Celtic Frost - Into The Pandemonium
Noise Records
Avant-Garde Metal
10 songs (39:24)
Release year: 1987
Celtic Frost, Noise Records
Reviewed by James

As much as Into The Pandemonium is arguably Celtic Frost's last truly great album (the jury's still out on Monotheist) it's also perhaps their most divisive release. For everyone who sees it as a ground-breaking pioneer in avant-garde and symphonic metal, there's another who views it as a jumbled mess of failed experiments. In reality, both are at least partly true, and perhaps that's the reason Into The Pandemonium is a classic. It's a brave album, even for Celtic Frost. Although the band always had a experimental flavour to them (hell, even Human was an incredibly bold move in a time before “atmospheric” intros were a dime a dozen), but on Into The Pandemonium, these tendencies have been taken to the next level. While the symphonic elements, particularly on the mighty Rex Irae (Requiem) are, in retrospect, simply a progression from To Mega Therion, some of the tracks here are truly left-field, and come off as bizarre even today. There's the infamous One In Their Pride, which sounds like an 80s hip-hop beat with strange, discordant strings and guitar chugs throughout, the poppy female backing vocals on I Won't Dance (The Elder's Orient) and the gothic melodrama of whatever the hell Tristesses De La Lune is (NOTE: Not every issue of this album includes this track, so apologies if I refer to things that don't make sense). And even though when taken by themselves the stranger excursions can be seen as a little comical (One In Their Pride is still laugh-out-loud funny) when worked into the album they're interesting diversions off the beaten path, and are placed perfectly in order to contribute to a better-paced album. And when you consider that much of this album is delightfully off-the-wall even in a world of Kayo Dots and Unexpects (Unexpect in particular taking a great deal from this album), it's a testament to just how shocking this album must have been at the time. I dare say its' influence even stretches to less bizarre corners of the metal world, as without Rex Irae symphonic black metal may never have taken flight (a slightly bold claim, admittedly).

But it would be wrong to remember Into The Pandemonium solely for it's avant-garde elements (as it all too often is, somewhat unfairly), as there's some great straight-up metal here. It's essentially a slicker, more refined version of what we heard on the first two releases (Tom G. Warrior's groaning colossus of a guitar tone is still very much present) and as you'd expect there's a boatload of great riffs here. Inner Sanctum is a classic in its own right, throwing a barrage of riffs and different sections at you in the course of five minutes. And although their notorious cover of Wall Of Voodoo's Mexican Radio initially feels like a, shall we say, oddball choice, it's a fun little rocker that serves as a great way to ease us into the surreal soundscapes that take up much of the album (The Hieronymous Bosch painting that graces the cover is very much an apt choice). And Rex Irae (Requiem) serves as an epic closer to this twisted rollercoaster ride of an album, being the perfect marriage of the gothic trappings introduced here with old-school Celtic Frost crunch. And while the changes mean it's not Morbid Tales pt. II (The odd moaning Warrior utilizes throughout the album won't be to everyone's taste) it's not quite the cold-water shock of the new you'd imagine it to be.

Into The Pandemonium is Celtic Frost's third classic album in a row (I have no doubt To Mega Therion will be reviewed in the near future) and marks the end of a golden period for the band. An exhausted Tom G. Warrior let outside sources take the reins for Cold Lake, and into doing so undertook perhaps metal's most foolish act of career suicide ever. The band would stagger on through 1991's Vanity/Nemesis, but it wasn't until Monotheist that they truly re-established themselves as a legendary act (with an album as brave and divisive as Into The Pandemonium, in its' own way), before imploding once again. Into The Pandemonium marks the end of the true Celtic Frost, the one that inspired about a million extreme metal bands, and without this album, the extreme metal landscape may not have become as brave, colourful and unpredictable as it is today.

Killing Songs :
James 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 - Morbid Tales/Emperor’s Return reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Celtic Frost - Monotheist reviewed by Jeff and quoted 66 / 100
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