Celtic Frost – Into the Pandemonium (1987)
Without the novelty of Celtic Frost’s sonic experiments to inform my perception of this album in 1987 (I wouldn’t be born for 5 years, my parents weren’t married yet, computer game programmers couldn’t count on joysticks having more than one button), what really ended up shocking me about Into the Pandemonium was how consonant much of it is. Quite a few experiments on this album had their antecedents on 1985’s To Mega Therion, so even if Into the Pandemonium builds on that part of the Celtic Frost legacy (which it does), what I get from it as a very, very posthumous listener is obviously going to be a bit different than the experiences of someone older and more grizzled.
In the interest of understanding the then new, streamlined Celtic Frost, let’s give the first original track on this album some attention. “Mesmerized” is… something, for sure. For instance, it showcases a more melodic riff style that, if not exactly reminiscent of the most popular rock and metal of the late 1980s, fails to drip with tritones and dissonance to the same degree as the band used to back when they were at least partially Hellhammer. It also introduces Tom Warrior’s “melodramatic” style of vocals, and is especially responsible for me overusing that word in this review. I’m not sure how useful it is to whatever CF is trying to portray in these songs, and I’m not exactly sure I even approve, but it sets a mood, and a precedent for future tracks. If cut loose from their adornments, the songs on this album would make for a rather less menacing and extreme Celtic Frost.
Inevitably, when someone complains of a metal band not being as heavy as they used to be, someone else jumps out of the peanut gallery to insist that heaviness and brutality are not the sole determinants of worth in this world. In the spirit of cliches, I’ve made it a goal to assess whether Into the Pandemonium can hold up in spite of its reduced intensity, and my answer probably goes along the lines of “Sort of?”. The kitchen sink of guest roles are mildly interesting for the first few listens, but they don’t really add much content to the songs. There are a few good exceptions, like the successful grafting of symphonics onto “Rex Irae”, or “Inner Sanctum”, which is basically a throwback to previous Celtic Frost. It probably comes down to personal taste, but what really highlights this album’s weaknesses is the fact that so many other bands took any good ideas these songs had and used them in their own work. Time marches on, folks!
Highlights: “Inner Sanctum”, “I Won’t Dance”, “Rex Irae”