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Date Formed 1984
Date Disbanded Apr/2008

Categories: Avant-garde, Death Metal


A highly influential Zürich Thrash Metal act who pushed the musical boundaries of the genre to the limit, CELTIC FROST blended a fusion of extreme aggression with classical and jazz leanings to create a unique 'avant-garde' eclectic This reputation was forged by the group's obsessive attention to detail and meticulous planning, their intended career path having been strategized fully even before their first record hit the shelves. At their peak the band looked set to rival the big name American speed Metal outfits for world domination but would spectacularly crash to earth due to one of the most disastrous changes ever witnessed.

CELTIC FROST had a strange genesis as mentor and renowned 'death grunter' Tom G. Warrior (a.k.a. Thomas Gabriel Fischer) and bassist Martin Eric Ain were members of what was generally acknowledged to have been one of the worst bands ever- HELLHAMMER. Tom himself started out musically in GRAVE HILL who were heavily influenced by the NWoBHM bands such as DIAMOND HEAD and VENOM.

HELLHAMMER actually started out under the HAMMERHEAD banner. Initially bass guitar was handled by the 14 year old Michael Baum, who in turn transferred these duties to Fischer, then wishing to be known as 'Satanic Slaughter'. Of note is that Baum then journeyed on to Los Angeles to found AOR act SIERRA before enrolling into TRIBE OF GYPSIES.

During the August of 1982 Fischer, transferring from bass to guitar, was now fronting a trio of Priestly and drummer Jörg Neubart (a.k.a. 'Bloodhunter'). Inspired apparently by Newcastle upon Tyne NWoBHM band RAVEN and their Gallagher brothers team Fischer and Priestly adopted the joint stage surnames of 'Warrior'. Neubart became 'Bruce Day'.

Their debut demo, 'Triumph Of Death', was widely regarded as one of the worst examples of a Heavy Metal band ever. 'Metal Forces' magazine editor Bernard Doe in particular cited it as the most appalling thing he had ever heard. History however would dictate that HELLHAMMER would later be recognized as one of the root catalysts of the Black Metal genre. Although in later years band members have admitted their knowledge of music was basic to say the least when the HELLHAMMER recordings were made nevertheless the band were in possession of an artistic vision which would undoubtedly shape the Metal scene over many years.

In 1983 HELLHAMMER enrolled bass player Martin Eric Ain and drummer Stephen Priestly from SCHIZO. However, invited to submit a fresh demo to Berlin's Noise Records HELLHAMMER very nearly split as Ain felt he did not have the necessary talent to go through with the session!

Still, positive or negative press encouraged Noise to sign the band and the Berlin based label released the 'Apocalyptic Raids' EP which had no details as to what RPM the record should be played at; sounding just as strange at 33RPM as it did at 45.

Metal Blade Records released the EP in America with an extra two tracks. Demand for HELLHAMMER also warranted a bootleg 7" single issued by Necromantic union, a pairing of a live cut of 'Buried And Forgotten' and a rehearsal recording 'Messiah'.

The original CELTIC FROST line-up in May 1984, so named after a combination of song titles and lyrics on a CIRITH UNGOL album sleeve, comprised Warrior, Ain and drummer Isaac Darso. The latter lasted precisely one rehearsal before being usurped by SCHIZO's Stephen Priestly on a temporary basis as a session drummer for recording. At this stage CELTIC FROST were still working on NWoBHM favourites such as songs by ANGEL WITCH and ARAGORN.

With HELLHAMMER's reputation preceding them, magazines reviews polarized at either the genius or dreadful end of the spectrum, CELTIC FROST retained their previous deal with Noise Records by submitting a master plan detailing the names of all future releases. The strategy called for an initial demo to be entitled 'A Thousand Deaths' but the label soon persuaded the band that this should form the basis of an opening commercially available product.

CELTIC FROST's first product, the mini-album, 'Morbid Tales' was recorded with Martin Eric Ain's former colleague in SCHIZO drummer Stephen Priestly. Guesting in the studio on additional vocals would be Horst Müller and Hertha Ohling plus violinist Oswald Spengler. As soon as the sessions were completed though Priestly decamped. CELTIC FROST set about negotiations with American drummer Jeff Cardelli of Seattle act LIPSTICK. However, the band hired another American, ex-CROWN drummer Reed St. Mark (real name Reid Cruickshank).

As with HELLHAMMER media views on 'Morbid Tales', issued in June 1984, ranged in their extremity from excellent to dire. European editions of 'Morbid Tales' comprised six tracks whilst a US license, through Metal Blade Records, added two extra tracks in 'Morbid Tales' and 'Return To The Eve'. The controversy stoked up by these opposing views would serve the band well. CELTIC FROST were still at this juncture wearing the stage make up later to be given the name 'corpse paint' by later generations of Black Metal bands. A further EP, 1985's 'The Emperors Return' issued in both regular format and as a limited run, highly sought after picture disc, followed to equally polarised reviews and even condemnation from the band themselves. By now CELTIC FROST were being acknowledged as leaders in their field.

CELTIC FROST's inaugural live performances came with a run of shows opening for German bands BEAST and MASS in Germany and Austria. Planned shows in Italy with ASTAROTH were shelved.

Ain had been asked to leave during recording of the next album 'To Mega Therion', surfacing in October 1985, and CELTIC FROST pulled in Dominic Steiner of the Glam Rock act JUNK FOOD. The album, which saw the band utilizing timpanis, French horns, courtesy of Wolf Bender, and operatic vocals courtesy of Claudia-Maria Mokri, plus credited sound effects from Horst Müller and Urs Sprenger, would be the first to be graced with lavish album sleeve artwork from the renowned artist H.R. Giger.

Friction between the band members resulted in Steiner's dismissal as soon as 'To Mega Therion' had been completed. For CELTIC FROST's debut show outside of Europe, at the 30th November 1985 'World War III' festival in Montreal alongside VOIVOD, POSSESSED, DESTRUCTION and NASTY SAVAGE, Martin Eric Ain was drawn back in the bass position.

Warrior also worked as producer for fellow Swiss Metal band CORONOR, a gesture they in turn repaid by becoming CELTIC FROST's road crew.

February 1986 had CELTIC FROST back on the live circuit, touring Europe sharing billing with HELLOWEEN and GRAVE DIGGER. Later shows saw a headline at the Belgian 'Metalysee' festival, the band's debut in England in London with GRAVE DIGGER and HELLOWEEN supporting at London's Hammersmith Palais and also touring in North America alongside RUNNING WILD and VOIVOD throughout June.

With CELTIC FROST's status rising sharply, the 1986 'Tragic Serenades' EP was issued to keep fans happy between albums. The EP consisted of remixed tracks from 'Into Mega Therion', both 'The Usurper' and 'Jewel Throne' with bass substituted by Martin Eric Ain, alongside newly recorded 'Return To The Eve'.

The group's third full-length opus, 'Into The Pandemonium' released in November 1987, provided fans with another bizarre offering comprising tracks such as a cover of WALL OF VOODOO's 'Mexican Radio' and the Rap cut 'One In Their Pride'. Before the album had been recorded New York based guitarist Ritchi Desmond was briefly linked with a position in the band, but, having travelled to Switzerland to work with the group Desmond returned home citing "too many conflicting attitudes" as the reason why he failed to join CELTIC FROST. Warrior countered that Desmond brought uninvited family members along to the audition and looked nothing like his submitted photograph. Desmond was to front SABBAT for their 'Mourning Has Broken' album and subsequent disastrous tour.

During a break in recording the band played a series of European gigs with ANTHRAX, CRIMSON GLORY and even METALLICA. The finalised sessions witnessed a further expansion in CELTIC FROST's aural dynamics with the employment of a swathe of session contributors. Claudia-Maria Mokri once again featured as a spotlighted additional vocalist and additional singers included Thomas Berter, Marchain Regee Rotschy and Manü Moan. Classical instruments were cut by violinists Malgorzata Blaiejewska Woller and Eva Cieslinski, cellist Wulf Ebert, French Horn player Anton Schreiber with Jürgen Paul Mann on viola. Additional guitar work was provided by Andreas Dobler.

For live work to promote 'Into The Pandemonium', CELTIC FROST added second guitarist Ron Marks and toured Britain in winter of 1987 with support from KREATOR then North America on a bill with EXODUS and ANTHRAX. The tour succeeded in dumbfounding many of the band's established fans with such radical tracks as the aforementioned 'Mexican Radio' cover and the band was dogged throughout it's duration by legal wrangles with Noise Records. Disillusioned, Marks quit to be replaced by former JUNK FOOD guitarist Oliver Amberg. Upon their return to Europe CELTIC FROST hit further problems when Martin Ain decided to abandon the music business entirely, so Warrior quickly drafted in Curt Victor Bryant.

CELTIC FROST was in a state of flux besieged by business and financial problems. Even an offer from director Ken Russell to lay down the soundtrack to the movie 'The Lair Of The White Worm' had to be declined because the group was in such disarray. However, the final blow to the classic line-up came when Reed St. Mark upped and left to join MINDFUNK and his position was filled by a returning Stephen Priestly. This was the line-up that was to record the disastrous 'Cold Lake' album produced by Tony Platt at Hansa Studios and Sky Trak Studios in Berlin, a record that severely damaged the band's career in Europe.

With this effort, CELTIC FROST appeared to ditch all of their former pretensions artistically and even adopted a new 'Glam' image, much to the horror of their most hardcore following. Tom dropped the 'Warrior' from his stage name and became plain Thomas Gabriel Fischer, even sporting an L.A. GUNS T-shirt on official press photos. Fans would be quick to spot that CELTIC FROST were now crediting one Michelle Villaneva as "Wardrobe and styling artist". 'Cold Lake' was to emerge in September 1988.

It was heavily rumoured in the European media that the band had, in a SPINAL TAP move, adopted Tom's girlfriend as manager and that the new look was her masterplan for CELTIC FROST's step into the big league. CELTIC FROST themselves maintained that tracks like 'Teaze Me' were a parody of Glam Rock, but fans were outraged and the Rock press universally attacked the album. A single, 'Cherry Orchards', was announced then shelved. The European tour, commencing in late February with UK shows supported by DESTRUCTION, fared badly with audiences deserting in droves. However, in America 'Cold Lake' was in actual fact making serious sales headway and a U.S. tour beginning in March 1989 was judged a success.

In late 1989 the badly bruised CELTIC FROST announced a return to their former and regrouped with Ron Marks. Martin Eric Ain was also persuaded to put down some guest bass tracks and contribute lyrics. The Roli Mossiman produced 'Vanity / Nemesis' album was cited by many as the band's best record to date, but the legacy of 'Cold Lake' still haunted the quartet to such a degree that sales suffered.

CELTIC FROST only managed minimal touring to back up the release of April 1990's 'Vanity / Nemesis', including a British tour backed by Thrashers SLAMMER. Earlier German dates had been cancelled, due to the band's perilous business state, but CELTIC FROST endured through two Dutch shows and the entire UK leg. By now Warrior was to be seen spotted playing a guitar emblazoned with his wife's name 'Michelle', the lady in question also having become a backing singer for the band. CELTIC FROST performed their last ever concert on 29th May 1990 at the Derby Assembly Rooms. New management hooked up a deal with major label BMG in North America. However, the deal was shelved at the last minute leaving CELTIC FROST high and dry.

Warrior took the band into an even more radical direction when he mooted the idea of working with ex-THE TIME guitarist Jesse Johnson on a projected Funk-Metal project. Stephen Priestly meantime would perform drums for French act TREPONEM PAL's 1991 'Aggravation' album.

Following a 1992 four track demo, featuring the tracks 'Honour Thy Father', 'Seeds Of Rapture', 'Icons Alive' and Oh Father', the band searched in vain for a new deal. Initial tapes were laid down with Priestly on drums but sessions in Texas saw Reed St. Mark back behind the kit and Renée Hernz on bass. Nothing came of this latest venture and CELTIC FROST effectively split; Marks relocating to America to form STEPCHILD then SUBSONIC.

1992 Noise released a CELTIC FROST epitaph in the form of 'Parched With Thirst Am I And Dying'; a collection of rare and unreleased studio out-takes as the band bowed out. In more recent years Martin Ain produced the debut album from doom band SADNESS in 1995, whilst Tom Warrior was found fronting new venture APOLLYON SUN in 1996.

Late 2001 would herald renewed rumours, at first vehemently denied and then later confirmed, of a full-blown CELTIC FROST reunion with Tom G. Warrior, Martin Eric Ain and Reed St. Mark, along with Fischer's long-time songwriting partner and co-founder of APOLLYON SUN, guitarist/producer Erol Unala, all participating. By November a projected album title of 'Probe' had emerged but it would not be until April 2003 that a demo track entitled 'Ground' was posted online. The CELTIC FROST camp also disseminated a revised and apparently spurious album working title of 'Dark Matter Manifest'. Meantime, Martin Eric Ain contributed vocals to Los Angeles based HATESEX's Industrial take on the SLAYER track 'Black Magic'.

In June of 2004 Tom G. Fischer announced he had plans for a solo album for 2005 release although CELTIC FROST persevered with composing new material with drummer Franco Sesa. The band would also have their classic cut 'Dawn Of Megiddo' chosen as a pioneering piece of music for a compilation assembled by DARKTHRONE drummer Fenriz, released through Peaceville Records and entitled 'Fenriz Presents The Best Of Old School Black Metal'.

Employing drummer Franco Sesa, CELTIC FROST revealed a new set of demos had been completed in May 2005 and entered Horus Sound Studios in Hannover in August to track the album, given a working title 'Dark Matter Manifest'. HYPOCRISY and PAIN mentor Peter Tägtgren would be selected as producer.

For tour work CELTIC FROST drafted the APOPTYGMA BERZERK, SATYRICON, CADAVER, and MAYHEM credited Anders Odden on guitar. Live campaigning for 2006 included scheduled appearances at Sölvesborg's 'Sweden Rock' festival in June, Helsinki's 'Tuska' festival in July, Germany's 'Wacken Open Air' and Norway's Bergen 'Hole In The Sky' events in August. However, the band's June 3rd 'Rock Hard' festival in Gelsenkirchen was cancelled that same day. Martin Eric Ain announced from the stage that Thomas Gabriel Fischer had been rushed to hospital with acute kidney problems, subsequently diagnosed as a kidney stone.

According to Nielsen SoundScan the 'Monotheist' album sold just under 2,500 copies in its first week of sale in North America. In the band's homeland of Switzerland the record entered the charts at number 41. US dates would be projected for September. The band filmed a promotional video for the track 'A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh', directed by Jessie Fischer in Zurich prior to launching into a 47 date US tour, commencing September 12th at West Springfield, Virginia's Jaxx venue, backed by SAHG and 1349. The tour generated favourable reviews but closed on a sour note, as Tom G. warrior revealed on his official blog, stating "Out of petty, pathetic vengefulness for being confronted, in a highly professional manner one might add, for utterly failing to do his job, one of those who travelled with us in North America in September, October, and November 2006, and was paid by us no less, destroyed one of the band's sacred back-up Iceman guitars as soon as unwatched for a moment after the end of the tour".

Japanese dates were scheduled for January 2007 dubbed the "Extreme The Dojo" alongside SATYRICON and NAGLFAR. The band then shifted shape, drafting V. Santura of the German Black Metal group DARK FORTRESS as new touring guitarist.

Preceded by a one off solo gig on March 6th, held at the Mascotte club in Zurich, CELTIC FROST headed up a package billing with KREATOR, LEGION OF THE DAMNED and WATAIN for a lengthy run of European dates. Scandinavian concerts saw Sweden's WOLF acting as openers. Back on North American soil, the band forged a union with TYPE O NEGATIVE and BRAND NEW SIN for dates in April.

Fischer announced his departure from CELTIC FROST in April 2008, citing "the irresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile, and ambitious."  Scheduled summer festivals and a Giger Museum anniversary show were cancelled. Fischer subsequently announced the formation of his new band, TRIPTYKON, also featuring Reed St. Mark, V. Santura, of DARK FORTRESS and Vanja Slay. This unit debuted online with a track entitled 'Crucifixus'.

In June Bassist Martin Ain issued an update, stating "Tom Gabriel Fischer has left the band, but CELTIC FROST is still alive, albeit in a coma of sorts. Franco Sesa and I are not going to continue recording or touring as CELTIC FROST. This would be preposterous without one of its founding members, the original voice and its defining guitarist. But we are not going to officially disband CELTIC FROST. We hope that there might be a possibility of talking things over and overcoming the differences that caused this schism."

In September 2008 Martin Eric Ain and Tom Gabriel Fischer issued a joint statement: "In the wake of the events transpiring earlier this year, we, who together formed CELTIC FROST in 1984 and together reformed the group in 2001, have discussed the situation and agree that any continuation of CELTIC FROST without either one of us would be irreconcilable with our original ideas and detrimental to the group's legacy. We have therefore jointly decided to lay CELTIC FROST to rest for good and to treasure and honor what we have created together in the course of the history of this truly unique band".

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