Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Monday, March 13, 2017

Celtic Frost - Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying (1992)

This is one of the best archival releases you’ll ever hear. The commonly accepted wisdom about Celtic Frost’s eighties run among some is the band peaked early before Tom G. Warrior signed off on some disastrous artistic decisions like the Cold Lake album reducing their reputation to rubble by 1990. To Mega Therion and Into the Pandemonium are seminal albums in the metal genre and still exert a wide influence over the genre and subjective judgments about albums like 1988’s Cold Lake and Vanity/Nemesis in 1990 do nothing to diminish their initial impact. 1992 saw Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying slip under the door as a tacit rebuke to those who might confine the band’s lasting impact to the first two albums. This wide-ranging collection of songs includes tracks from the band’s first four albums alongside assorted re-recordings, obscure EP’s, demos, and outtakes. The breadth of Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying shows off the band’s diversity in stunning fashion.

The album opens with a track from 1991 sessions for an aborted album. “Idols of Chagrin” has a swaggering Warrior vocal, a hard-hitting but strong musical strut, and some interest sonic turns. The song has a surprisingly big chorus hook, but Celtic Frost can’t resist roughing up any hints of commerciality with some aggressively dissonant passages. “A Descent to Babylon (Babylon Asleep)” hails from the 1990 Wine in My Hand (Third from the Sun) EP and dispenses with even a shred of the commercial qualities heard in the opener. It’s a musically challenging piece too with numerous tempo shifts the band flawlessly pulls off. The addition of slightly sinister female voices is a nice atmospheric touch. “Return to the Eve” is a 1985 studio jam eventually landing on the 1986 Tragic Serenades EP and opens with a quasi-fanfare from the guitars before Frost ratchets up the intensity. They are never content taking one path. Instead, “Return to the Eve” comes off as a slaughterhouse musical clinic on how to bludgeon listeners with hammering guitars, crushing mid-tempo passages, and whiplashed tempo changes. Celtic Frost circa 1985 is an unstoppable musical force.

“Juices like Wine” has plenty of power and energy, but the song never really sticks and plays more solid than remarkable, excepting a particularly strong guitar solo near the song’s end. 1987’s “The Inevitable Factor” has a heavy but melodic guitar riff working as its main hook and an intensely theatrical Warrior vocal. Some might find fault with his singing on the track, but it contrasts nicely with the arrangement and the song definitely finds another gear with its instrumental break in the second half. “The Heart Beneath” from 1990’s Vanity/Nemesis rolls out with an inexorable guitar and rhythm section attack and Frost’s trademark penchant for note-perfect tempo shifts rearing its head. The solid spine holding everything together gives Frost a chance to veer off in unexpected directions with raucous, yet coherent, guitar solos and close with a brief, but compelling, coda. The radio edit for Cold Lake’s “Cherry Orchards” memorably alternates Warrior’s vocals with Michelle Villanueva’s voice – it’s hard to hear hardcore Frost devotee disliking the band’s refining of the formula they established with the first two albums as nothing but a knee jerk reaction. There’s a much more streamlined approach and more emphasis on conventional textures and structures, but Warrior’s presence is so distinctive that it never loses a connection to the band’s preceding work.

It’s songs like “Tristesses de la Lune” that garnered Celtic Frost notice even outside the boundaries of the metal world. Manü Moan’s vocal on the song and the neo-classical accompaniment exerts a tremendous imaginative hold over listeners even if they can’t translate the lyrics. Celtic Frost circa 1987 deserved notice as fearless songwriters and performers. “Wings of Solitude” has typically nicely handled tempo changes and lighter musical touches bubbling to the surface, but it doesn’t leave the same deep impact as other songs. Michele Amar’s second vocals are well matched with Warrior’s pipes and they come together quite nicely on the song’s chorus. The 1986 re-recording of To Mega Therion’s “The Usurper” has, if it’s possible, a sharper edge than the album version and the band included this performance on the 1986 Tragic Serenades EP. The previously unreleased “Journey into Fear” from 1985 is a full on assault with an unforgiving tempo and lyrics delivered like knife thrusts. This is Celtic Frost as a clinched fist.

A partially re-recording of Cold Lake’s “Downtown Hanoi” from 1991 follows but it does little to turn an unremarkably straight-ahead track into an unheralded classic. “Circle of Tyrants” from 1985’s To Mega Therion (and Emperor’s Return) is indisputably classic Celtic Frost and still demolishes listeners thirty plus years later with the same white-knuckled fury. “In the Chapel in the Moonlight”, initially recording during the In the Pandemonium sessions, is one of most unlikely covers ever. This tune from the late 1930’s takes on new life under Frost’s auspices and serves up further evidence not only of the band’s wide-open vision but their ability to realize it to its fullest extent. “I Won’t Dance (The Elders Orient)” brings in some backing female vocals and locks in with rugged groove from the outset. There’s a preening, defiant attitude burning off this song and drawing listeners in from the first time Warrior comes into the performance. There’s some real swagger here impossible to ignore. The album pulls from Vanity/Nemesis a final time with “The Name of My Bride”, a direct and lean rocker distinguished by a snarling Warrior vocal biting deep into every line.

The collection’s penultimate track is a 1991 studio jam on Frost’s classic Wall of Voodoo cover of the pop hit “Mexican Radio”. This version of the band turns in quite a respectable variant on the initial studio recording and Warrior’s vocal owns the lyric with every bit of the same authority making his famous earlier performance stand out. The final song on Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying is the previously unreleased (at the time, natch) “Under Apollyon’s Sun”, a title soon abridged for a post-Frost Tom G, Warrior music project. It doesn’t approach any of the musical tendencies of that later outfit, but its relentless grind and tight changes mark it as a stand out from that era in the band’s history. Thomas Gabriel Fischer, aka Tom G. Warrior isn’t going to be hitting the US talk show network talking about his latest release and Celtic Frost are never entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thank god. Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying is a powerful retrospective on the band’s prime and final years (before their later re-emergence) and rates as essential for any Celtic Frost fan.

Grade: A-

Celtic Frost
Darmstadt, Germany
June 2, 1985

1) Intro/Danse Macabre
2) Into the Crypt of Rays
3) Circle of Tyrants
4) Visions of Mortality
5) Dawn of Meggido
6) Dethroned Emperor
7) Necromantical Screams
8) Return to the Eve
9) Procreation of the Wicked
10) Morbid Tales

In .wav format

Celtic Frost Live 1985

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