Congregation of the Wicked
Celtic Frost Live with 1349 and Sahg at BB King's Blues Club & Grill, New York City, 14 September 2006
by: T. DePalma
Mid-September on the East coast. The rains return and a chill curls inside the wind. I must have been seven years old the last time Celtic Frost toured here (some three thousand-plus miles from their native Switzerland) and the Square would have been much seedier. Seventeen years and one mammoth album later, the wicked congregate within this tourist hell-hole. On this grey evening, a royal welcome for the Emperor's return.

I arrived late, as planned, and missed opening act Sahg, featuring ex-Gorgoroth members Tom Cato Visnes (King ov Hell) and Einer Selvik (Kvitrafn). I would recommend, however, that people either into or unimpressed with the latest offering from Gaahl and company also check out the former's recent collaboration in Jotunspor.

Around 7:30pm, Norway's 1349 prepared their entrance, finally received with a mild response from the still growing attendance. The set began unbalanced as drum kicks overwhelmed the guitar, and after re-adjusting several times (and to their credit never stopping), the sound levels intermittently cut out. The crowd seemed to progressively enjoy them, but then again, some people will just rock to anything -- and at $50 a ticket you want to move for your money. 1349's sound, which I confess to never having bothered with on record, is basically a low rent version of Immortal. Icy scratches of constantly rolling chord progressions, sort of epic, embattled but ultimately dull and merely refined (generously) of what's been released over the past decade. Several times I trailed off after noting how effective the air conditioning was. The horns were given and received. I felt Nothing.

By 9:10 a blue cloud had engulfed the stage and the audience compacted amid the dark recitations of Tottengott. Soon after, Frost entered through the fog.

The evening's set began in earnest and lasted for nearly two hours (no encore). The group opened with an elementary performance of "Procreation of the Wicked" and then shifted the tone by racing through "Visions of Mortality" and "Circle of the Tyrants". Those who feared, among other things, that Celtic Frost wished to align themselves too closely with the likes of Sunn O))) (who they will indeed finish the tour with) have no ground to stand on. The quartet showed no sign of wear or move to accommodate the latest scene. Those songs, along with "Dawn of Megiddo", "Necromantical Screams" and "Into the Crypt of Rays" stayed true to and perhaps faster than the original recordings. The introduction of "Mesmerized" and "Sorrows of the Moon" off the less often rotated _Into the Pandemonium_ slowed down the crowd but were still well received.

As for their current material, Frost did not let _Monotheist_ down, delivering "Ground" and "Ain Elohim" with considerable force that hardly showed the passing of time between their early material. The group's new aesthetic is a slight damper on the performance, at least where Tom Gabriel Fischer is concerned, being either constricted by his new threads or simply less mobile (as was touring guitarist Anders Odden). It's Martin Eric Ain who carries the visual aspect in harmony with their diabolic frequency. His stage persona, like some reincarnation of Rasputin, gave rise to much onstage flailing, frequent throwing of arms in response to Fischer's vocal purges, and neck-slamming on bass as if truly "touched" by the divine. His closing orison (given in German, during the monstrous "Synagoga Satanae") finally wrapped up the show, and the four bowed and returned backstage just shy of 11pm for a special fan meet 'n' greet session.

And that was that, at least for this writer. Local ordinances likely cramped down on the actual performance time, but they couldn't have done much more. It cost eight dollars for a Heineken and the club has the worst ambience to house this type of music. The best Thursday I'll have all year. "Ough!"

(article submitted 20/9/2006)


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