September 10, 2007 | Author: Baz Bardoe

celtic_frost_2This has been by far the most difficult piece of writing I have tackled for many years. How do you convey to someone unfamiliar with Celtic Frost, just how important they are? How do you convince the masses to put aside their preconceptions and accept that metal music can in fact be art? That it can have intellectual substance and be a revolutionary force? If you are unfamiliar with this Swiss outfit then it is time you opened your mind to these possibilities. And of course if you are already a fan, you would know that they are one of the most important metal acts ever, and after a lengthy hiatus they are back with the brilliant ‘Monotheist’ album and a world tour that has included Australia for the first time.

Speaking with mainman, vocalist/guitarist, Tom Fischer it became obvious that Celtic Frost are very different to most bands. The core of the band is built around Fisher’s long term friendship with bassist/vocalist Martin Eric Ain. The band grew from the unique bond the two shared and their mutual interest in esoteric areas. “We met not as musicians”, offers Fischer, “we were profoundly interested in history, philosophy…occultism….we would spend countless nights discussing these things to exhaustion!” Out of this was born the legendary Hellhammer, a band whose artistic ambitions vastly over reached their fledgling musical abilities. An immediate underground cult smash Hellhammer soon reached its logical conclusion and Celtic Frost was born. Many have tried to second guess Fischer’s philosophies and he admits to having a strong ‘ intellectual interest in Germanic heathenry’ whilst drawing upon diverse occult and religious sources for inspiration. If anything Celtic Frost is a document of an insatiable existential curiosity nicely encapsulated in the words ‘nihil verum nisi mors’ which appear on their website – literally ‘the only truth is death’.

It would be tempting to imagine Fischer is a brooding and moody type but the fact is the man has a great sense of humour as well. I asked him if he was surprised to have a guitar endorsement after all these years? “What can I say? I only waited for 24 years to get that damn endorsement! I think they’re slightly embarrassed… but they made me the guitar I want!” And it only happened because he sent Ibanez a ‘nasty email’!

The band also decided with this new album to revive their old production company Prowling Death Records and take complete responsibility for recording the album themselves, a decision based around a strongly felt desire to not compromise in any way. “It was the only way we could envisage doing this”, explains Fischer. “We had immense difficulties with the recording industry…we were ruined by a record label…14 months of litigation…” The period he is alluding to was in the 80’s when the act was effectively brought to a halt. I asked him if people  could ever fully understand how difficult that was?

“I’ve tried to help people understand by writing my book … people are astonished!” So the decision to retain complete control was obvious, but it was a very difficult process, spanning years.“On a physical level it was a night mare…we worked day and night”, and although it may ‘sound very cool’ to have your own record label, Fischer is quick to point out they had to finance everything, and worked jobs to do so.

‘We have no money… none of us is rich”, he explains. In his online blog Fischer has been fairly scathing about the creative state of metal music. I asked him how hard it was to be original these days? “It is always very hard to be creative and original… and it is never so hard as it is now. With the advent of the computer people can assemble the most amazing things at home – what is left for musicians? It is almost impossible.”

He does however add that if you are ‘sincere’ and ‘emotional’ you are headed in the right direction. He also talks about the internal stresses within the band. When I ask him about this he admits that there are times when it almost becomes terminal.
“It is the secret potential of the band and the biggest problem… it is always one second from disintegration…” He talks about the ‘chemistry’ he feels with Ain and the enormous bond of friendship that makes him state that he can’t imagine continuing without him, but equally ‘co existence is damn near impossible’. Celtic Frost are perhaps defined by their volatility more than just about any other band. One thing that Fischer can count on is a euphoric fan base.

“I am absolutely amazed” he gushes when I ask him about the strong interest in the reformed lineup. And even more incredible is that the fact that about a third of the audience seems to be teenagers, people too young to have bought  a classic album like ‘To Mega Therion’ the first time around. So I ask him what advice he would give those seeking to establish a band? “Don’t even try it! If you want to preserve your finances, dignity, sanity … if you want to be honest … in the end you get sucked in and you have to find a way to deal with that. Be incredibly careful and control as much as you can yourself … don’t let them decide things for you … labels are getting more desperate.”

Ultimately though he realizes that if you are drawn to music you will want to give expression to that and you will have to engage with the industry on some level. Perhaps read his book, ‘Are you morbid?’ to gain some insights. With a critically acclaimed new album and tour, it is hard not to see Celtic Frost finally gaining their just desserts. Oh, and I should mention, the live show did not disappoint!