Celtic Frost – Into The Pandemonium

 1987 Noise Records (reissued 1999 Noise Records)

This album deserves to be heard by everyone simply for the fact that it stands alone in its own universe.  There’s never been anything like it before or since.  It was so far ahead of its time that the band’s own label (and indeed many of CF’s original fans) didn’t quite understand it at the time.  It is now known as an underground classic that has influenced an unreal number of artists from Obituary to, yes, Nirvana (Dave Grohl is a fan – check out the Probot album – and Kurt Cobain cited CF as an influence during the writing for the ‘In Utero’ album).

I hardly know where to start, so let’s start with the opening track, a totally metallic reworking of Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.”  This proves to be an acurate indication of the weirdness to follow.  “Mesmerized” does exactly that with a combination of heavy and clean guitar sounds and a tortured, moaning vocal that may have you laughing if you’re not on board with the concept.

These guys were always trying to sound different and bring new dimensions to the death metal blueprint they helped create.  In fact, their first three albums – ‘Morbid Tales,’ ‘To Mega Therion’ and ‘Into the Pandemonium’ – totally encapsulate the death/dark metal genre.  Anything progressive that is being done today can be traced back to this Celtic Frost trifecta.

They were the first metal band to incorporate female operatic vocals (‘To Mega Therion’) and ‘Into the Pandemonium’ is a disc loaded with firsts.

They were the first metal band to incorporate an orchestra (“Tristesses de la Lune,” “Rex Irae,” and “Oriental Masquerade”).  They were the first to experiment with dance beats and programming (“One in their Pride”).  They were the first to incorporate softer (melodic?) vocal textures to complement the death grunt that they helped pioneer (numerous tracks on the album).  They were even the first to exhibit a sense of humour about things, as evidenced on album opener “Mexican Radio” and CD bonus track “In the Chapel, In the Moonlight” – which is an old Dean Martin song.

Listen with an open mind, as this album covers so much ground and is so ‘all over the place’ that this diversity is what makes it work as a cohesive whole.  There’s also a charming innocence here as the band members’ individual skills (save for drummer Reed St. Mark) weren’t quite up to par with their ambitious musical vision, a fact the band themselves readily admit.  The conviction is undeniably there as the album works through sheer ambition, will and strength of song.  Thankfully, the new guard at their old label (Noise) remastered and repackaged their entire catalogue in 1999, allowing the band to finally present ‘Into the Pandemonium’ with the artwork and layout they had wanted back in 1987…once again proving how far ahead of their time they were.

Thankfully, the remastering brings an additional power boost to the sound that was missing on the original release, simply magnifying the fact that this disc sounds every bit as fresh and original as it did back in 1987.  In fact this disc stands as one of the most original sounding works in the history of rock, period.

Rating:  5 out of 5