Celtic Frost

Into the Pandemonium

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Having created what would remain an archetypal metal record in To Mega Therion, it seemed like Thomas Gabriel Warrior and his compatriots were after an exact repeat on first blush with Pandemonium. Armed with harrowing Bosch cover art and song titles like "Babylon Fell" and "Sorrows of the Moon," what else could be the result? With the first track, though, all bets were off, showing Warrior to be one of the least predictable folks around. The song? A nuclear-strength rip through Wall of Voodoo's West Coast new wave classic "Mexican Radio," with everything intact down to the nerdishly sung line about eating barbecued iguana. Hearing Warrior gasp and snarl his way through Stan Ridgway's shaggy dog tale is one of those not-to-be-believed-until-heard experiences. The next big change surfaces on "Mesmerized" -- rather than again invoking Beelzebub in a harsh rasp, Warrior actually sings a weepy love lyric in a sad moan. Admittedly the beloved appears to be some ancient Roman priestess, but still, this is surprising (and effective) stuff, a singing approach he reuses throughout the album. "Rex Irae (Requiem)" is especially fine, a blending of operatic backing vocals, orchestrations, and just enough crunch when needed. Then there's "One in Their Pride," which exists on the album in two different forms -- both of them drum machine-laden dub/industrial mixes. Running rampant throughout Pandemonium is the massive metal crunch and lyrics about death and destruction with which Celtic Frost made its name, so fans of earlier stuff won't feel too taken by surprise. "Inner Sanctum," detailing a wish to "forget in the sleep of death," is especially fine. But whether it's the strings and orgasmic female French lead singer -- and nothing else -- on "Tristesses de la Lune" or the brassy R&B backing vocals on "I Won't Dance," Pandemonium is a record taking happy delight in trashing expectations to follow a stranger muse.

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