Live Review: Celtic Frost in Charlotte (10/31/06)


Halloween night was a real treat for me. It isn’t often that living legends grace the buckle of the Bible Belt with their presence, so when my girlfriend and I heard that Celtic Frost would be appearing Samhain night at Charlotte’s Tremont Music Hall, we fell over ourselves in our rush to snap up a couple of tickets.

The first band was scheduled to hit the stage at 8, but as this band was Intethod - Pantera clone, retarded, black bassist, Mk I – I arranged for a fashionably late arrival. We entered the club a couple of songs into national opener Goatwhore’s set, but this timing would prove to be something of a disappointment. If only I had lingered over dinner a little longer, I could have spared myself the irritation of listening to this band altogether. Goatwhore’s fans and press releases tout them as a black/death metal hybrid made ‘unique’ by the incorporation of ‘sludge’ influences. In actuality, their music comes across as an average of a thousand other bands playing similarly styled paint-by-the-numbers hardcore dressed up as extreme metal. Not surprisingly, the tepid music was met with a tepid response from the crowd. Apparently unaware that they were an opening act, Goatwhore’s singer and bassist bitched about the lack of crowd response. Mercifully, the set ended relatively quickly.

Celtic Frost’s entrance was eagerly anticipated. The band took the stage with fog and a light show, accompanied by the recorded strains of “Totengott” from the new album Monotheist (at least I THINK it was “Totengott”, it was hard to tell due to the drunk indie-fag in a Johnny Cash shirt yelling in my ear for “Mexican Radio”). The band paused on stage, hands raised as if in invocation to the darkness. It was a dramatic gesture, one that in the hands of a lesser band might have come across as cheap theater, but here, it fit the moment. The band then launched into a punishingly downtuned rendition of “Procreation of the Wicked.”

This set the tone for the set, which consisted almost entirely of tracks taken from Morbid Tales, Emperor’s Return and To Mega Therion (with only one song, “Mesmerized”, coming from Into the Pandemonium and three from Monotheist), all played with an updated, dense sound that added a fresh intensity to old classics. The band exuded a commanding presence, demonstrating an absolute mastery of their art and of the space without needing to resort to flailing gestures or irritating banter. Thomas Fischer, in particular, is an electric performer in brilliantly understated and sinister way (his corpse paint, which looked somewhat goofy in press pictures, was distinctly unsettling in the dim lighting of the club).

While the set was jammed with classics (including a stellar performance of “Necromantical Screams), the absolute highlight of the show was the show closer, “Synagoga Satanae” which was also the best track on the band’s latest release. When I first listened Monotheist, this song immediate jumped out as something special, a sequel of sorts to “Triumph of Death”. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the live experience, which was nothing short of magical. The brooding, esoteric, ritual power of “Synagoga Satanae” alone was worth the price of admission.

Set list:

Procreation (of the Wicked)
Visions of Mortality
Circle of the Tyrants
The Usurper
Jewel Throne
Ain Elohim
Necromantical Screams
Dawn of Megiddo
Return to the Eve
Dethroned Emperor
Into the Crypts of Rays
Synogoga Satanae

So it seems that they have completely written off Vanity/Nemesis? A shame since it is such a flawed masterpiece, their "Sandinista" if you will. Glad to hear they put on a good show though.
"You have to believe in God before you can say there are things that man was not meant to know. I don't think there's anything man wasn't meant to know. There are just some stupid things that people shouldn't do." -David Cronenberg

I suspect it has something to do with the band accurately gauging fan sentiment than anything else.


On a totally different note, there's an interesting sociological phenomenon to be observed at shows like this. Celtic Frost is one of those metal bands with substantial crossover appeal (maybe the Amebix influence?), so you get some punks at the shows. It's always interesting to see just how divergent these subcultures are - not just in behavior (headbanging vs. moshing) or superficial appearance (long hair vs. short), but even in things you wouldn't expect (the punkers are almost invariably younger, shorter and much lighter in build - not sure why, but it's almost a law of nature).