Sunday, November 28, 2010

Celtic Frost: Cold Lake (1988)

Motion for Reconsideration

Cold Lake is widely considered to be the only bad album released by the highly-influential Celtic Frost, called a sellout by many and denounced even by frontman Tom Warrior. But does it deserve such a bad reputation?

Prior to this point, the band had huge influence as a proto-black metal outfit, with a couple of amazing EPs and To Mega Therion as the perfect examples. They followed these up with 1987's experimental Into the Pandemonium, which also included industrial elements. These were well-received by serious metal fans, not the fans of Van Halen or Def Leppard.

Then everyone left the band, except for Warrior. New members were lined up, and guitarist Amberg took over much of the writing. Warrior had this to say about the situation:
I was too eager to simply have a good time, I was too happy to have new musicians who actually wanted to write and who didn't leave me with the immense burden of writing and producing the entire album (as it had been for the first three Celtic Frost albums). I therefore loosened control (of material and quality) too much. And I was too glad to let the darkness go – right down to the band’s image.

The original concept for Cold Lake as outlined was now taking on its own dynamics and our focus became totally out of control. What was going to be a far more melodic (commercial) album by the original line-up became an overblown steam release valve for past frustrations, recorded by new musicians who didn’t yet understand the legacy of Celtic Frost.

Tony Platt’s faulty production and the hefty disagreements he had with us contributed to this. The mistakes are countless. Just two here: we didn’t let go of Tony because we wanted a major name attached to the album – after all, that was what Celtic Frost always requested from Noise Records and had never gotten. Now it was possible. And Celtic Frost’s traditional complete ignorance of what was appropriate now backfired when we did Cold Lake in this totally inappropriate way.
But what about the results?

(I should clarify that I was not able to get a copy of the album, but I did manage to find every song online and listen to them in order.)

The album definitely does NOT sound like previous Celtic Frost albums. It is, sadly, very much in the vein of Mötley Crüe. Even if they were good at it, that would have been an utter failure, but they weren't good at it. Warrior's voice is ill-suited to the irreverent, fun-loving style.

The intro gives it an inauspicious, proto-rap-rock beginning, but the album isn't a total waste. "(Once) They Were Eagles" and "Downtown Hanoi" are decent, and closer "Roses with Thorns" sounds almost like true Celtic Frost except for the lead guitars. "Cherry Orchards", the highlight of the album, even includes female vocals, although they are now sexy instead of eerie.

But the rest of the album does deserve the bad reputation the album gets. "Seduce Me Tonight" and "Blood on Kisses" are probably the worst of the bunch.

The Verdict: This album might not be quite as bad as its reputation, but it's damn close, and I give it 1 out of 5 stars. Of course, for completists and collectors it would be an excellent find, with CD copies running around $80, cassettes about $20, and vinyl anywhere in that range.

1 comment:

  1. For a glam metal album, it's not terrible. The problem of course is that it is nothing compared to Celtic Frost's earlier material. If it had been released under another band name, it would not be nearly as despised. Not that it's a good album though.