Monday, March 28, 2016

Celtic Frost-Cold Lake; Noise Records, 1988

With 2016 being an election year in the United States, tempers and political differences are beginning to flare up like blazing hemorrhoids. The vitriol is getting thick on social media sites: Fartbook and Twatter are probably ruining at least one hundred friendships right now over the tried and true bullshit of "political debate".
Seriously, Disaster Amnesiac feels like anyone that would even want to "lead" a government of such sniveling and entitled children deserves whatever ills befall them once they catch that brass ring. Now, I'll vote, but it won't be cast for any of the current crop of clowns that our dumkopf media obsess over. Fuck that.
For now, Disaster Amnesiac will stick to the serious questions that perplex me, such as, is Celtic Frost's Cold Lake a good album?  Granted, this topic pretty much outs me as being just another mannish boy in 'murica, and, I'm OK with that. I'll take listening to Cold Lake over any of the "serious" banter that is flapping around with the heated consistency of dung flies right about now.
To start, let us consider the title. Now, I don't know about you, but Disaster Amnesiac finds it to be....heavy. Put it this way: I'm not imagining a bunch of nice Swiss volk bathing in an Alpine lake when I consider this LP. Unless, of course, one of them has drowned and there is a subsequent vision of their chilled, blue-ish, dead hand rising up from the below. Indeed, Cold Lake's title is fine, especially for eerie, evocative Metal aesthetic imaginations.
One could, and should, of course, question the musical merits in deciding if a given document is good. Therefore, onward I press, considering the tones and riffs of this often maligned (and misunderstood) Celtic Frost offering. This being Metal, it seems obligatory to start with the guitars. Frost head chief Thomas Gabriel Warrior pretty much sticks to playing rhythm guitar throughout the album, and he continues the by-then tried and true Celtic Frost guitar vibe: chunky, noisy Power Metal riffs, mid to medium tempo-ed, just a touch less Thrashed than on earlier releases. Disaster Amnesiac loves this type of Metal guitar playing, as it allows for the listener to feel the riffs. They don't simply blaze, and nor do they whiff airy like so many Hollywood bands' efforts, but impact the ears with percussive power. Dig this effect on Petty Obsessions, Cherry Orchards, or (Once) They Were Eagles to hear what I'm saying. Every time that Disaster Amnesiac hears Cold Lake, this guitar playing makes me feel that it's one of, it not THE, best Heavy Metal LP's of the 1980's, on account of Warrior's guitar performance. As for the leads, Oliver Amberg provides all kinds of sick, noisy, atonal, in short crazed action with his axe. On Roses Without Thorns, Downtown Hanoi, and Cherry Orchards, his fingers sizzle and spark out some deliciously odd, angular, and downright Ginn-like solo statements. Do either of these guys sport the Bars tats?
Along with providing those thick rhythm riffs, Warrior also delivers one of his signature, out there vocal performances on Cold Lake. It's all there: the trademark "oooohhh" to punctuate the end of a lyrical line, the strange accents, the bleakly surreal content of those lyrics.  It's obvious that the subject matter is of a more sexual nature than the fantasy themes of previous Frost output up to that point, but Disaster Amnesiac finds them equally unsettling, perhaps more so, given a Roman Catholic upbringing and all.  I hear what is ostensibly "petty obsession" during the song of the same name as "panty obsession"! This record is dirty!  Also, Downtown Hanoi has struck me as one of the best artistic rendering of the ordeals of American jet fighter pilots imprisoned after shoot downs in Vietnam (granted, this may be projection, as I can't understand half of what Warrior is saying). Those dudes' problems made those endured by Vikernes and Faust seem like Justin Beiber concerts. And that, on a supposed lightweight of a Metal release. Just sayin'.
Moving on to the rhythm section, one finds the Celtic Frost beat to have been slowed down a bit, as the band moved from pile driving pound of Reed St. Mark (which ruled) to the more 1970's Bonham-stoked beats and grooves from Curt Victor Bryant and Stephen Priestly (which also rule). Grooves are a key word here: Cold Lake's overarching feel from the starting point of Intro-Human's Techno oddness, a move you'll recall they also used on the much less hated Into the Pandemonium, and on through every other song. Disaster Amnesiac always loves the stompin' beats on Seduce Me Tonight, Dance Sleazy, and Cherry Orchards. Bryant and Priestly's tandem playing moves and shakes, pushing the album's weird Sleaze Metal with fist pumping aplomb. Yes, it has more in common with Stryper than, say, Destruction, rhythmically, but hey, this kind of stomp can just be so compellingly effective in the enjoyment of the tunes. Bryant's sounds often remind this listener of Lemmy's, with his loosely stringed, flapping funk lines. Priestly is most definitely a kick ass kick/snare/hat man; my only quibble with him is the fact that he let the engineering team of Thomas Steeler and Dexter (yes, only one name), bone his snare sound on Juices Like Wine. What's up with that?
Taken as a whole, Cold Lake has held up remarkably well over time. Disaster Amnesiac never tires of its weird mashup of Thrash Metal and Arena Metal. I enjoy both styles at times, and seriously enjoy their juxtaposition on this odd, and for the times, very brave statement from Thomas G. Warrior et al. He was the one musical artist of the time that could conceive and pull off such weirdness, at least within the mid-tier Heavy Metal world. I recall Celtic Frost taking all kinds of shit for doing it, and, sadly, he's pretty much disavowed himself of having had anything to do with it. Perhaps it was all the fault of "Stylist" and guest vocals hotty voice Michelle Villanueva? Regardless, thirty years later, it's the LP from them that I find myself enjoying the most. Of course, I'm open to debate on the topic. Unlike the useless political dialectic that's heating up daily here in the U.S., that's one that I'd entertain for hours.

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