitar solos here that, like generation- and style-mates Bathory with whom Hellhammer and Sodom invented the nascent death/black metal genres, are ludicrous explosions of pentatonics with portable licks tied together in sequences that are more expressive than those of their American counterparts but, like a quantum physicist telling a joke, are more concerned with accuracy (like a philosopher) than dramatics (like a writer). Plenty of classic heavy metal riff patterns, half-chanted half-sung vocals, and stuffing-beating repetition adorn this album, but it is trying to invent quality art through re-configuration of its aesthetics; you could edit this into an excellent EP because much of the underlying music is quality (remove tribute riffs, detune guitars, add real vocals, remove solos and backing vocals), but because its style is confused, the end product goes nowhere.
In this we can compare Celtic Frost to William S. Burroughs, who after three promising but incomplete attempts was able to distill his life experience into a work of groundbreaking brilliance but afterwards confused stylistic currency with the expression of life and wisdom that more than style made "Naked Lunch" great, and thus produced several unreadable novels with parts of promise the whole could not match.