CELTIC FROST MANIA

I consider myself a truly lucky guy, since I grew up in the years when the metal music started to evolve into more expressive forms, bringing forth new styles to the genre.

I can still recollect the time when I was anxiously waiting for Muzyka Mlodych or Metalowe Tortury radio shows, in which, from time to time, new, more extreme than usual, bands were presented. Thanks to those shows, I managed to learn about such bands as METALLICA, SLAYER, VOIVOD, RUNNING WILD among others. At the time, it was not possible to buy their records at music stores in Poland since there were… no music stores in Poland. Yup, the Iron Curtain separated our country from the rest of the world quite effectively, as well as from the Western music scene where, at the time, there appeared more and more extreme original bands. In Poland, however, the only access to music were radio shows and so-called “unofficial” releases – since, back then, in Poland, the copyright issues weren’t too strictly adhered to. Of course, in general, there was more and more music available, but still, to get an “official” (legally licensed) copy of an album was very difficult if not virtually impossible. Yes, there existed a number of swap meets but records prices at the time were extraordinarily high, and equal to a monthly salary of an average Polish citizen. So, very few of us were able to afford such luxury. In the 80s, I used to collect a lot of classic, heavy metal vinyl records: KISS, KROKUS, JUDAS PRIEST, SCORPIONS, IRON MAIDEN and the like. For a long time, MOTORHEAD was, in my view, the fastest band around… and then I heard METALLICA and their Kill`em All. I must admit I have always had a soft spot for vinyl records. I used to trade vinyls at swap meets, where I also dubbed a lot of tapes – however, a more brutal sort of music was quite rare and difficult to get in my city (Cracow). Someone told me that there was another swap meet in Katowice (Załęże) where people traded and sold vinyls too. I gathered up the stuff I had for trade and went there. The swap meet was actually a gigantic flea market, a truly huge place, full of cheap clothing, food and anything else you could think of. Contrary to “normal” stores, that market was very lively and very crowdy. At one end of the site, there was a huge metal grate/fence where peddlers would hang their vinyl records. That was an impressive sight, you know, a whole wall “draped” in various metal music album front covers. I had never seen anything like this before. I could notice a couple of albums I knew from the radio shows: Kill`em All, Show no Mercy, Don’t Break the Oath, Bonded by Blood, Endless Pain or Apocalyptic Raids. I got so absorbed in what I saw I just couldn’t get my eyes off of those goodies for a long time. The only band I hadn’t heard of from that medley was CELTIC FROST and their Emperor’s Return. All I knew of them was there was a band called HELLHAMMER and that that was Warrior`s band. So, I just bought that LP and got back home. During my two-hour train trip back home, I kept looking at the band photo on the back of the album cover and anxiously waited to play it when, finally, I was back at my apartment. Frankly, I still cannot find proper words to describe what I felt when I blasted that record for the first time. I literally went mad, and CELTIC FROST became one of my favourite bands. When I showed up at the meet a week later, many people asked me if I wanted to trade that for some other records. And I knew back then that that album would be eternally with me. True, due to various reasons I had to sell it as well as a number of other records but that was always the first album I`d buy back, no matter what. After that visit to the meet, I started selling out my heavy metal collection in order to purchase more brutal bands. Was hard to get rid of my classic bands but the hunger for more extreme music was stronger and the money I had at the time wasn’t enough to get what I wanted. So, I did what I did. There were many people from all over the Poland who`d show up at this swap meet. Maniacs would arrive from the cities of Wroclaw, Poznan, Warszawa, Tarnow, Nowy Targ, Bielsko Biala or Szczecin. They told me about other swap meets so I started to frequent those too, looking for and finding more brutal music. I found Morbid Tales at the Pod Hybrydami (swap meet) in Warsaw. The item was very expensive, but I decided to die of hunger rather than not getting that record. Right after I got the album, a crew of my friends got to my apartment in order to dub tapes as we used to do back then. Damn, when we played Morbid Tales for the first time, we could feel how dark our place became; a real storm began to rage outside; along with the tunes of Dance Macabre – a truly menacing combination of thunders, stormy weather, wind; and the ghastly bells and possessed vocals by Tom Warrior. Yeah, that session affected us considerably. I will always remember this track and associate it with what was going on that day. Emperor`s Return is close to my heart but I adore Morbid Tales too; yet, the first is darker, more somber and eviler… You can feel how putrid this music is, so resembling this classic horror movie: The Evil Dead.

In 1986, I was preparing myself for the first edition of Metalmania Festival. I made a huge patch with a Morbid Tales heptagram on it. Alas, militia (police) arrested me just in front of The Spodek. I was young and naïve and hoped the militia wouldn’t actually pay any attention to my unusual image. I was heavily influenced by DESTRUCTION and their photos from the Sentence of Death album at the time so I decided to look like those guys at Metalmania Festival. The problem was I bought (from some soldier) a bullet belt with real ammo and an empty grenade which I`d put on my neck. The militiamen were so shocked that they didn’t let me in. I missed the legendary KAT show as well as KILLER which I was dying to see. Luckily, OVERKILL and RUNNING WILD appeared in the second Metalmania Festival edition; otherwise I would have opened my veins out of sheer despair!!!

The news I got from the TRIUMPH OF DEATH/HELLHAMMER camp was truly exciting. In an interview for Old School Metal ManiacTom confessed he was planning to perform live a whole set from Morbid Tales. It brought tears to my eyes. Imagine? My dream come true… I am very happy Tom adds a number of CELTIC FROST songs to the TRIPTYKON`s setlist. Because the CELTIC FROST fire should be eternally on - so it shall never die away. For many of us, to keep this fire going is of utmost importance. I am very grateful to Tom he respects his old die-hard fans – the fans who during the times of the Iron Curtain weren’t able to see them perform live.  

I especially adore the early works of CELTIC FROST. I can still remember the times when first CDs emerged in Poland. I used to buy a lot of compact disks every Tuesday, at the Hybrydy music market from a certain SPV seller, getting a lot of Steam Hammer and Noise Records stuff. During one of such meetings I got Morbid Tales/Emperor’s Return split cd; it was actually one of the first CDs in my life. Sometime later, I purchased To Mega Therion on cd, too. 

It was a grave mistake to have gotten allured by CDs and, in result, I began swapping vinyl records for digital media. Why? Because some of the vinyl records were hard to get back. I managed to purchase To Mega Therion right after it was out, at Palacyk swap meet in Wroclaw. It was quite effortless due to the proximity of the German border so new records were easily available. We used to go and visit that place – we always would buy or trade some new stuff; I managed to get MANILLA ROAD Open the GatesRAZOR Evil Invaders and the said To Mega Therion. The way it was released was just stunning, to say the least. The cover art and layout were just excellent: the front cover by Giger, so blasphemous and obscure, a gatefold edition and another obscene and very dark picture inside seemed to be in a perfect harmony of music. And that Tom Gabriel Warrior photo, sitting in the throne with a Celtic helmet and a sword, with red hair going down his shoulders; and his grim smile – he looked like a true Dark Ruler of the Infernal Depths. One of his better photo sessions, I love this! So awesome! Lack of Martin on this album worried me though. Don’t get me wrong, Dominic Steiner did well on this recording but I was emotionally accustomed to hearing Martin Ain, really. I was very happy I managed to get that vinyl; I didn’t know that edition came with a poster, and it took me some time to finally get it. Trust me, I played that record every day, day in day out. In result, my copy got really worn out so I sold it and bought another: the US Combat version. I must say I felt in love with Combat and Banzai editions – those are much better than European ones. A bit later, I got to see Circle of the Tyrants video clip from To Mega Therion and Into the Crypt of Rays from immortal Morbid Tales (with a tv interview). Damn, that stuff kicked ass, really. I pictured CELTIC FROST in my mind`s eye, performing at the Spodek in Katowice. Took me a long time to see them live, but at the time, the Iron Curtain didn’t allow me to do so and go abroad – and I was about to do my military service. I missed a lot of awesome live shows, in result. Well, all I could do was to watch and enjoy the VHS shows thru MTV and Headbangers Ball. I was always looking forward to new episodes; of course, there were plenty of live shows with CELTIC FROST in circulation in Poland at the time, but their quality was simply appalling.

Therefore, when I managed to get a very good quality, dubbed copy of Doomsday News Circle of the Tyrant VHS, I kept blasting it incessantly. An amazing live clip, showing clearly how good the band was live at the time. Hell, we had so many parties, singing and imitating the band along with their music in the background. That clip created vivid pictures in my mind. I was very impressed with the very original image of the band. Tom, all covered with chains, with a spiked jacket, and leather trousers; thrashing around at the stage with untied hair and his make-up which made him look like Mephistopheles. That was really amazing. It was so avant-garde with Reed St. Mark on drums. The old logo with bats matched all that really well. Damn, I love this clip so much. There is so much energy in it.

I purchased Tragic Serenades from a friend who was selling out his vinyl collection. I got a number of extremely rare vinyls back then, like Swedish edition of BATHORY (with a white goat) as well as this Tragic Serenades I have mentioned already. This maxi single doesn’t bring anything new at all, though these versions are obligatory for each and every die-hard fan of CELTIC FROST. Into the pandemonium is CELTIC FROST`s second album and that full length became quote easily available at swap meets in Katowice and each and every week was exchanged among people. Anyhow, I didn’t intend to sell it so I kept a copy for myself. Heronim Bosch`s cover art was truly interesting. However, the new style of the band was rather indigestible for me. But I was happy Martin Ain was back with the band. Some days after I bought Into…, some maniac friends of mine got to my house to listen to this record. They were quite disappointed. I wasn’t sure what the issue was so I kept blasting that album again and again. And finally, I started to appreciate that album too – still, I could barely tolerate One in their Pride, so different from the rest of the album. Yet, other songs on this album are amazing. I sort of rediscovered the Into the Pandemonium album which brings forth a truly innovative dose of music, far ahead of its time and other albums – so maybe that was why it was so hard to accept this stuff at the time. Yeah , it was quite time consuming to get into that album but when one understood what this album was all about, well, it was hard to stop listening to it, and tracks like Mesmerized, Babylon Fell Sorrows of the Moon or amazing Caress into Oblivion still send shivers down my spine. These orchestrations are just amazing!

Yes, CELTIC FROST were head of their times and it took ages for another band to come up with equally good stuff – like MONUMENTUM and their in Absentia Christi from 1996. It took indeed 8 years to record equally good stuff. It says a lot about this Swiss band, right? It is just hard to say how much we owe to CELTIC FROST. Without them, the extreme metal of today would be much poorer. I am very happy these black pearls of metal have been re-released on tape too. Many of us have a special relationship with the cassette format. Because back then, we used to collect plenty of albums on tapes since we couldn’t afford buying vinyl records. It is just impossible not to have this box!!! We are living in great times, metal is the air we are breathing in. And without the CELTIC FROST/HELLHAMMER/BATHORY or VENOM air I just can’t imagine being alive!!!!! 

NecronosferatuS

Poprawiony (sobota, 13 marca 2021 18:59)