Saturday, April 18, 2009

Celtic Frost - Emperor's Return (1985)

Following the success of the Morbid Tales E.P. and their very first tour, Celtic Frost entered Line In Recording Studio, in Zurich, during the second week of April 1985. The result was the Emperor's Return E.P. which was produced by the band. It was released in mid-August 1985 and featured new drummer, Reed St. Mark. The cover art was more in line with Tom's thinking; he saw himself as the demon that was surrounded by his loyal harem. After all, this was his true inspiration to get into music.

"Dethroned Emperor" begins with more slow, thrash riffs. Really, you hear this riff all over Morbid Tales and Emperor's Return, in different forms, as there isn't a whole lot of true variety here. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does take something away from the music. This song manages to create a dark atmosphere with the slow, doom riffs. The solos are nothing special, really, though they add to the eerie feeling being slow and demented. On this song, Tom's groans of death fit in the best, though the scream of "ow!" doesn't suit the aura of darkness.

The next song is one of Celtic Frost's best-known. "Circle of the Tyrants" features a fairly fast pace and some raw thrash riffs that wouldn't have been so out of place on Satanic Rites. There isn't really any sort of dark or evil atmosphere to speak or, but this is a pretty good song to listen to for thrashing out or driving down the highway at high speeds. The middle of the song slows down, considerably, featuring some vocal effects in the background that are intended to sound evil. Actually, the darkest sound on this one is the distant screaming that follows the lead solo.

As "Morbid Tales" starts, it has much more of a rock and roll feeling, sounding like something from Shout At the Devil. There is certainly nothing morbid about this, as it lacks any kind of dark atmosphere. This was something that was also apparent on the earliest Hellhammer demos, Tom's tendency to forget that this is supposed to be metal and not cock rock. Still, the other members manage to hold things together.

The E.P. continues with "Suicidal Winds", which opens with more of the twisted riffing that was made famous on the Hellhammer recordings. There is a certain groove that is found on this song that makes it seem like a leftover track from Apocalyptic Raids or something. The drumming is pretty standard, here, and it makes one wonder why it was so hard for them to find someone. There are faster sections, but Mr. Fischer insisted on keeping the catchy vibe, putting an end to the speed. The drums get a bit more interesting, right before the final lead break. During these sections, the song appears to be building energy yet it keeps returning to the mid-paced riff. There is a lot of potential, here, but it doesn't seem as if it is ever realized. The song ends with some feedback and semi-chaotic sounds, but it pales in comparison to what Slayer was doing around this time.

The final song is "Visual Aggression". This one begins much like "The Third of the Storms". Thankfully, they learned a little bit since then and managed to put a little more energy into this track. The guitar riffs are a lot better, sounding more Metal and less Punk. Still, the influence doesn't seem completely lost.

As I mentioned in the review for Morbid Tales, this material is not so far removed from Hellhammer as to warrant changing the name and trying to distance themselves from that project. It doesn't appear they did that much to differentiate the newer material, as it could have been released under the Hellhammer name and no one would have thought twice about it.

The Emperor's Return E.P. is not as essential as Morbid Tales, for Celtic Frost fans. This is, probably, why the only decent songs from here were added to the US release of their debut E.P. to make it a full-length. Aside from the first song, this is pretty mediocre stuff. I can't exactly recommend this, as one song isn't really worth it. Your best bet is to get the later re-issues of Morbid Tales.