Celtic Frost - Cold Lake
Noise Records
Glam Metal
11 songs (38:50)
Release year: 1988
Celtic Frost, Noise Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

It’d be pretty perverse of me to even try to defend an album that everyone else, including its creator, regards as ‘an utter piece of shit.’ As much of a Celtic Frost fanboy as I am – and really, every Metalhead should be – there’s little denying the fact that Cold Lake was a pitiful mistake, an insane misstep that makes St Anger look like the work of normal, well-adjusted men and a sellout beyond The Unspoken King. As crap as those albums are, at least they were someway in keeping with the band’s philosophy; Cryptopsy may have gone Deathcore in a pathetic fashion but it’s still pretty heavy, and as for Metallica, well, St Anger went double platinum, so it was a kind of victory. Against neither of these cases does Cold Lake hold up, being neither a financial success nor in any way keeping with the musical or philosophical approach of its creators. Quite how it happened, no-one seems to be sure – Tom G Warrior amusingly blamed it on his happiness at meeting a ‘wonderful woman’ in one interview I read – but the facts are that the band more or less split up and then reformed with a new lineup, one that took the sound of Celtic Frost far, far from Mega Therion and pointed it towards the likes of Mötley Crüe and Poison.

I am happy to admit that I have never liked Glam Metal (I had to look up the spelling of ‘Mötley Crüe’ for this review) and yet I cannot believe that a single fan of the style would find much to enjoy about Cold Lake. Of course, for a Celtic Frost fan who holds To Mega Therion in higher regard than the Bible, much about it is sheer blasphemy. Take the intro, the title of which you’ll probably recognise as Human, the classic intro to Morbid Tales/Emperor’s Return, a thrilling wordless multi-tracked yell that introduces possibly the greatest song ever – Into The Crypt Of Rays. Here in pathetic ‘Human II’ form, it’s a godawful programmed-drum bit of 80s Hip-Hop, guitar noodling relegated to the background in an aural middle finger to the listener, and although the ensuing Seduce Me Tonight starts with a vaguely catchy riff, the fact that the first words out of Tom’s mouth are ‘check this out!’ soon turns hope into hatred. Not only is the music a dumbed-down repetitive pound, but Tom swaps his usually awesome grunt for an awful sleazy-sounding singing voice, far from even the gothic croon heard on Into The Pandemonium. To add insult to injury, there’s a breakdown wherein the word ‘ugh!’ actually escapes Tom’s mouth, but it’s half-hearted and totally of the new style, taking the base of the band’s Hellhammer-built sound and painting it a dull shade of shit.

And that, really, sums this album up. Repetitive songs do the same thing over and over, samey simplistic riffs and poor vocals piling up until a wall of dreadfulness is formed, a wall that eventually topples over as you physically force yourself to stop listening to the bloody thing. The one good thing that you can say for the album is that some of the guitar solos are passable – let’s face it, Tom G can play – but the majority are awful, and it doesn’t make up for any of the other shite performances, especially the tip-tapping drumming from Stephen Priestly. I think the absolute worst thing about the album is how it continually lifts your hopes and then dashes them – the thrashy intro to (Once) They Were Eagles is immensely cheering, and the track has a solo that approaches greatness, but compare it to the past savage likes of The Usurper, and you’ll realise what desperate straws you’re grabbing at, trying to convince yourself that the album’s not that bad as the evidence mounts up before your eyes and ears. Even the female vocalist that pops up on the truly atrocious Cherry Orchards sounds bored, as if she can’t quite believe what she’s doing.

The band themselves have tried to torpedo this album – it hasn’t been reissued, actually making existing copies somewhat valuable, and it was once listed as an ‘abomination’ on Celtic Frost’s website. Yet it retains a kind of legendary status in the Metal world, a cautionary tale for every band clawing its way up from the underground. Tom G Warrior has said that the one positive thing about Cold Lake is that it’s the absolute worst thing that he could ever do in his lifetime, and however much he may fail in the future, it won’t be as big a failure as this album. I’m an admirer of the man and I like that philosophy; he made a mistake, he acknowledges it and takes responsibility, and is comforted by its existence rather than obsessed with avoiding it. No doubt some out there bizarrely like the album for what it is, and yet even they won’t deny what a misstep it was. If you’re one of those, desperate to find something to praise about this, something to write above this abomination’s grave, then I suppose you could call it the heaviest glam album ever. I, and I’m sure Tom himself, would prefer that the tombstone simply reads: ‘Cold Lake’.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted 10 / 100
Other albums by Celtic Frost that we have reviewed:
Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Celtic Frost - Into The Pandemonium reviewed by James 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
5 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 10 replies to this review. Last one on Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:41 am
View and Post comments