Evolving from Switzerland's answer to Venom, namely Hellhammer, Celtic Frost quickly became one of the underground's biggest acts with its highly stylized early death metal approach. Getting a fair push from the then-innovative Noise Records, Celtic Frost's combination blackened lyrics, evil riffs and Warrior's trademark death grunts lead to a sizeable underground following. The band's 1984 EP Morbid Tales remains an icon of the genre. Dominic Steiner of Baby Steel replaced Ain here for a little while. The band was on the move though and quickly hit the evolution stage with a cover of Wall Of Voodoo's Mexican Radio. In 1986 the band announced that Mille of Kreator would join the line-up, as Celtic Frost had been unable to find a second guitarist. This did not transpire.
From there it was the introduction of opera vocals and a lighter and much maligned album called Cold Lake. Tiffany and Michael Jackson shirts by now replaced the face paint and bullet belts. In a true Spinal Tap moment it is rumoured that the whole image check was a result of Warrior's girlfriend taking over the band's management. Michelle Fischer would also sing for the band. Not finding many fans into 'former death metal band-turned-commercial-complete-with-hair-spray', the gang quickly reverted to heaviness with Vanity/Nemesis but the damage was done. Vanity/Nemesis had featured Ron Marks once again.
Fischer attempted to get a new deal via a new demo but nothing happened and the man formed a funk band before settling with Apollyon Sun - a proposed late Celtic Frost album was called Under Apollyon's Sun. A farewell compilation called Parched With Thirst Am I And Dying (adapted title from a Roman prayer) emerged in 1992. The band was promised a deal with BMG (distributors for Noise in North America) following Vanity/Nemesis, but this deal never materialized.
Celtic Frost had threatened to come back throughout the years and Noise has, naturally, kept the re-releases flowing. Apollyon Sun, in the meanwhile, had not met with much success. With the turn of the century, Fischer released an autobiographical book called Are You Morbid? Through Sanctuary Publishing, which had purchased Noise Records.
While rumours of a reunion were at first denied by Fischer, the come-back was finally confirmed at the end of 2002. The band posted a new demo song online in the spring of 2003. The line-up was Tom G. Warrior, Martin Eric Ain and Reed St. Mark and Apollyon Sun's guitarist and producer Erol Unala. The latter would leave the band on the eve of the release of a comeback album in 2006 ostensibly due to personal and musical issues. After much negotiation and recording the band signed to Century Media in 2006 for a new album in the spring of that year, entitled Monotheist (the working title was Dark Matter Manifest). Drummer Reed St. Mark was not part of the line-up. He was reportedly not in shape either physically or psychologically. Hypocrisy’s Peter Tägtgren produced the album. Shows were scheduled for both sides of the Atlantic. The band announced the addition of Norwegian guitar player Anders Odden as a touring member in May. The guitarist had previously been a member of Mayhem and Satyricon. The band had to cancel several shows soon though following a case of kidney stones in Tom G. Warrior in May, 2006. V. Santura of Dark Fortress from Germany joined the band as touring guitarist in 2007.
Singer and founder Thomas Gabriel Fischer unexpectedly left in April of 2008. The band was again gone on hiatus and cancelled previously announced shows. The break-up was the result of personal tensions within the band with Fischer and Sesa having a falling out, according to the singer. Fischer indicated he would record music again. Following his departure from the band Tom Gabriel Fischer formed a new band, which was called Triptykon. The new group was composing and recording music that was close to Celtic Frost according to the main man. 1349’s Revelations Of The Black Flame was co-mixed by Tom Gabriel Fischer in 2009. Thomas Gabriel Fischer and Bazillion Points Books announced a release date of November of 2009 as the publication date for Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History Of Hellhammer And Early Celtic Frost. It was compiled by Fischer in cooperation with band bassist Martin Eric Ain. In a blog comment, Fischer also claimed to have relinquished all financial interest in the bands’ catalogue henceforth in order to escape his former colleagues.
CELTIC FROST – MONOTHEIST – CENTURY MEDIA
Sixteen years after the departure of Celtic Frost from the album scene, the song Progeny begins with a tense head-banging riff. Six or seven years after definite noises that Celtic Frost would be back to freeze mind and matter again the Monotheist (the first ‘t’ is in fact a cross) album suggests albums like To Mega Therion with its noisy and distorted (and I am not referring to the madly annoying beeps the label has put on the disc) rage that sometimes recalls a vibe reminiscent of Godflesh.
The meaning behind the title and the lyrics will have to be put aside until an interview is arranged, but the music is heavily distorted, crushing and slow. This probably is as influenced by main man Fischer’s other band, Apollyon Sun, as that band was itself influenced by Celtic Frost.
Progeny is big and establishes the album’s path. The track ends abruptly, but the listener already knows Monotheist to be produced for effect. Drown In Ashes, Obscured, etc. have female vocals although the former song is also eerie and more an exercise in spoken word. The female vocals (aside from on Os Abysm Val Death), incidentally, are more in tune with bands like The Gathering than operatic singing. Tottengott (dead god) has outright chilling vocals and German lyrics and could have come from the darkest nightmares of a Darkthrone demo. At the other end of the spectrum, the fourteen-minute long Synagoga Satanae has a main riff, which is outstanding. The song itself is akin to a Slayer song slowed down for effect and is probably the disc’s best. Ain Elohim is another crunchy song with a speedy sound and vocals best described as the mad bark of a fuming dog.
This album’s description has a long way to go before being complete, as much hinges on the philosophy and ideas in play, but it is safe to say that Tom and crew have delivered an underground album in 2006, although it could easily be described as retrograde in the same breath. – Anna Tergel
When Ali "The Metallian" and bassist Martin Eric Ain sat down 2:00
am Swiss time for a chat, it was not Metallian's first attempt at
speaking to Celtic Frost on the occasion of the release of
Monotheist, the band's comeback album. A scheduled chat with
frontman Tom Fischer had fallen through only one week earlier. Ain
was more than amiable and, in the course of the conversation, proved
himself quite passionate, well-read, talkative and consequently
informative. Here is the gist of how the conversation went. -
METALLIAN: In the course of the last several years different
interviews and news reports had the band coming back, or reforming,
alternatively as a side-project or as a full-time band. How is Celtic
Frost to be viewed in 2006?
MARTIN: This band is a full-fledged, one-hundred percent full-time
project. It has been so in the last couple of years and especially
since the end of 2004. We haven't had time to do anything else other
than Celtic Frost and, for at least the next year, we wont have time
for anything else either.
Of course, Erol and Tom put the band Apollyon Sun aside when we
restarted Celtic Frost. Now that Erol has left Celtic Frost I think
Tom has said that there wont be another Apollyon Sun album because
Erol and Tom were Apollyon Sun. They don't work together anymore, so
Tom doesn't see why there should be another Apollyon Sun album. Then
again, you never know because if you had asked me ten years ago
whether I would be teaming up with Tom again and if we could get our
differences worked out I would have said no. Time is a factor that
has to be considered in that regard. Tom has a solo project he has
been working on though. He has material written too, but I doubt he
will have time for it in the near future. We already had musical
ideas, which we didn't include on Monotheist because we decided we
have done enough crazy work and we wanted this album finished.
Another Celtic Frost album could be in the pipes pretty fast
actually. The easy answer is that this is a full-time project.
METALLIAN: Martin, seeing that you have been in and out of Celtic
Frost several times over the years how committed do you see yourself
to the band at this point in time?
MARTIN: I think I have never been committed as much as I am right
now. It is in a completely different way. I was committed to Celtic
Frost when in 1984 Tom and I had founded it given the vision we had
for it once we broke up Hellhammer. This time around though I am much
more aware of what this band is, what makes it work, the
relationships that make up this band and we are taking on more
responsibilities like producing this album. We are executive
producing it, financing it, getting everything organized and that
can only be done if you are dedicated. It is not enough if you are
eighty-percent committed. You have to be committed three or four
hundred percent; otherwise this thing won't come to pass. We have
worked four years on getting this band back on track. We have been
eating and breathing Celtic Frost. We have been realizing what the
Celtic Frost of the new millennium is all about. We have worked out
personal issues. This is serious hard work and four years is a long
time. It was four years between Apocalyptic Raids by Hellhammer and
Cold Lake by Celtic Frost, you know? We deliberately took our time to
get it right. We have something that we think is Celtic Frost. It is
different from 1987 when I left the band after the Into the
Pandemonium tours. I tried to come back after Vanity/Nemesis and just
wasn't able. It took me several years to get myself together again.
I was completely fallen apart, wasted, broken down and burnt out back
then. You have to realize I was 16 when we had recorded Apocalyptic
Raids. I was 20 when I left Celtic Frost. I had experienced my entire
music career in four years. I was young. In hindsight I was too young
and couldn't deal with it. It has taken me this long to get it
METALLIAN: Did it also take some time to write and re-write music for
the current album? Was it an onerous task?
MARTIN: No, it wasn't the songs. This was not about writing songs or
recording a new Celtic Frost album. This was about becoming Celtic
Frost again. It was about becoming a unit. We were not a unit for
over a decade. Tom and I had nothing to do with each other. We also
wanted to do this in the 'now.' We didn't want to fall into the
classic trap, that many old bands fall into, by rehashing the glory
of the old days. We said, "fuck this. We don't want to do that."
We wanted to do things on our own and do them in the 'now.' That
is much more difficult than copying ourselves. That would have been
METALLIAN: In your opinion, would there be a Celtic Frost today were
Apollyon Sun successful?
MARTIN: I don't think Tom would be forgetting about reforming Celtic
Frost, but I also think he would be doing Apollyon Sun now. He would
be busy with that band. As I mentioned, he has already written songs
for his solo project on a computer on a synthesizer. Actually, we
took a couple of parts from his songs and translated them into guitar
for this album.
We talked about Celtic Frost's return for the first time in 1999
when the former record company approached us to re-issue the old
albums. We started talking about the past, the back catalogue, the
legacy and how it should be represented. That was the first time Tom
and I got together and sat down. We realized we were influential and
pondered the question 'why?' What was it that made the band
special? Were we at the right place at the right time or did we have
a special chemistry? Would we be able to create something like this
again? Back then he was busy with Apollyon Sun and we knew Celtic
Frost would not happen until Apollyon Sun had either run its course
or leave enough space for this band. In 2001, Apollyon Sun ran into
problems with its record company. The fact is we had talked and said
this reformation would be interesting and we would like to do it. Tom
approached me and he seemed genuine
METALLIAN: You recently lost the services of guitarist Erol Unala.
Why would he leave just before the album's release when he had
participated in the recordings?
MARTIN: First, nobody has taken his place. We have a guitarist for
touring and that might change. We will look for a permanent guitarist
as a full-time member down the road. We have 60 shows just in North
America and that person has to be able to relate to us.
Tom and Erol had come together at the very end of Celtic Frost. It
was Erol's brother who had played on the last Celtic Frost demos.
They were close friends. Tom obviously brought Erol into Apollyon Sun
and also brought him along when we decided to do the band again. Four
years is a long time. When he joined Erol had just got married. Four
years later he has two kids and a new outlook on life. Once we said
we want to do this full-time he was not able to give it his all. He
was saying he wants to give it his all, but I have a family I am
responsible for, the kids are small and so on. That became a schism
in the band. Also, once Franco joined and we had a proper drummer -
we were writing for two years without a drummer - a musical
radicalization process started to take place. Franco came from a
bunch of local bands I had booked myself when I was a promoter and a
club manager. We had approached former drummer Reed St. Mark, but he
didn't work out for reasons I don't want to get into. Some of
those reasons are very personal for Reed. Anyway, we realized that
Erol had a hard time with the radicalization process. The music
became too dark and destructive for him to deal with. He became the
outsider in that regard. Everyday he was the outsider a little more
and over four years it was a different story.
METALLIAN: Did any of the music on the current album also originally
belong to Apollyon Sun or has even older origins?
MARTIN: Yes, to everything you just asked. There is stuff there that
was written for the Nemesis Of Power demo in 1992. It was on a song
called Pearl Of Love back then and is now on the song Domain Of
Decay. Certain passages that Erol had written in Apollyon Sun shaped
the basis for Obscured. We now have material for three albums. We had
25 songs by the end of 2002. Out of those only Obscured is on
Monotheist. The other 14 were not deemed worthy of Celtic Frost.
There is excellent material, but they didn't sound like Celtic
Frost. We also took every kind of creative approach you can imagine.
Songs were worked on and went back to months later. We worked as a
classic metal band, guitar, bass and drum. We also played with
session drummers and drum machines.
METALLIAN: Martin, from your perspective, did the return of Celtic
Frost have any relation to the need for money and income or was it a
purely artistic endeavour?
MARTIN: It had a lot to do with money. Everything in this business
has to do with money. It had to do with the fact that we were putting
up all the money on our own with some support from close friends in
Switzerland. We invested sixty to seventy thousand dollars just to
record the album and get the artwork. Then there was furnishing the
rehearsal room, getting equipment in working order, paying the rent
and more. We had negotiated with several labels and had offers from
several, but they just wanted a rehash of the past. We also had
ludicrous offers from the big festivals to play there. Those were
ludicrous offers in exchange for exclusive shows there and much more
than we are getting now for shows. We didn't want to go out and
relive the glory or any of that bullshit. We also didn't want to
sell our soul away either. We had already done that! We wanted to
reclaim our soul. It took a while to come together as a person after
I had wasted myself, wasted my youth on the business fuckers that are
non-fucking worthy assholes. These people won every fucking right to
every thing I had created in my youth for 75 years after I would have
died. So I fucking said, 'no fucking way' and Tom would have put
it even less nicely than I did. So I said no to those people. We said
we will finance everything on our own and we will take the necessary
time. We didn't want to be pressured by some nitwit motherfucking
asshole sitting in an office thinking he knows how creativity
happens. They usually think it happens in regard to some chart and
how some release schedule is worked out. It doesn't happen like
that. We don't want to be pressured by a record company that says
when they want the record released. It will be released once it is
finished. It took four years in this case. It cost more money than we
would have thought in the first place. Whether we will get that money
back is not obvious. Will the record be successful, will the touring
be successful, will we sell merchandise? Then we will make money and
make a living off it. As we speak, we are preparing for the tour and
each of us is till working. We will play our first show in four weeks
and I am trying to make money to pay the rent. So this is not about
the money. If it does work out it will become about the money. It
will work out if we realize it's a business and, of course, we have
realized it is a business, but we have come to it with our own terms.
If the risk works out it will be worthwhile this time. Maybe some
money will find its way into our pockets this time. This is not up to
us to decide, of course. It is up to the audience.
This album is licensed to Century Media. This is also why it took
half a year to negotiate with several labels. We finally thought it
would work out best with Century Media. They not only showed
enthusiasm for our music, but also were willing to come to terms with
most of our demands. Several other record companies had all the
enthusiasm, but we realized they couldn't give us what we desired or
they weren't able to give it to us because they were too small. We
thought that coming back after 15 years we wanted to have a record
company that would promote this album. So you see, it is about the
money because in the end it is always about the money. In this world,
if you don't have the money you might as well just be dead.
METALLIAN: Seeing that the band's last album was tied to Noise
Records, now Sanctuary, were you somehow connected to them
MARTIN: No, not all. There was no contract, so there was no
METALLIAN: Martin, talking a little about the music now one has to
say that the material on Monotheist is quite dark.
MARTIN: I think you get it. That is what we realized was the result
in the end. I am amazed how people react to it or how people reflect
it back to us because right now I would say it is not dark enough and
that it could have been darker. I think it is surprising how it comes
across to a lot of people. Some people have stated that they have
been touched by the emotions on the album and that is also something
we were striving for. Monotheist is the most emotional and spiritual
album we ever recorded.
METALLIAN: What about the title, Martin? What are the denotations of
Monotheist and the cross on the cover?
MARTIN: You know, the dark atmosphere stems from ourselves and what
we went through in the past. This is also reflected in the title,
which is a metaphor. The album deals with issues of faith and belief,
or the lack thereof. We were looking for a title that reflected that
on a personal level and also as far away from us as possible. It is a
great title because it deals with the belief in only one god, but
deals with it from a personal point of view. It deals with the person
who deals with one god, but doesn't say which god. Of course, we
grew up in the Christian society which is why we have a cross there.
We use it both upright and in the inverted positions. Some are one
way, but some other covers are the other. Both are Christian symbols.
People forget that. The inverted cross is not a Satanic symbol to
begin with. The inverted cross is the cross of St. Peter and is the
pope's own cross. St. Peter was crucified upside down, says the
myth. People who use the inverted cross acknowledge Christianity
because they use the symbol of a Christian god. Otherwise, the symbol
would be meaningless, powerless and why use it? If you say you are a
Satanist you are saying you believe in the Christian belief system,
although as an antithesis. There can be no antithesis without a
thesis. Satan is a biblical figure from the old testament. He was
working for God, as an accuser. He was sent out by God to deal with
people. The Christians turned him into the antithesis for God. In the
old testament, the god of the Hebrews was angry and a nasty god. All
of a sudden, in the new testament God was an all-loving and
passionate figure. We tried to reflect this.
Of course, now you have the rise of the fundamentalist monotheist
religions again. Fundamentalism in Islam and fundamentalism in
Christianity are rising. Fundamentalism is on the rise in America.
Creationist are trying to get their view that the world is 3,000
years old should be taught at schools to children who don't know
better. I think this is an issue that is quite important right now.
In a way, the title also reflects the zeitgeist.
METALLIAN: Martin, you seem deeply interested and involved. Do you
consider yourself well travelled or particularly well read?
MARTIN: I read a lot. I think a lot. I give things a thought. I see
things and I want to make sense of it. I confront myself with what is
going on around me. I have done that, in a particular way, since I
was a kid. I was brought up to be a Christian. My mother was a
Catholic religious teacher and I had to go to church a lot. One of my
first memories of church is I as a six-year old kid sitting in church
and I have a life-size cross in front of me depicting the agony of
Christ. That is the figure of a male human being tortured in agony
hanging in front of me and the people are jubilating and celebrating.
They do it solemnly, but it is uplifting in the end. I had seen the
cross around my mother's neck and with people and I realized that
there is a connection between the two. I thought it was gruesome. I
was shocked., I was traumatized. The adults around me didn't get it.
They didn't question it. I felt estranged completely and totally. It
was shocking and fascinating because I was told this is my God and
that he died for my sins. I was six years old and as thinking 'what
sins?' and 'am I a sinner?' I thought I was really bad.
Strangely enough, I realized nobody else around me was giving it
those thoughts. No one was questioning those things. I was
questioning things that people took for granted because that was the
way things were, you know? People wearing gold crosses around their
necks later bullied me at school. First of all, the cross was an
instrument of torture and then they were acting like they would nail
me to the cross. I realized quite early on that Christianity was a
part of society and most Christians are hypocrites.
METALLIAN: At the same time what has your mother always thought of
your musical activities?
MARTIN: I think she has come to terms with it especially since she
realized I wouldn't become a drug fiended Satanic child slaughterer
who is wasting his life away and give the family a bad name.
Especially after I left Celtic Frost and started to become a
businessman and successful she acknowledged that I didn't turn out
too badly. Not too long ago my father came up to me and basically
excused himself. He said he was sorry that they didn't support me
and admitted he didn't realize that it would turn out like that. It
meant a great deal to me that he would acknowledge me like that. For
a long time I couldn't deal with my parents. I had left my family
back in the early days Of Celtic Frost because they were completely
opposed to what I was doing. My mother's health has been failing
recently though so it is hard to tell with her. I became the parable
of the lost son, I guess.
METALLIAN: Is Ain an alias for you?
MARTIN: Oh yeah. It is something I made up. What is the first thing
you do when you become somebody else and don't relate to your family
anymore? The family name is the first thing to go. Letting go of my
surname was an act of will, an act of power, an act of magic. It
created my personality and myself. Of course, we had names like
Satanic Slaughter in Hellhammer, but I realize that I needed a name
that I could relate to once I turned eighty. It had to be me and
I came up with Ain, which is Hebrew and found in the Cabbala. It is a
way of getting to the Jewish torah through mysticism in numbers.
Every Hebrew letter has a number standing for it so every word has
several numbers whose addition gives a new number which gives it a
new meaning. The equivalent to Ain would be zero, which is like alpha
and omega in Greek. It means it is an empty word. It is the beginning
and the end and could stand for death or nothing. I could relate to
that. I was beginning a new life with Hellhammer and Celtic Frost and
I was leaving my family. I was also dealing with the personality that
thought this life here was futile. At the end there would be death
and the struggle, whatever I would do, is absurd. That is all I had
though. It was all I got. My real name is known around here in
Switzerland, but I don't disclose it all the time.
METALLIAN: Martin, what can the fans expect next from Celtic Frost
aside from the new album?
MARTIN: There is a video for the song ground planned. We are still
looking at contracts and ideas from directors. After the touring we
will take some of the material we have collected over the years, plus
a lot of filming, which we will do on tour, and make a DVD. That will
cover all eras of the band. Also, as I said, we had ideas for several
albums and many songs so we will use those on the next Celtic Frost
album. If we survive the extensive tour schedule and the unit that we
have formed in the last four years you will see an album and a video
next year. We have given Century Media this album plus an option
through our own company.
METALLIAN: Martin, thank you for this chat and the time you have
MARTIN: Ali, you are welcome. We had a good chat, this was a good
interview with good questions. So I hope we can do more when we get
some extra time.
Bassist Ain, singer/guitarist Thomas Warrior Fischer and drummer
Franco Sesa will be on tour for the next year on both sides of the
Atlantic. For more information hit their site at, what else,