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Celtic Frost's impact on the evolution of European heavy metal cannot be overstated. Along with power metal kings Helloween (and to a lesser degree, the sometimes cartoonish Mercyful Fate), Frost's enduring influence on Europe's heavy metal landscape is arguably comparable to Metallica's standing in America. Labeled by critics as "avant-garde" for their radical fusion of violent black metal and elements of classical music, the band represented a distinctly European metal perspective. But their history was troubled, their output uneven to say the least, and their ignominious end hardly fitting of their important legacy.
Thomas Gabriel Fischer was the product of a broken home and a less than financially secure upbringing -- a rare predicament in his native Switzerland, but one that instilled in him the burning ambition and outcast mentality usually required in the formative years of a rock star. Fresh out of high school, the teenager was already enamored with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and particularly high-energy trios like black metal pioneers Venom and proto-thrashers Raven. Inspired by that movement's D.I.Y. credo, Fischer renamed himself Tom Warrior, and along with bassist Steve Warrior and drummer Bruce Day, formed his first band, Hellhammer, in the fall of 1982. Less than a year later, and though still raw beyond description, the band's demos -- now featuring bassist Martin Eric Ain and drummer Stephen Priestly -- had become surprisingly popular within the underground tape-trading community. In late 1983, start-up German label Noise Records signed them to a contract and included two of their tracks on its first release, a compilation of rising German metal bands appropriately called Death Metal. But Warrior and Ain felt that Hellhammer had already run its course and that the group's extreme nature was too limiting for their increasingly mature compositions. Thus, with their gothic, pseudo-satanic image already coming into focus, in May 1984 they evolved into Celtic Frost.
By October, the trio was in Berlin recording its first album, Morbid Tales, which cemented the group's position as one of Europe's most promising metal acts thanks to its still relatively straightforward -- but nevertheless excellent -- thrash metal attack. The sudden departure of Priestly also proved to be a blessing in disguise, as his replacement, American drummer Reed St. Mark, brought a confidence and musicianship that the group sorely needed. Amazingly, Celtic Frost had yet to play their first concert, so after putting the finishing touches on the Emperor's Return EP, in April 1985 they performed a single warm-up show in their hometown of Zurich, then set out to tour across Germany and Austria.
Now growing from strength to strength, Warrior decided to replace the increasingly unmotivated Ain with bassist Dominic Steiner for their second album, To Mega Therion. But he soon had second thoughts, and Ain returned after the album's completion that fall. Its cover graced by original artwork from acclaimed Swiss artist H.R. Giger (of Alien fame), the album expanded Celtic Frost's songwriting palette, furthered their growing reputation, and was followed by their first North American performance at the World War Three metal festival in Montreal. After the release of the Tragic Serenades EP in the summer of 1986, the band embarked upon its most extensive tour yet -- first through Europe (including their first visit to England) with Helloween and Grave Digger, then across America with Voivod and Running Wild.
By the end of the year, Celtic Frost were poised to fulfill their seemingly destined promise with a groundbreaking third effort. On To Mega Therion, Warrior had begun experimenting with different musical styles (especially classical music and electronica), leading certain journalists to describe the band's direction as "avant-garde" metal. Released in 1987, Into the Pandemonium would substantiate these claims and then some, introducing an unconventional collision of death metal brutality and symphonic overtones on its way to becoming one of the classic extreme metal albums of all time. Frost's most defining and influential work, it paved the way for the evolution of European death metal as a full-fledged underground phenomenon over the next decade. American guitarist Ron Marks was brought in to flesh out Celtic Frost's live assault, and their subsequent U.K. tour was a resounding success on all fronts.
Now at the peak of their powers, Frost headed for America to undertake their biggest tour ever, but trouble was right around the corner. First the band's high spirits were quickly dampened by personality clashes with new member Marks and, secondly, the tour itself became mired in organizational and financial difficulties almost from day one. By the time it finally concluded in New York City (where the road crew was forced to hold the group's gear hostage in order to get paid by Noise Records), the band was on its last legs. Furious at their record company and completely burnt out from the long months of arduous roadwork, they had had enough: Celtic Frost effectively ceased to exist.
Six months would pass before Warrior got over his disillusionment and was convinced to resurrect Celtic Frost by Swiss guitarist Oliver Amberg. After drafting bassist Curt Victor Bryant and bringing back founding drummer Stephen Priestly, the revamped unit entered Berlin's Sky Trak studios in the summer of 1988 with producer Tony Platt to begin sessions for the now infamous Cold Lake album. Warrior's lingering indifference and lack of commitment to the project allowed Amberg and Platt's commercial tendencies to run wild. In what has since been viewed as one of the most misguided changes in artistic direction in heavy metal history, the duo subverted Frost's ferocious extreme metal roar into a sugar-coated pop-metal whimper. If this weren't bad enough, the group then signed their own death sentence by adopting a glam rock image, complete with teased hair, makeup, and colorful outfits to match! The repercussions were instantaneous and devastating; press and consumers alike burned the band in effigy as an utter sellout, and what was expected to be a triumphant world tour turned into a protracted, embarrassing agony for all involved.
Following this unmitigated disaster, Tom Gabriel Fischer (as he'd once again been calling himself after retiring his Warrior-like qualities) began backpedaling as fast as he could. Assuming control of the group once again, he fired Amberg and lured guitarist Ron Marks back to the fold for 1990's back-to-basics Vanity/Nemesis LP. Marks remained as unreliable as always, though, and would soon exit, forcing Bryant to switch from bass to guitar and opening the door for Martin Eric Ain's return. As for Vanity/Nemesis, it was a respectable semi-return to form that attempted to pick up where Into the Pandemonium had left off and make believe Cold Lake had never happened, but it ultimately couldn't undo the damage done to the band's reputation. After a troubled European tour, Frost planned to return to America for the first time in three years, but when a new recording deal with major label EMI (which had finally severed the band's long-troubled ties to Noise) fell through due to corporate restructuring, Celtic Frost found themselves dropped and, still in shock, decided to call it a day. Their final act was compiling a collection of hits and album leftovers for 1992's Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying -- its bizarre title taken, in typically quirky Frost fashion, from a fourth century Roman poem.
Fischer would avoid the spotlight completely for the next few years before resurfacing in the late '90s with a new band called Apollyon Sun, but when this too ground to a halt amid widespread public indifference, he once again connected with Martin Ain, and quietly set about planning Celtic Frost's resurrection. Working mostly in seclusion and avoiding all external intervention or financing, the duo -- plus new drummer Franco Sesa -- slowly recorded enough material for a comeback album to be titled Monotheist, which they eventually licensed to Century Media and released to much well-deserved fanfare in early 2006 -- just over 20 years after their debut.
Celtic Frost was a metal band from Zürich, Switzerland. They are known for their heavy influence on the extreme metal genres. The group was first active from 1984 to 1993, and re-formed in 2001. Following Tom Gabriel Fischer's departure in 2008, Celtic Frost disbanded. The band was inspired by heavy metal groups such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Venom, but also by gothic rock acts like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Christian Death, and by the hardcore punk group Discharge.
Their exact genre has been a topic of debate. Their earlier music was sometimes classified as thrash metal, black metal and even death metal and their later work as doom metal and gothic metal. The level of experimentation on albums such as Into the Pandemonium led certain journalists to describe the band's direction as avant-garde metal.
Formation (1984-1985) 
Celtic Frost's former frontman, guitarist and singer Tom Gabriel Fischer, adopted the alias Tom Warrior. With Steve Warrior on bass, he formed one of the earliest extreme metal bands, Hellhammer, in 1982. Steve Warrior was later replaced by Martin Eric Ain – also a pseudonym. The band attracted a small international fan-base, got signed to Noise Records in Germany and recorded their debut EP Apocalyptic Raids in March 1984, now a rare finding on eBay or second hand record stores around the world.
Metal publications were also skeptical of Hellhammer's musical endeavor. Metal Forces, for one, absolutely loathed the group; that started a long-lasting feud between that zine and Warrior, which kept Celtic Frost from playing in England for a couple of years. Rock Power was not fond of Hellhammer either - they considered it "the most terrible, abhorrent, and atrocious thing ‘musicians’ were ever allowed to record". In fact, they were "receiving miserable reviews everywhere", Warrior concluded.
Regarding the controversial status of his former band, Thomas said:
By May 1984, Hellhammer had disbanded. Fischer and Ain, along with session drummer Stephen Priestly, regrouped as Celtic Frost. Their 1984 debut mini-LP, Morbid Tales was a hit in the underground metal scene, and the band set out on its first tour, through Germany and Austria. This was followed with an EP Emperor's Return. Both early releases are now available on the one CD.
Mid-1980s (1985-1987) 
One of their more influential recordings was 1985's To Mega Therion which did not feature Ain on bass, but stand-in Dominic Steiner. The cover artwork is a painting by H.R. Giger entitled Satan I. The album was a major influence on the then-developing death metal and black metal genres. Ain did return after the album was recorded however. In 1987 followed Into the Pandemonium. The album is more varied than many of Celtic Frost's past LPs, with unlikely covers (Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio"), emotionally charged love songs, the album's recurring industrial-influenced rhythmic songs of demons and destruction, traditional Frost styled songs about dreams and fear, and a dark, classical piece with female vocals.
The album is vastly different from the band's previous work and cemented its late 80s avant-garde metal term; it is also a departure from the extreme style found on the band's previous albums, Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion that Celtic Frost had become known for. However, it does have the recurring symphonic elements found on previous albums. The album has a more classic heavy metal style within the songs with elements of industrial, classical and gothic rock, and even has a hip hop/dance inspired rhythm in "One in Their Pride". It does have a few black metal elements remaining in Tom Warrior's vocals, though, and some thrash-influenced guitar riffs.
These albums were some of the pivotal LPs for underground metal and inducted a new and more varied sound. Celtic Frost, along with Venom and Bathory were pioneers in the still underground black metal scene, although Celtic Frost were much more experimental with the addition of classical instruments, operatic female vocals and sampling. Celtic Frost was often labeled by critics as avant-garde metal.
Stylistic changes, internal struggles, and first breakup (1987-1993) 
After a subsequent North American tour (which saw the addition of a second guitarist, Ron Marks to the group's ranks), financial trouble, personal tension between the band members and an ill-fated relationship with their record label led to a complete dissolution of the band. Six months later, Warrior decided to reform the band with Stephen Priestly back on drums, Oliver Amberg on guitars and Curt Victor Bryant on bass. The resulting album Cold Lake was a disappointment to most of the group's established fan-base but achieved notable success in the North American market. Bryant fired Amberg and former live guitarist Ron Marks returned for the recording of Vanity/Nemesis in 1990. The most significant change, however, was the return of early bassist Martin Eric Ain and the addition of "Gypsy" Jones on guitar. But Celtic Frost's reputation did not fully recover. The group's next (and, as it would turn out, last for several years) album was a collection of rare recordings called Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying (1992). The compilation's title was inspired by an old Roman prayer. It featured unreleased material, re-recorded versions of older songs and some studio session versions.
A final album titled "Under Apollyon's Sun" was never made under that title, although Fischer co-founded a new group called Apollyon Sun.
Post-breakup (1993-2001) 
Several years following the disbanding of Celtic Frost, and after quite some time spent away from the music industry, Fischer co-founded a new group called Apollyon Sun with his close friend Erol Unala on guitars in the mid-1990s and recorded an EP God Leaves (And Dies) and a full-length album Sub. Although clearly based on Celtic Frost's dark and more adventurous music, Apollyon Sun was an industrial metal project. During his hiatus from music, Fischer had also finished work on an autobiographical book, called Are You Morbid?, which was published by London-based Sanctuary Publishing to fan acclaim in 2000.
Reunion (2001-2008) 
In late 2001, Fischer and Ain began to write music together again, along with Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, experienced Swiss drummer Franco Sesa (also known within the group as the Inverted Cross). The aim was to develop and record a new, very dark and heavy album. The completion of the project took far longer than anticipated (in part due to the DIY nature of the project and the project's financing) but finally resulted, in late 2005, in what Fischer and Ain describe as "perhaps the darkest album Celtic Frost have ever recorded", based on a combination of the musical aura of To Mega Therion and Into the Pandemonium.
The newest and seventh Celtic Frost album was financed by the group itself through its own imprint, Prowling Death Records, and publishing imprint, Diktatur des Kapitals. Prowling Death Records originally was the self-founded underground label which released the Hellhammer demos and managed Hellhammer's career in 1983 and 1984. The album was produced by Celtic Frost with Peter Tägtgren (of Bloodbath/Hypocrisy/Pain fame) and mixed by Fischer and Ain. Celtic Frost and Prowling Death Records subsequently entered into a worldwide licensing deal with Century Media Records. The album, titled Monotheist, was released on May 30, 2006.
On May 29, 2006, Celtic Frost embarked on the most extensive tour of the band's career, the "Monotheist Tour", initially headlining festivals (e.g. the Wacken Open Air festival, in front of an audience of 50,000) across Europe the United States and Canada in 2006, and the group's first ever shows in Japan in January 2007. In early 2007 the European leg of the tour took place and a return to the United States as a special guest to Type O Negative. Further festival appearances and concerts followed in mid-2007.
On stage, Celtic Frost play with an additional tour guitar player. This position was initially filled by Anders Odden (Cadaver, Apoptygma Berzerk, Magenta), now by V Santura (of Dark Fortress).
In early 2007, Celtic Frost began writing material for a new album, possibly due for release in 2008.
Metalunderground posted a statement from Tom Fischer regarding the new album."Only a few hours until I am to depart to Norway for a few weeks to participate in the production of a black metal project with close friends and peers. In early March I shall return to Switzerland to take further steps towards the realization of my own black metal/doom side project, the idea for which has taken an increasingly defined shape during the past months."
Fischer spoke to Spanish metal webzine Hall of Metal recently about new material: "I'm actually working on a new album of Celtic Frost and I think it's going to be really extreme and dark. Celtic Frost has its own style, its own sound and it expresses a lot of emotions. The music I write shows the state of my life, and now I feel very comfortable with such dark music."
As of Celtic Frost's announcement of their second breakup in September 2008, there is no talk of recording and releasing the new album. The last shows of Celtic Frost were in Mexico, one on October 12, 2007 in Monterrey, and the last one on October 13, 2007 in Mexico City.
Definitive breakup and Triptykon (2008-present) 
Fischer tendered his resignation from Celtic Frost on April 9, 2008, with this message displayed on the band's official website:"Celtic Frost singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer has left Celtic Frost due to the irresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile, and ambitious."
Bassist Ain stated that the band was "still alive, albeit in a coma of sorts." He went on further to say that the remainder of the band is "not going to continue recording or touring," saying this "would be preposterous" without Fischer. Fischer has himself gone on to form a new band called Triptykon, featuring Celtic Frost touring guitarist V Santura, original Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark (although he has since departed and was replaced by Norman Lonhard), as well as bassist Vanja Slajh. Fischer has also said that his new band will sound similar to the direction Celtic Frost took on their 2006 album, Monotheist.
On September 9, 2008, Celtic Frost members Martin Eric Ain and Tom Gabriel Fischer confirmed on Celtic Frost's official website that the band had "jointly decided to lay Celtic Frost to rest for good".
As Celtic Frost changed their sound throughout their career, their exact genre has been a topic of debate. Their earlier music was sometimes classified as thrash metal, black metal and even death metal and their later work as doom metal and gothic metal. With the album Cold Lake they were said to experiment with glam metal. The level of experimentation on albums such as Into the Pandemonium led certain journalists to describe the band's direction as avant-garde metal.
Celtic Frost have influenced a number of black, death, thrash, and heavy metal bands. The band Therion, for example, took its band name from the album To Mega Therion. Other bands that have cited Celtic Frost as an influence, or have covered Celtic Frost, include Obituary, Dimmu Borgir, Goatwhore, Sepultura, Gorgoroth, Gallhammer and many others. Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana were fans of Celtic Frost. Dave Grohl (ex-Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Creed) have both stated on several occasions that Celtic Frost were an influence. Grohl subsequently invited Celtic Frost singer Tom Gabriel Fischer to participate in the recordings of his 2004 solo project, Probot, resulting in the co-written song "Big Sky".
In 1995, Dwell Records released In Memory of Celtic Frost, a collection of songs covered by other bands. Notable bands that appeared on this tribute collection include Enslaved, covering the song "Procreation (of the Wicked)"; Opeth, covering the song "Circle of the Tyrants"; Swedish death metal band Grave, covering the song "Mesmerized"; Canadian thrash metal band Slaughter, covering the song "Dethroned Emperor"; Apollyon Sun (featuring Tom G. Warrior himself), covering the song "Babylon Fell"; and the Norwegian black metal bands Emperor, covering "Massacra", and Mayhem, covering the song "Visual Aggression". The tribute album also features Celtic Frost songs covered by several lesser known and now defunct metal bands. The hard to find CD is now out of print.
Despite this, when Fischer was asked to comment on their influence on heavy metal, he replied: "No, I try to stay away from that. I'm a musician, I don't want to get involved with all that. It's not healthy. I want to do good albums. I'm still alive and I feel there's still so much in front of me. I don't want to be bothered with who has influence and where we stand and all that. I think it's a negative thing."