Thursday, October 14, 2010

Celtic Frost

Biography :

Celtic Frost was a heavy metal band from Zürich, Switzerland. They are known for their heavy influence on the extreme metal genres, particularly black metal. The group was first active from 1984 to 1993, and re-formed in 2001. Following Tom Gabriel Fischer's departure in 2008, Celtic Frost decided to break up again. The band was inspired by heavy metal groups such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Venom but also by gothic rock acts like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Christian Death and the hardcore punk group Discharge.

History :

Formation (1984-1985)

Celtic Frost's former frontman, guitarist and singer Tom Gabriel Fischer, adopted the alias Tom Warrior. With Steve Warrior on bass, he formed one of the earliest extreme metal bands, Hellhammer, in 1982. Steve Warrior was later replaced by Martin Eric Ain - also a pseudonym. The band attracted a small international fan-base, got signed to Noise Records in Germany and recorded their debut EP Apocalyptic Raids in March 1984, now a rare finding on e-Bay or second hand record stores around the world.

By May 1984, Hellhammer had disbanded. Fischer and Ain, along with session drummer Stephen Priestly, regrouped as Celtic Frost. Their 1984 debut mini-LP, Morbid Tales was a hit in the underground metal scene, and the band set out on its first tour, through Germany and Austria. This was followed with an EP "Emperor's Return". Both early releases are now available on the one CD.

Continued success (1985-1987)

One of their more influential recordings was 1985's "To Mega Therion" which did not feature Ain on bass, but stand-in Dominic Steiner. Ain did return after the album was recorded however. In 1987 followed Into the Pandemonium. These albums were some of the pivotal LPs for underground metal and inducted a new and more varied sound. Celtic Frost, along with Venom and Bathory were pioneers in the still underground black metal scene, although Celtic Frost were much more experimental with the addition of classical instruments, operatic female vocals and sampling. They were often given the title of avant-garde metal.

Stylistic changes, internal struggles, and first breakup (1987-1993)

After a subsequent North American tour (which saw the addition of a second guitarist, Ron Marks to the groups ranks), financial trouble, personal tension between the band members and an ill-fated relationship with their record label led to a complete dissolution of the band. Six months later, Warrior decided to reform the band with Stephen Priestly back on drums, Oliver Amberg on guitars and Curt Victor Bryant on bass. The resulting album Cold Lake was a disappointment to most of the group's established fan-base but achieved notable success in the North American market. Bryant fired Amberg and former live guitarist Ron Marks returned as a guest for the recording of Vanity/Nemesis in 1990. The most significant change, however, was the return of early bassist Martin Eric Ain. But Celtic Frost's reputation did not fully recover. The group's next (and, as it would turn out, last for several years) album was a collection of rare and unreleased recordings called Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying (1992). The compilation's title was inspired by an old Roman prayer. It featured unreleased material, re-recorded versions of older songs and some studio session versions, closing the chapter on one of the most important underground and experimental bands of all time.

A final album titled "Under Apollyon's Sun" never eventuated under that title, although Fischer co-founded a new group called Apollyon Sun.

Post-breakup (1993-2001)

Several years following the disbanding of Celtic Frost, and after quite some time spent away from the music industry, Fischer co-founded a new group called Apollyon Sun with his close friend Erol Unala on guitars in the mid-1990s and recorded an EP God Leaves (And Dies) and a full-length album Sub. Although clearly based on Celtic Frost's dark and more adventurous music, Apollyon Sun was an industrial metal project. During his hiatus from music, Fischer had also finished work on an autobiographical book, called Are You Morbid?, which was published by London-based Sanctuary Publishing to fan acclaim in 2000.

Reunion (2001-2008)

In late 2001, Fischer and Ain began to write music together again, along with Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, experienced Swiss drummer Franco Sesa (also known within the group as the Inverted Cross). The aim was to develop and record a new, very dark and heavy album. The completion of the project took far longer than anticipated (in part due to the DIY nature of the project and the project's financing) but finally resulted, in late 2005, in what Fischer and Ain describe as "perhaps the darkest album Celtic Frost have ever recorded", based on a combination of the musical aura of To Mega Therion and Into The Pandemonium.

The newest and seventh Celtic Frost album was financed by the group itself through its own imprint, Prowling Death Records, and publishing imprint, Diktatur des Kapitals. Prowling Death Records originally was the self-founded underground label which released the Hellhammer demos and managed Hellhammer's career in 1983 and 1984. The album was produced by Celtic Frost with Peter Tägtgren (of Bloodbath/Hypocrisy/Pain fame) and mixed by Fischer and Ain. Celtic Frost and Prowling Death Records subsequently entered into a worldwide licensing deal with Century Media Records. The album, titled "Monotheist", was released on May 30, 2006.

On May 29, 2006, Celtic Frost embarked on the most extensive tour of the band's career, the "Monotheist Tour", initially headlining festivals (e.g. the Wacken Open Air festival, in front of an audience of 50,000) across Europe the United States and Canada in 2006, and the group's first ever shows in Japan in January 2007. In early 2007 the European leg of the tour took place and a return to the United States as a special guest to Type O Negative. Further festival appearances and concerts followed in mid-2007.

On stage, Celtic Frost play with an additional tour guitar player. This position was initially filled by Anders Odden (Cadaver, Apoptygma Berzerk, Magenta), now by V Santura (of Dark Fortress).

In early 2007, Celtic Frost began writing material for a new album, possibly due for release in 2008.

Metalunderground posted a statement from Tom Fischer regarding the new album.

"Only a few hours until I am to depart to Norway for a few weeks to participate in the production of a black metal project with close friends and peers. In early March I shall return to Switzerland to take further steps towards the realization of my own black metal/doom side project, the idea for which has taken an increasingly defined shape during the past months."

Fischer spoke to Spanish metal webzine Hall of Metal recently about new material: "I’m actually working on a new album of Celtic Frost and I think it’s going to be really extreme and dark. Celtic Frost has its own style, its own sound and it expresses a lot of emotions. The music I write shows the state of my life, and now I feel very comfortable with such dark music."

As of Celtic Frost's announcement of their second breakup in September 2008, there is no talk of recording and releasing the new album.

Second breakup and Triptykon (2008-present)

Fischer tendered his resignation from Celtic Frost on April 9, 2008, with this message displayed on the band's official website:

"Celtic Frost singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer has left Celtic Frost due to the irresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile, and ambitious."

Bassist Ain stated that the band was "still alive, albeit in a coma of sorts." He went on further to say that the remainder of the band is "not going to continue recording or touring," saying this "would be preposterous" without Fischer. Fischer has himself gone on to form a new band called Triptykon, featuring Celtic Frost touring guitarist V Santura, original Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark (although he has since departed and was replaced by Norman Lonhard), as well as bassist Vanja Slajh. Fischer has also said that his new band will sound similar to the direction Celtic Frost took on their 2006 album, Monotheist.

On September 9, 2008, Celtic Frost members Martin Eric Ain and Tom Gabriel Fischer confirmed on Celtic Frost's official website that the band had "jointly decided to lay Celtic Frost to rest for good".

Genre :

As Celtic Frost changed their sound throughout their career their exact genre has been a topic of debate. They have been labeled with various metal genres by the media and it continues today. Their earlier music is often classified as thrash metal, black metal by fans and critics, and even death metal while their later work as doom metal and gothic metal. With the album Cold Lake they were even shown to experiment with glam metal. The level of experimentation on albums like Into the Pandemonium, lead certain journalists to describe the band's direction as avant-garde metal.

Influences :

Celtic Frost have influenced a number of black, death, thrash, and heavy metal bands. The band Therion, for example, took its band name from the album To Mega Therion. Other bands that have cited Celtic Frost as an influence, or have covered Celtic Frost, include Obituary, Sepultura, Gorgoroth, Gallhammer and many others. Dave Grohl (ex-Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Creed) have both stated on several occasions that Celtic Frost were an influence. He subsequently invited Celtic Frost singer Tom Gabriel Fischer to participate in the recordings of his 2004 solo project, Probot, resulting in the co-written song "Big Sky".

Despite this, when frontman Tom was asked to comment on their influence on heavy metal, he replied "no, I try to stay away from that. I'm a musician, I don't want to get involved with all that. It's not healthy. I want to do good albums. I'm still alive and I feel there's still so much in front of me. I don't want to be bothered with who has influence and where we stand and all that. I think it's a negative thing."

Band Members :

Final Members (2008) :

* Tom Gabriel Fischer – Vocals, Guitars, Programming (1984–1993, 2001–2008)
* Martin Eric Ain – Bass Guitar, Vocals (1984–1987, 1990–1993, 2001–2008)
* Franco Sesa – Drums, Percussion (2002–2008)
* V Santura – Guitar (live, 2007–2008)

Former Members :

* Isaac Darso - Drums (1984)
* Dominic Steiner - Bass (1985)
* Ron Marks – Guitar (1987)
* Oliver Amberg – Guitar (1988–1989)
* Stephen Priestly – Drums, Percussion (1984, 1988–1992)
* Reed St. Mark – Drums, Percussion (1985–1988, 1992–1993)
* Curt Victor Bryant – Bass (1988–1990), guitar (1990–1993)
* Erol Unala – Guitar (2001–2006)
* Anders Odden – Guitar (live, 2006–2007)

Discography :

Studio Albums :

* Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion (1985, re-released in 1999)
* Celtic Frost - Into the Pandemonium (1987, re-released in 1999)
* Celtic Frost - Cold Lake (1988)
* Celtic Frost - Vanity/Nemesis (1990, re-released in 1999)
* Celtic Frost - Monotheist (2006)

EPs :

* Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales (1984, re-released in 1999) (vinyl re-release in 2008)
* Celtic Frost - Emperor's Return (1985, re-released as part of Morbid Tales in 1999)
* Celtic Frost - Tragic Serenades (1986)
* Celtic Frost - Wine in My Hand (Third from the Sun) (1990)

"Monotheist" trailer created by Chris Ekers. Used with permission.

Video footage by Jessie Fischer.

"Monotheist" available from Century Media

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