Home > Music > Celtic Frost – Monotheist (2006)

Celtic Frost – Monotheist (2006)

folderEven compared to the rest of their discography, Celtic Frost’s final album, Monotheist is rather minimalistic and sparse, and I figure that’s on purpose. Much of the material here is reminiscent of earlier Hellhammer/Celtic Frost material dragged screaming through a machine that makes it more intense and in-line with 2006 extreme metal standards; the disadvantage is that it sometimes made songs more formulaic. I suppose it’s a result of the same things that lead to Cold Lake, so maybe the Frost just got lucky in that the trends they decided to follow were… less embarrassing. On the other hand, the overall approach here, as well as some of the material dates back to the obscure 2002 “Prototype” demo, which is allegedly a mess of weird experimentation and nu-metal. If that’s true, then some serious editing must’ve taken place.

Paradoxically for an album that ups the intensity of things, Monotheist is most memorable in its mellow moments. I think much of this comes down to the very types of sounds used – see, for instance, the guitar and bass in the intro of “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh”. Even with the distortion turned down, the hints of it remain, and it creates an effect that is beyond my ability as a writer to describe. The rest of the song is very basic, relying on a massively constrained tonality and two riffs to provide the substrate it works with. The songwriting here is all dynamics, and even those are used for basic quiet-loud-quiet-loud techniques. Despite this, it may be the best song on here.

There is something of a split between these quieter, arguably gentler (if not more upbeat) works and more straight-ahead extreme-ish doom metal, if one laden with spiritual crossovers. The production and mixing is immaculate and perfectly suited towards both purposes, courtesy of Peter Tägtgren and his experience on so many extreme metal albums. Amongst other things, this results in a distinctive guitar tone with a percussive strum and a seeming lack of harmonics. To be fair, the amount of instrumentation at any time on this album is usually fairly low, so the mixing job must have been simple. Add that to the lengthy production time of this album, and we get the reason each sound is so intensely shaped… produced. While this album definitely sounds good, the time spent in production may have (at times) come at expense of the writing. Songs here are definitely less varied than they were on the mid-1980s golden-age material, and while this sometimes isn’t a problem, it does weaken the less powerful riffs that could use counterpoint and further development to strengthen them.

Despite this, Monotheist is very well liked, as it presents a major aesthetic upgrade to the Celtic Frost formula, without substantial changes to the formula, even though it does retain some of the experimentation with instrumentation that the band tried on Into the Pandemonium. It helps that the aforementioned formula was hugely influential and lead to further evolution in almost every genre of metal, even the more accessible ones. With all of this in mind, I’ve found classic Celtic Frost to be a consistent band, if not particularly amazing (although if you look a little back into the Hellhammer days, there is “Triumph of Death”, the greatest trip of 1984). This album peaks higher, even if it has its clunkers.

Highlights: “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh”, “Os Abysmi Vel Daath”, “Obscured”, the Triptych (last 3 tracks)

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  1. 2017/09/30 at 22:04

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