Celtic Frost

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Celtic Frost
Celtic Frost live at Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2006. The band's distinctive skull-and-spears logo can be seen on the banners.
Celtic Frost live at Tuska Open Air Metal Festival 2006. The band's distinctive skull-and-spears logo can be seen on the banners.
Background information
OriginZürich, Switzerland
Years active1984–1987, 1988–1993, 2001–2008
LabelsCentury Media, Noise, Metal Blade
Past membersThomas Gabriel Fischer
Martin Eric Ain
Franco Sesa
Isaac Darso
Stephen Priestly
Reed St. Mark
Ron Marks
Dominic Steiner
Curt Victor Bryant
Oliver Amberg
Erol Unala

Celtic Frost (/ˈkɛltɪk frɒst/)[1] was a Swiss extreme metal band from Zürich. They are known for their strong influence on the development of extreme metal[2][3] and avant-garde metal.[4]

In May 1984, extreme metal band Hellhammer dissolved, but two of the members of that band, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Gabriel Fischer (under the new stage name "Tom Warrior") and bassist Martin Eric Ain, went on to form Celtic Frost in June and release their debut, Morbid Tales, by November of that same year.[5] This was followed by To Mega Therion (1985) and the highly experimental Into the Pandemonium (1987), all of which were widely praised.[2] Celtic Frost's next album Cold Lake (1988) saw a new lineup and a radical change of style, which was widely derided.[2][4] After the release of Vanity/Nemesis (1990), the group disbanded. It re-formed in 2001 and released the critically acclaimed Monotheist (2006), before disbanding following frontman Tom Gabriel Fischer's departure in 2008.[6]

Their music included elements of various extreme metal styles. Their earlier music was mostly classified as thrash metal and black metal with an experimental streak, while their last album was more akin to doom metal and gothic metal. Celtic Frost were inspired by metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Venom as well as new wave groups like Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Christian Death,[7] and Joy Division[8] and by the hardcore punk of Discharge[9] and GBH.[10]


Formation and first recordings (1984–1987)[edit]

Celtic Frost's frontman, guitarist and singer Tom Gabriel Fischer, adopted the alias Tom Warrior. With Steve Warrior on bass, he formed one of the earliest extreme metal bands, Hellhammer, in 1981. Steve Warrior was later replaced by Martin Eric Ain – also a pseudonym. The band attracted a small international fan-base, got signed to Noise Records in Germany and recorded their debut EP Apocalyptic Raids in March 1984, now a rare find on eBay or second-hand record stores around the world.

Metal publications were also skeptical of Hellhammer's musical endeavor. Metal Forces loathed the group; that started a long-lasting feud between that zine and Warrior, which kept Celtic Frost from playing in England for a couple of years.[11] Rock Power was not fond of Hellhammer either – they considered it "the most terrible, abhorrent, and atrocious thing ‘musicians’ were ever allowed to record".[12] In fact, they were "receiving miserable reviews everywhere", Warrior concluded.[13]

Regarding the controversial status of his former band, Thomas said:

Way back in 1984 and 85, when Martin Eric Ain and I recorded Celtic Frost's first two albums Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion, Hellhammer lasted on us almost like a curse. Even though Hellhammer was the very reason we had thought over our goals and conceived the Frost, HH's left-overs kept being mighty rocks in our way. Many voices saw Frost as the same band with just a name-change. The lack of musical quality in HH made it almost impossible for us to get an unbiased reaction for Frost. To make a long story short, it almost killed all our work and dreams.[14]

By May 1984, Hellhammer had disbanded. Fischer and Ain, along with session drummer Stephen Priestly, regrouped as Celtic Frost. Their 1984 debut EP, Morbid Tales[15] was a hit in the underground metal scene, and the band set out on its first tour, through Germany and Austria. This was followed with an EP Emperor's Return. Both early releases are now available on one CD.

One of their more influential recordings was 1985's To Mega Therion which did not feature Ain on bass, but stand-in Dominic Steiner. The cover artwork is a painting by H.R. Giger entitled Satan I. The album was a major influence on the then-developing death metal and black metal genres.[16] Ain did return after the album was recorded however.

These albums were some of the pivotal LPs for underground metal and introduced a new and more varied sound. Celtic Frost, along with Venom and Bathory were pioneers in the still underground black metal scene, although Celtic Frost were much more experimental with the addition of classical instruments, operatic female vocals and sampling.

Stylistic changes, internal struggles, and first breakup (1987–1993)[edit]

Into the Pandemonium, released in 1987, was the second album of the band. It featured more varied styles than its predecessor

In 1987, Celtic Frost released their second studio album Into the Pandemonium. The album is more varied than many of Celtic Frost's past LPs, with unlikely covers (Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio"), emotionally charged love songs, the album's recurring industrial-influenced rhythmic songs of demons and destruction, traditional Frost styled songs about dreams and fear, and a dark, classical piece with female vocals.

The album is vastly different from the band's previous work and cemented its late 80s avant-garde metal term; it is also a departure from the extreme style found on the band's previous albums, Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion that Celtic Frost had become known for. However, it does have the recurring symphonic elements found on previous albums. The album has a more classic heavy metal style within the songs with elements of industrial, classical and gothic rock, and even has an industrial/electronic body music (EBM)-inspired rhythm in "One in Their Pride". It does have a few black metal elements remaining in Warrior's vocals, though, and some thrash-influenced guitar riffs.

After a subsequent North American tour (which saw the addition of a second guitarist, Ron Marks to the group's ranks), financial trouble, personal tension between the band members and an ill-fated relationship with their record label led to a dissolution of the band. Six months later, Warrior reformed the band with Stephen Priestly back on drums, Oliver Amberg on guitars and Curt Victor Bryant on bass and recorded the fourth studio album Cold Lake, released on 1 September 1988 by Noise Records. Despite it being marketed to exploit the mass appeal of glam metal, the album has more of a traditional heavy metal sound.

Bryant fired Amberg and former live show guitarist Ron Marks returned for the recording of Vanity/Nemesis in 1990. The most significant change, however, was the return of early bassist Martin Eric Ain, but Celtic Frost's reputation did not fully recover. The group's next (and, as it would turn out, last for several years) album was a collection of rare recordings called Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying (1992). The compilation's title was inspired by an old Roman prayer.[17] It featured unreleased material, re-recorded versions of older songs and some studio session versions.[17]

A final proposed album titled "Under Apollyon's Sun" was never made under that title, although Fischer co-founded a new group called Apollyon Sun.

Post-breakup (1993–2001)[edit]

Several years following the disbanding of Celtic Frost, and after quite some time spent away from the music industry, Fischer co-founded a new group called Apollyon Sun with his close friend Erol Unala on guitars in the mid-1990s and recorded an EP God Leaves (And Dies) and a full-length album Sub. Although clearly based on Celtic Frost's dark and more adventurous music, Apollyon Sun was an industrial metal project. During his hiatus from music, Fischer had also finished work on an autobiographical book, called Are You Morbid?, which was published by London-based Sanctuary Publishing to fan acclaim in 2000.

Reunion and Monotheist (2001–2008)[edit]

Tom Warrior performing in 2006.

In late 2001, Fischer and Ain began to write music together again, along with Unala on guitar and, from late 2002, experienced Swiss drummer Franco Sesa (also known within the group under the stage name Inverted Cross). The aim was to develop and record a new, very dark and heavy album. The completion of the project took far longer than anticipated (in part due to the DIY nature of the project and the project's financing) but finally resulted, in late 2005, in what Fischer and Ain describe as "perhaps the darkest album Celtic Frost have ever recorded", based on a combination of the musical aura of To Mega Therion and Into the Pandemonium.

The newest and seventh Celtic Frost album was financed by the group itself through its own label, Prowling Death Records, and publishing imprint, Diktatur des Kapitals. Prowling Death Records originally was the self-founded underground label which released the Hellhammer demos and managed Hellhammer's career in 1983 and 1984. The album was produced by Celtic Frost with Peter Tägtgren (of Bloodbath/Hypocrisy/Pain) and mixed by Fischer and Ain. Celtic Frost and Prowling Death Records subsequently entered into a worldwide licensing deal with Century Media Records. The album, titled Monotheist, was released on 29 May 2006.

On 29 May 2006, Celtic Frost embarked on the most extensive tour of the band's career, the "Monotheist Tour", initially headlining festivals (e.g. the Wacken Open Air festival, in front of an audience of 50,000) across Europe the United States and Canada in 2006, and the group's first ever shows in Japan in January 2007. In early 2007 the European leg of the tour took place and a return to the United States as a special guest to Type O Negative. Further festival appearances and concerts followed in mid-2007.

On stage, Celtic Frost play with an additional tour guitar player, who plays rhythm guitar and provides a fuller sound. This position was initially filled by Anders Odden (Cadaver, Satyricon, Magenta), and later by V Santura (of Dark Fortress).

In early 2007, Celtic Frost began writing material for a new album.[citation needed]

Metalunderground posted a statement from Tom Fischer regarding the new album.

Only a few hours until I am to depart to Norway for a few weeks to participate in the production of a black metal project with close friends and peers. In early March I shall return to Switzerland to take further steps towards the realization of my own black metal/doom side project, the idea for which has taken an increasingly defined shape during the past months.

Fischer spoke to Spanish metal webzine Hall of Metal[when?] about new material: "I'm actually working on a new album of Celtic Frost and I think it's going to be really extreme and dark. Celtic Frost has its own style, its own sound and it expresses a lot of emotions. The music I write shows the state of my life, and now I feel very comfortable with such dark music."[citation needed]

Second breakup (2008–2017)[edit]

As of Celtic Frost's announcement of their second breakup in September 2008,[6] there is no talk of recording and releasing the new album. The last shows of Celtic Frost were in Mexico, one on 12 October 2007, in Monterrey, and the last one on 13 October 2007, in Mexico City.

Celtic Frost performing in 2006.

Fischer tendered his resignation from Celtic Frost on 9 April 2008, with this message displayed on the band's official website:

Celtic Frost singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer has left Celtic Frost due to the irresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile, and ambitious.

Bassist Ain stated that the band was "still alive, albeit in a coma of sorts." He went on further to say that the remainder of the band is "not going to continue recording or touring," saying this "would be preposterous" without Fischer.[18] Fischer has himself gone on to form a new band called Triptykon, featuring Celtic Frost touring guitarist V Santura, original Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark (although he has since departed and was replaced by Norman Lonhard), as well as bassist Vanja Slajh. Fischer has also said that his new band will sound similar to the direction Celtic Frost took on their 2006 album, Monotheist.[19]

On 9 September 2008, Celtic Frost members Martin Eric Ain and Tom Gabriel Fischer confirmed on Celtic Frost's official website that the band had "jointly decided to lay Celtic Frost to rest for good".[6]

Martin Eric Ain's death and possible tribute shows (2017–present)[edit]

On 21 October 2017, Martin Eric Ain died at the age of 50 from a heart attack.[20]

In a 2021 interview with Heavy Culture, Tom Gabriel Fischer spoke of an open possibility in doing "one or two" Celtic Frost tribute shows in memory of Ain, consisting of former members.[21] He clarified that he did not speak of or would ever be interested in reforming the band since his departure, but possibly reunite former members and perform tribute shows, "Should this ever happen, it would not be a permanent project, nor would it be 'Celtic Frost', in spite of the fact that it would only comprise of Celtic Frost alumni. It would simply be a means to pay deference, perhaps for one or two concerts, to the deceased co-founder of the band."[22] On December 8th 2022, Fischer's successor band Triptykon announced they will be performing a Celtic Frost tribute set on the Saturday special guest slot of Bloodstock Open Air Festival in the United Kingdom, following the withdrawal of Anthrax from that slot.[23]

Style and influences[edit]

Celtic Frost's style gradually changed over the years. The band's early work has been described as thrash metal[24][25] and death metal.[25] Celtic Frost has also been described as avant-garde metal due to their use of classical and electronica elements in some of their music, such as on their album To Mega Therion.[25] Although Celtic Frost are often described as black metal, according to authors Axl Rosenberg and Christopher Krovatin, the band's "music was too tight, and its connection to old school rock 'n' roll music too readily apparent, to be black metal."[26] Celtic Frost's later work has been described as doom metal.[27]

Tom G. Warrior said that there were two types of music that influenced him: heavy metal and new wave. "In Heavy Metal, it's fair to say bands like Black Sabbath, Angel Witch and Venom influenced us. Martin and I were heavily influenced by the New Wave music of the time too, such as Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Christian Death and I think it's a mix of these musical directions that influenced the sound of Celtic Frost".[7] Ain was also marked by Joy Division while Warrior also came from a jazz and classical background. "I loved the ‘70s prog bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, early Roxy Music".[8]


Celtic Frost have influenced a number of black metal, death metal, thrash metal, and standard heavy metal bands. The band Therion, for example, took its band name from the album To Mega Therion.[28] Other bands that have cited Celtic Frost as an influence, or have covered Celtic Frost, include Anthrax, Obituary, Death, Benediction, Brutal Truth, Neurosis, Eyehategod, Cradle of Filth, Marduk, Dimmu Borgir, Goatwhore, Sepultura, Cancer, Asphyx, Pro-Pain, Gorgoroth, Gallhammer, Paradise Lost, Evoken, Napalm Death, and many others. Coroner, another pioneering Swiss extreme metal band, originally started off as road crew for Celtic Frost.[29] Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana were also fans of Celtic Frost.

Dave Grohl (ex-Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Creed) have both stated on several occasions that Celtic Frost were an influence. Grohl subsequently invited Celtic Frost singer Tom Gabriel Fischer to participate in the recordings of his 2004 solo project, Probot, resulting in the co-written song "Big Sky". Alternative country singer Ryan Adams has also claimed influence from Celtic Frost, amongst many other metal bands.

In 1996, Dwell Records released In Memory of Celtic Frost, a collection of songs covered by other bands. Notable bands that appeared on this tribute collection include Enslaved, covering the song "Procreation (of the Wicked)"; Opeth, covering the song "Circle of the Tyrants"; Swedish death metal band Grave, covering the song "Mesmerized"; Canadian thrash metal band Slaughter, covering the song "Dethroned Emperor"; Apollyon Sun (featuring Tom G. Warrior himself), covering the song "Babylon Fell"; and the Norwegian black metal bands Emperor, covering "Massacra", and Mayhem, covering the song "Visual Aggression". The tribute album also features Celtic Frost songs covered by several lesser known and now defunct metal bands. The hard to find CD is now out of print.

Despite this, when Fischer was asked to comment on their influence on heavy metal, he replied: "No, I try to stay away from that. I'm a musician, I don't want to get involved with all that. It's not healthy. I want to do good albums. I'm still alive and I feel there's still so much in front of me. I don't want to be bothered with who has influence and where we stand and all that. I think it's a negative thing."[30]

In 2015, Corpse Flower Records released a tribute of their own entitled Morbid Tales! A Tribute to Celtic Frost. Notably, it compiles a number of Celtic Frost covers by other bands, including Child Bite (featuring Phil Anselmo), Acid Witch, Municipal Waste, Hayward (featuring members of Neurosis), among others.[31]

In 2018, British deathcore band, Black Tongue covered the song, A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh, on their second album, Nadir which was released on Halloween of 2018.[32]

The hip-hop group "Circle of Tyrants" featuring Necro, Ill Bill, Goretex, and Mr Hyde also took their name from the Celtic Frost song.[33]

Band members[edit]



Studio albums



  • "Wine in My Hand" (Germany 1990)


Video albums

  • Live at Hammersmith Odeon (1989, VHS & Japanese Laserdisc)

Music videos

  • "Circle of the Tyrants" (1986)
  • "Cherry Orchards" (1988)
  • "Wine in My Hand (Third from the Sun)" (1989)
  • "Jewel Throne" (live) (1989)
  • "A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh" (2006)


  • Fischer, Tom Gabriel; Ain, Martin Eric (2010). Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History of Hellhammer and Early Celtic Frost 1981–85. Brooklyn, New York: Bazillion Points. ISBN 978-0-9796163-9-6.


  1. ^ "Interview with Tom G. Warrior". Metal Rules. November 1999. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Bukszpan, Daniel. The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal. Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2003. p.43
  3. ^ "Celtic Frost Profile". Centurymedia.com. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
  4. ^ a b Wagner, Jeff. Mean Deviation. Bazillion Points Books, 2010. pp.116-124
  5. ^ Fischer p.80
  6. ^ a b c September 9, 2008 – PRESS RELEASE Retrieved from Internet Archive 6 January 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Interview of Tom G. Warrior - Celtic Frost". Pyromusic. 28 May 2007. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  8. ^ a b Selzer, Jonathan (16 August 2017). "Every Celtic Frost album, in Tom G. Warrior's words". Loudersound.com. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  9. ^ J. Bennett, "Procreation of the Wicked", Precious Metal: Decibel Presents the Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces, Albert Mudrian, ed., Da Capo Press, p. 34.
  10. ^ "The Triumph of Tom G. Warrior". Rolling Stone.
  11. ^ Gregori (2003), page 11.
  12. ^ Doe, Bernard (December 2007). "'Death Fiends': A Short Biography of Hellhammer". Century Media Records. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  13. ^ Fischer (2000), page 80.
  14. ^ Warrior, Thomas Gabriel (1990). "The Macabre Existence of Hellhammer". Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D. (CD booklet). Hellhammer. Berlin, Germany: Modern Music Records. p. 2.
  16. ^ Shapiro 1993, page 111.
  17. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Parched with Thirst Am I and Dying – Celtic Frost". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  18. ^ "Bassist Martin Eric Ain: Celtic Frost Is Still Alive, Albeit in a Coma of Sorts". Blabbermouth.net. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  19. ^ "Former Celtic Frost Mainman: The Biggest Mistake I Have Ever Made in My Life". Blabbermouth.net. Archived from the original on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  20. ^ "CELTIC FROST Bassist MARTIN ERIC AIN Dies At 50". Metaladdicts.com. 22 October 2017.
  21. ^ "TOM GABRIEL FISCHER Is Open To Resurrecting CELTIC FROST For 'One Or Two Shows' In Memory Of MARTIN AIN". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  22. ^ "TOM GABRIEL FISCHER Clarifies Comments About 'CELTIC FROST Tribute Shows', Says 'It Would Not Be A Permanent Project'". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  23. ^ "Anthrax cancel Bloodstock 2023 appearance; Triptykon join line-up". Kerrang.com. Retrieved 8 December 2022.
  24. ^ Bukszpan, Daniel (2003). The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal. Barnes & Noble Publishing. p. 43. ISBN 9780760742181.
  25. ^ a b c Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Celtic Frost | Biography & History". AllMusic.
  26. ^ Rosenberg, Axl; Krovatin, Christopher (2017). Hellraisers: A Complete Visual History of Heavy Metal Mayhem. Race Point Publishing. ISBN 9781631064302.
  27. ^ "The Great Beast Resurrected". PopMatters. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  28. ^ "Interview with Christofer Jonhsson". Alternative-Zine.com. 3 May 2004. Retrieved 25 July 2007.
  29. ^ The Virgin encyclopedia of heavy rock. Colin Larkin. London: Virgin. 1999. p. 104. ISBN 0-7535-0257-7. OCLC 42023963.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  30. ^ "Tom G. Warrior Interview". About.com. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  31. ^ "Morbid Tales: A Tribute To CELTIC FROST 12" Streaming In Full; Features CHILD BITE With PHIL ANSELMO, ACID WITCH, EVOKEN, MUNICIPAL WASTE And More". Bravewords.com. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  32. ^ "Fling wide the gates of Hell! Your prodigal Son has returned". Facebook.com. 13 September 2018. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  33. ^ "CIRCLE OF TYRANTS's Necro Discusses New Project Featuring Members Of TESTATMENT, SEPULTURA". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 19 August 2021.


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