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Celtic Frost - May 6, 2007 - Baltimore, MD @ Sonar

By: Gregg Xenakes

Death metal is alive and well apparently, now that Celtic Frost is back with its first album of all-new material in more than 15 years with “Monotheist.” The 2006 disc brought fans back to the fold and demanded that Celtic Frost ride again along the concert circuit, leading them to a headlining tour of clubs last year around the U.S. and then a support slot with Type O Negative in the spring of 2007. For one of their final North American shows before heading to Europe for summer festivals, Celtic Frost pounded out nearly an hour of mood-altering death metal at Sonar in Baltimore.

As bassist Martin Eric Ain, who has been riding with Fischer for the better part of a quarter century and now looks like the black sheep of the Claus family from up North, opened with a mystifying speech, Fischer and his cohorts slowly slid onto the small stage in a zombie-like state before ripping into “Procreation (Of The Wicked)” from the band’s 1984 debut, “Morbid Tales.” Fischer, who has flip-flopped his name from Tom G. Warrior to Thomas Gabriel Warrior and on to Fischer over the years, opened with a perfunctory “Uh” that, while it may sound quite rudimentary, is standard fare and a trademark of his. Dressed in black and painted in white face, graced with makeup motifs that would have sent Kiss, King Diamond and even Marilyn Manson screaming for their dressing rooms and calling for the heads of their image consultants, Fischer flashed devil horns and stood before eerie back-lighting that made the music feel even more ominous.

Following a vicious rendering of “Visions Of Mortality,” the deviant and deviating “Circle Of The Tyrants” meandered between full-on thrash and laborious sluggishness. The song provides a perfect example of a man who is considered to be a singer yet still saved a boat load of money on a vocal coach. Known as much for their outrageous album covers as they are for their bloodcurdling songs that fit perfectly into anyone’s Halloween party, Ain then claimed, “We are Hellhammer playing Celtic Frost covers.” Of course, Hellhammer was the precursor to CF and is considered a bedrock in the building of the death metal scene.

Introducing Satanic Slaughter, yet another moniker Fischer once went by during his days in Hellhammer, Ain and the rest of the group launched into “Necromantical Screams.” Joined by drummer Franco Sesa and Dark Fortress guitarist V Santura, Ain had his bass turned up to 11, which is the only way we can describe the vibrations rising up from our feet and making us think we were constantly receiving calls on our muted cell phone.

Pulled from “To Mega Therion,” both “Dawn Of Meggido” and “The Usurper” found their way into the set, the latter forcing us to want to look up the definition of the title word. So, if nothing else, this schizophrenic musicianship that borders on ADD cacophony can also be an unwitting educational tool that sparks at least a passing interest in Latin as well.

During “Dethroned Emperor” Sesa gave the impression that his cymbals had treated him badly in a previous performance, attacking the inanimate objects with a violent fervor that subsided once he began his attack on his kick drums during a taxing “Morbid Tales.”

With their set locked into just 10 songs, Celtic Frost allowed some of the inmates (see crew) run the asylum during “Into The Crypts Of Rays” as a gaggle of made-up supporters raced onto the stage to sing backup over the chorus, prompting Fischer to produce a chuckle visible from 30 yards out. The singer was finally having some fun with his seminal brood.

In a bit of a questionable move, CF opted not to perform their latest single from “Monotheist” choosing to perform the painfully long “Triptych II: Synagoga Satanae” instead of “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh.” During the multi-layered marathon that stretched out to more than 14 minutes, I thought the brutal power of the show was finally getting to me, thinking I heard Ain mention broccoli during one of his lectures, before he announced, “Baltimore, the Frost bows to you,” before slinking offstage and into the dark night.


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