Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales/Emperor’s Return
Noise Records
Thrash Metal
11 songs (46:14)
Release year: 1984
Celtic Frost, Noise Records
Reviewed by Goat

Few bands occupy such a place in Metallic history as Swiss titan Celtic Frost. Formed by Tom G. Warrior as an aftermath to Hellhammer, the band has produced just five full-lengths in a career spanning over twenty years. Of these albums, only one is regarded as any sort of classic in the metal world – 1985’s To Mega Therion. The others are either too strange (1987’s Into The Pandemonium) not as good (1990’s Vanity/Nemesis, 2006’s Monotheist) or simply regarded as being rubbish even by its creators (1988’s Cold Lake). Yet it’s the predecessor to all that, the double EP package of Morbid Tales and Emperor’s Return, that we turn our eyes and ears towards today.

It’s hard to overstate the massive influence that this release has had on the world. The likes of Obituary, Napalm Death, Darkthrone, and Opeth to mention a few, would simply not exist; let alone the fact that Nirvana claimed the band as an influence! Each of the above has shown their appreciation in various ways beyond the clear musical similarities, whether it’s Obituary’s cover of Circle Of The Tyrants, Darkthrone offering an entire album in tribute, or even Napalm Death’s vocal ‘urgh!’s that recall Tom Warrior’s finest moments. Putting it simply, this is a classic moment in Metal. You can’t call yourself a Thrasher unless you love this, which makes the current crop of mini-moshers rocking out to the latest attempt by record labels to ‘resurrect’ Thrash even grimly funnier.

Forgetting the state of Metal in 2008, however, it’s amazing just what a state it was in back in 1984, when Morbid Tales was first released as a standalone EP. The drums are simplistic, the guitar riffs turgid by sound and nature, and Tom Warrior sounds practically drunken, his slurred vocals and grunts making Venom seem perfectly respectable in comparison. Of course, when you’ve had a chance to take all this aural torture in, you realise just how damn good it really is. The production is practically crystal clear, letting the instruments make the atmosphere, and with time the drums become hypnotic. As for the guitar, that crunchy, sludgy dirge would come to be the inspiration for Swedish Death Metal, for Grind, for pretty much any modern Metallic genre you can name.

Although the songwriting here is mostly similar, there are more than enough unique moments to hold off boredom. After the infamous intro Human, consisting of around forty seconds of yells and screams, Into The Crypt Of Rays kicks off, a speedy anthem of grinding riffs, mangled vocals and some of the best drumming on the EP. Songs seem to go alternatively slow and fast from then on, the Doom of the first part of Visions Of Mortality giving way, followed by the even speedier Dethroned Emperor, and so on. It’s with this release that we begin to see the Avant-Garde influences that would come to define Celtic Frost on Into The Pandemonium. How many other Thrash bands from the 80’s would incorporate female vocals, especially those as well placed as the ‘take my soul away into the dark’ section in Return To The Eve? The atmospheric interlude Danse Macabre is a real love/hate moment – you’ll find it either utterly chilling or laughably pretentious. Otherwise, there’s hardly a weak track on show, from Procreation (Of The Wicked) to Circle Of The Tyrants.

You really can’t help but love Tom Warrior’s vocals – somewhere between an early Death grunt and Thrash bellows; it’s the sheer enthusiasm for the music that comes through strongest. Listen to Dethroned Emperor; the ‘ooh’s and ‘ow!’s make the song as excellent as it is, and as for the ‘are you morbid?’ moment on the title track… well, if you can stop yourself shouting ‘hell yeah!’, then you’re a stronger man than I.

That’s ultimately the key to early Celtic Frost – forget the lack of technicality, forget the later years of the band’s career, forget that at the time of writing Tom G. has left the band for what seem to be rather silly reasons – sit back with a beer, with some friends, and bang your head like tomorrow’s never going to come. There are very few bands that were this much fun at the start of their career, and anyone as yet unfamiliar with this effort from the band should get hold of it as a matter of urgency.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Celtic Frost that we have reviewed:
Celtic Frost - Cold Lake reviewed by Goat and quoted 10 / 100
Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Celtic Frost - Into The Pandemonium reviewed by James and quoted CLASSIC
Celtic Frost - Monotheist reviewed by Jeff and quoted 66 / 100
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