I remember hearing that there would be a tribute album to Celtic Frost sometime on a summer break during high school. I was only vaguely familiar with the band, they had appeared on an earlier compilation album I had. I really enjoyed the Black Sabbath tribute albums I owned and had picked up albums by several of the bands that covered Sabbath songs. That was what I was looking for: a chance to find out more about a very important metal band, and a way to discover other new bands.
I wasn't expecting this. This album was my first exposure to several scenes: Swedish death metal, Norwegian black metal, and much more. At first, I didn't care for it much. The music was much more extreme than I was prepared to hear. But it grew on me quickly and I now own multiple albums from bands on this album. Here's a track by track look at the album.
MORGION: "INNOCENCE AND WRATH/THE USURPER"
Kicking things off with a bang is the usually much more reserved and melodic Morgion. The band proves it has plenty of metal chops still even though they focus much more on somber, moving doom metal. They tackle these two faster tracks with no signs of weakness. I bought their Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth album.
ENSLAVED: "PROCREATION OF THE WICKED"
For a long time, I didn't like this song, possibly because I heard the Sepultura version first and liked it more. The vocals are just kind of gruff and the music is slow and dirge-like. I didn't really give Enslaved much of a chance for awhile. Then the song started to grow on me a little bit more and eventually I listened to the band again. Last year I saw them in concert opening for Opeth and am now a pretty big fan. I have their Isa and Below the Lights albums.
SLAUGHTER: "DETHRONED EMPEROR"
This one impressed me from the get-go. It was fast, aggressive, and it wasn't too far removed from bands I was currently listening to. Slaughter is the great Canadian band that had a big part to play in the formation of death metal. This was the last track the band recorded together. I have their Strappado album and the Tortured Souls box set.
MAYHEM: "VISUAL AGGRESSION
Usually there were short band bios of each band in the booklet accompanying this album. Mayhem's was several paragraphs, covering the suicide of vocalist Dead, the consumption of his brain and use of his skull fragments as ornamentation, the murder of guitarist Euronymous by bassist Varg, and the potential involvement of Euronymous in the Dead's death. Holy shit. The song itself was almost as extreme as the band bio, featuring Maniac on vocals, the only Mayhem song I have heard with him singing (or shrieking more likely). One of my friends heard this once and immediately turned it off. He never listened to any of my music again. I have their Live in Leipzig album with the classic lineup, pre-deaths, De Mysteriis Dom. Satanas, and Ordo ad Chao.
INNER THOUGHT: "MORBID TALES"
The first thing I thought about was trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with the drums. Of course, now I know they used a drum machine. It gave the song an inhuman, mechanical feel to it. Fairly effective really. Inner Thought is a band formed by one of the members of Slaughter after that band called it a day. I have Perspectives.
SADISTIC INTENT: "RETURN TO THE EVE"
Former members of the seminal death/thrash metal band Possessed. This was my favorite track off of the album at first, it probably still is now. Unfortunately, Sadistic Intent material is nearly impossible to find. The band has never released a full length album. Too bad, because they are awesome.
CIANIDE: "DAWN OF MEGGIDO"
The death/doom metal band from Chicago slows things down significantly, but still remains heavier than hell. Celtic Frost has influenced several styles of metal, death/doom is one of them. I have Divide and Conquer.
DIVINE EVE: "VISIONS OF MORTALITY"
This is the only band from the metal bands on the album that I had to look up. They are a death/doom metal band from Plano, TX, the same area as the black metal band Absu. The band does a great job with their cover, even pulling off the same type of guitar tone. Divine Eve has also never released a full length album.
The Swedish death metal band took a bit of a risk covering this song. This was one of the stranger vocal performances from Tom Warrior's history. It's surprising that Grave decided to chance it. They pull it off quite well. It's one of the more interesting tracks on the album. I have Into the Grave, Hating Life, As Rapture Comes, and Dominion VIII.
APOLLYON SUN: "BABYLON FELL"
This is Tom Warrior's band after Celtic Frost broke up the first time. I don't really understand the point of a former member paying tribute to his old band with a new one. The Black Sabbath tribute albums have this same problem. Because he was in the band, he knows exactly how to play the song, and other than a little increased distortion, there's not much different about this version. Still good though.
OPETH: "CIRCLE OF THE TYRANTS"
This song quickly became my favorite on the album. Opeth does a masterful job of covering this song. The band does not really adapt its own sound to this song. Instead, they focus on the aggression of the original track. This is the best song on the album. I have Orchid, My Arms, Your Hearse, Still Life, Blackwater Park, Deliverance, Damnation, and Ghost Reveries and have seen the band in concert.
CLOSEDOWN: "DANSE MACABRE"
This is one of the worst songs on the album. The original version is mostly ambient noise with some screams attached. This version subtracted the screams and is just ambient noise. It's long, slow, and doesn't go anywhere. So no, I don't care for it.
I don't really understand what happened here. Emperor is one of the greatest black metal bands of all time. They couple their particular brand of blackened ferocity with beautiful symphonic melodies. They have even done great covers before: Bathory's "A Fine Day to Die" and Mercyful Fate's "Gypsy". So why this cover is so bad is beyond me. I have In the Nightside Eclipse and Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk.
13: "TRIUMPH OF DEATH"
13 didn't last long. They played mostly lo-fi sludge/doom metal. They were also made up of three women, although you can't tell from listening to them. This track is slow and harsh. It's a shame the band didn't last, although one of the band members, Liz Buckingham did. She's currently in the stoner/doom metal band Electric Wizard.