CELTIC FROST — Vanity/Nemesis (review)

CELTIC FROST — Vanity/Nemesis album cover Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Despite being a huge influence on the more extreme end of the metal spectrum, Celtic Frost was always a band to do the unexpected. A majority of the band’s audience had been alienated by the ill-advised glam stylings of ‘Cold Lake’, which the band realised was a mistake. The next release was an opportunity to win back fans and rebuild their musical integrity. What the metal world got was ‘Vanity/Nemesis’.

While this is no ‘To Mega Therion’, it’s no ‘Cold Lake’ either. The old, old school death metal sound may have mellowed a little, but ‘Vanity/Nemesis’ is full of sharp ideas, combining metal and rock in a forward looking combination.

And therein lies the problem. Instead of going back to Celtic Frost’s roots, it looked too far ahead in time, leaving many an old school thrasher scratching his mullet and thinking “what the fuck?”

Tom G. Warrior had gone back to his God-given Fischer, which might well have been a clue, and had finally let his rock roots loose. Devouring big bites of the 60s and 70s, there are big Beatles-influenced melodies, nods to the old-style glam rock sounds (and image) of David Bowie, and stripped back, basic metal/rock. Warrior/Fischer had let his legendary voice ripen a little, sounding more like a gravel throated blues shouter than a blood curdling death growler. Unfortunately, Fischer struggles to hold a tune, and some of the songs, “Wings Of Solitude” in particular, really suffer.

The music throbs in a slightly subdued manner. For a band which once produced total death/thrash blurs, the controlled aggression of songs like “The Heart Beneath” and “Wine In My Hand (Third From The Sun)” would have been unimaginable five years earlier. It’s all pretty fucking solid, and grabs the attention, but doesn’t hold it, like past masterpieces such as “Procreation (Of The Wicked)” or “Circle Of The Tyrants”. The whole album plays more as background music than a lead piece. Still, it’s quite a good hangover album.

The newfound maturity was perhaps a bridge too far for Celtic Frost. Fischer seemed to lose interest in the genres of metal he’d been so influential on, and from the apathetic reception this album received on release, it seemed his audience had lost interest in him.
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