Celtic Frost “Into the Pandemonium” (1987) Review #1

Having nothing better to do during a five hour lunch break from school, I thought I could give a shot at reviewing one of the most irreviewable albums ever. Into The Pandemonium. 20 years after its conception, it still stands as the creative apex of one of the most important extreme metal bands ever. After vomiting forth the darkest metal album of the eighties – To Mega Therion, the best pre-Oslo black metal album – Martin Eric Ain returned to the Frost, and together with Tom G. Warrior and Reed St. Mark they decided to push the boundaries as far as possible. All Celtic Frost releases seem to have sprung out of the deepest anguish and personal pain, as does Into The Pandemonium, which must have been a terrible nuisance to create; it is not surprising that it back lashed into whatever you would call Cold Lake some years later.

Anyhow, Into The Pandemonium is still a major fuck off to the suffocating genre conventions metal is still plagued by, even though the efforts here from our favourite Swiss export opened up many paths for the decades to follow. Opening an album with a cover is not kosher, and the choice of an upbeat new wave song about being lost in Mexico would still today be questioned and frowned upon, so I suspect many metalheads have reacted quite negative back in these days. “Mesmerized” is a deep red suggestive little thing, haunting with its decadence and Tom’s trademark moan. If you ask me, I would say that this is where gothic metal began, another genre’s blood on their hands. The rather slow moving fashion is continued by the two “Jade Serpent” songs, with their dark melancholy infused with Oriental mysticism evoking images of lush decadent gardens filled with incense. Even though songs like these were the foundation of avantgardistic metal, I cannot think of any works similar to this masterpiece, despite these two decades. The approach – yes, perhaps, but not the specific sounds. Celtic Frost are the H.P. Lovecraft of metal.

Another always very important part of Celtic Frost was (and is still, actually) the use of art music. The horn and timpani arrangements of To Mega Therion are here blooming out into all their majesty; from the lamenting ”Sorrows Of The Moon” and its French counterpart, to the ominous string quartet modernism of the mighty ”Rex Irae”. I cannot think of any metal band using classical music in this manner before Frost did, and very few since. Tom’s lyrics continue in tradition of Celtic Frost – sorrow-filled poetic visions of majesty, corruption, vanity and pride, bringing doom and loss of life and power; the fall of everything, all set in a fantastic suggestive environment that could be as much about Dune as Sodom and Gomorrah. If To Mega Therion is silver and steel, then Into The Pandemonium is marble and sand. Even though a song like ”Inner Sanctum” showed very well that they still could pump out bludgeoning thrash metal, the lyrics are still partly taken from a poem by Emily Brontë – a proof why Celtic Frost still in my opinion eclipse all competition. They dared being intellectual, even pretentious, transcending the simplicity of beer and denim. They tried “to be different, to be something new” (Thomas G. Fischer, 1986), for “there are more feelings to express than just aggression and destruction” (Martin Eric Ain, 1987). These quotes sum up what Into The Pandemonium is about, and it is for this reason Kerrang! described it as “the most avant-garde album that will ever be released [sic]” which is true, at least in a metal context, seeing what came before it. This is the mother of all avant-garde metal (including early Voïvod!).

Into The Pandemonium might not be the best and most consistent of Celtic Frosts work – To Mega Therionusurped that jewel throne aeons ago – but for the sake (which is not mere) of its aspirations, its creativity, its daring progress, it deserves a place in the heart and record collection of everyone, as well as a 66 metre tall golden statue of the power trio of all power trios; our antediluvian gods and celestial dominators, Celtic Frost. What does he say? UH!



Release:  02.11.1987
Label:  Noise Records
Avantgenre:  Avantgarde Metal
Duration:  39:24 (excl. Bonustracks)
Origin:  Switzerland
Official site:  http://www.celticfrost.com
Review online since:  24.11.2007 / 11:08:43


(Note: I Have Reviewed The Remastered CD Version From 1999, With 5 Bonus Tracks. Of These Tracks, I Chose To Discard All But Track 4, And Therefore The Tracklist Beneath Does Not Represent The Review Above, As Track 12-15 Did Nothing To Enhance The Listening Experience.)

1. Mexican Radio
2. Mesmerized
3. Inner Sanctum
4. Tristesse De La Lune
5. Babylon Fell (Jade Serpent)
6. Caress Into Oblivion (Jade Serpent II)
7. One In Their Pride (Porthole Mix)
8. I Won’t Dance (The Elders Orient)
9. Sorrows Of The Moon
10. Rex Irae (Requiem)
11. Oriental Masquerade
12. One In Their Pride (Re-entry Mix)
13. In The Chapel, In The Moonlight
14. The Inevitable Factor
15. The Inevitable Factor (Alternate Vox)

1 Comment

  1. Excellent review! I bought this in 1987, a devotee of Frost, and have been in deep love with the album ever since. I recall that Pandemonium was awarded the unique honour of a minus K rating from Kerrang at the time, neatly noting the moment that thrash metal ‘grew up’ and moved beyond the metal genre’s conservative nature. It’s art. It’s imagination. It’s brave and bold but it’s vulnerable, as all explorers are. The paths they discovered have been well explored since, as you say, but they went there first and planted bizarre flags in virgin territory. 30 years later, wiser and having discovered other pioneering artists such as Can, Neubauten, Faust, Earth, Sunn o)) , I place Celtic Frost among the greats of the musical avant-garde.

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