Saturday, April 4, 2009

Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales (1984)

In 1984, after a brief existence, Hellhammer was laid to rest and Celtic Frost was born out of its ashes. It was said that nothing more could be accomplished within the limited framework of Hellhammer's sound, especially after the monumental song "Triumph of Death" was unleashed. The truth is that Morbid Tales could, easily, have been released under the Hellhammer name. It sounds a little more professional and polished, but there is no more difference between it and Apocalyptic Raids than is found between Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning, for example.

For anyone that has had any sort of lengthy correspondence with Tom Warrior, you surely know what an insincere and pompous piece of shit that he is, so there is no telling why Hellhammer was really ended. He spent many years speaking ill of that project, so it may be that he was embarrassed by the reputation that had been earned, up to that point, and wanted to start over. One must remember that it was only in recent years, after he saw that there was money to be made off of the Hellhammer name, that Mr. Fischer embraced these old works once more. Whatever the case, this band was no more and Celtic Frost was in its place, releasing the Morbid Tales E.P.

"Into the Crypts of Rays" begins with the screaming of damned souls as they descend into the abyss. This brief intro ends, abruptly, as the song erupts at full speed. This album, typically, gets a lot of praise for being a huge influence on Black and Death Metal, which it was, for the most part. However, it doesn't really hold up to similar releases such as The Return, Endless Pain or even Apocalyptic Raids, which was spawned by the same band that composed this slightly more mature, yet less exciting release.

The next song is "Visions of Mortality". This one begins in a fairly slow manner, being a little sloppy and relaxed. Absent is the murky guitar tone of Hellhammer, replaced by a much crunchier sound. The drumming is more professional, and helps to hold everything together. As for the vocals, they are certainly unique but they lack conviction, at times. They are certainly not dark or evil, in any manner. It sounds more like the slurred speech of a drunken Cronos impersonator. Mr. Fischer makes up for this by butchering every other word, thus making it entertaining in some form. As this song continues, the pace speeds up and the listener is assaulted by many riffs and lead solos.

The next song has been covered a million times and is one of Celtic Frost's better known works. "Procreation (Of the Wicked)" is a mid-paced song that is surrounded by an aura of doom. The vocals are a little better suited for the music on this song, though still not holding a candle to Cronos, Tom Araya, Angelripper, Quorthon, etc. All in all, it works. The demonic voice in the background adds a nice effect to the song as well. This was actually done by Horst Müller. This song never speeds up or changes in pace, at all. It crawls across the murky landscape, leaving a trail of sludge behind it, devouring all in its path.

"Return to the Eve" is next, opening with more typical Celtic Frost riffs. You would almost think that you have already heard this riff, and you're probably right. This song is pretty mid-paced, but still features a few riff changes. This is one of the more interesting songs of the album, until the last minute or so when the brief spoken word part (done by a female) intrudes and kills the feeling, to an extent. Surely, this was inspired by Venom's "Welcome to Hell" and it wasn't much appreciated there, either.

The album nears its conclusion with the very eerie instrumental, "Danse Macabre". This may not sound like much if you're listening to this while at a party or driving down some crowded street, but try immersing yourself in this alone, in the middle of the night. This is like something pulled straight from a nightmare. This actually would have been a very appropriate way to end the album, but perhaps they wanted to pull the listener back from the edge of the abyss before leaving them alone in the darkness.

Unfortunately, "Nocturnal Fear" does nothing to capitalize on the horrific feeling created by the previous song. It rages forward at a high speed, actually sounding very similar to the first song, "Into the Crypts of Rays". As it slows down, it recycles more riffs found elsewhere on the album, particularly from the title track. This isn't terrible, but it seems a bit uninspired. However, after the brilliant instrumental, they get a pass to do whatever they wish to close the album out.

All in all, Morbid Tales is a good E.P., though a definite step down from Satanic Rites and Apocalyptic Raids. Despite its shortcomings (such as the involvement of a scumbag like Tom Fischer) it has earned its place in metal history. While it lacks the aggression and dark atmosphere found on early albums from Slayer, Bathory and Kreator, it maintains an identity of its own and managed to influence many bands that came later.