1984, Music

Morbid Tales (1984) by Celtic Frost

This, Celtic Frost’s debut, is one of those “EPs in name only”, only that’s true of the US release, not the European release. In Europe it was in indeed an EP. In the US it was a short LP. Why bother mentioning this? Well, it’s classified everywhere as an EP, and these records usually get a lot less attention than full on LPs. (Unless we’re talking about dance music.)

This is pounding, albeit sometimes slower, thrash with a titch of artiness to it. By no means the amount of artiness of later Celtic Frost, but enough to distinguish it from the other thrash of the time. And it’s just off centre enough to suggest other possibilities for extreme music. I read that it’s apparently a fundamental influence on the bands that would go on to create both black metal and death metal, and listening to it, it’s not a surprise. And I think the reason why so many of us have never heard of it is because “it’s an EP”.

Everything plods along until it just explodes into more conventional thrash territory. (Or, conversely, it will start off fast and then just drop down to a plodding pace.) There’s a clear influence of Sabbath (or something else influenced by Sabbath), which I believe was very uncool at the time.

When the female vocals come in, you really know this is no ordinary thrash record. But it’s on “Danse Macabre” where things completely depart the realm of thrash metal. To be clear: there’s nothing particularly compelling or innovative about this track in the broad span of music history. But it’s about as out there as thrash metal – and metal in general – got in the early ’80s, having far more in common with psychedelia or freak folk or even early avant rock than thrash. Its mere presence on an “EP” of thrash metal is a statement to listeners that this band (and all metal bands, perhaps) should not and will not be confined to genre conventions (which were already ossifying a year or two into the genre’s existence).

Anyway, this is a landmark. And it’s mostly a lot of fun. It’s a shame its nature as an EP has kept it from getting more attention.


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