Apollyon's Sun Illuminates the Frost
CoC Speaks with Tom G. Warrior
by: Henry Akeley
Guitarist, vocalist, and all around main man of the mighty Celtic Frost, Tom G. Warrior really needs no introduction. However, the circumstances surrounding this interview might. Earlier this year, Los Angeles metal indie Dwell Records released _In Memory of Celtic Frost_, a tribute compilation featuring covers of classic Frost material by 14 bands hailing from the darker confines of today's death/black metal underground. Most of the selections (ten, to be exact) are drawn from Frost's earliest material: _Morbid Tales_, the _Emperor's Return_ EP, and even Frost's previous incarnation, Hellhammer. The more atmospheric and involved _To Mega Therion_ is represented just twice, as is the band's daring artistic high point, _Into the Pandemonium_. (One of the _ItP_ covers is performed by Tom's new band, Apollyon's Sun.) The abortive _Cold Lake_ is not represented; nor are the band's last two albums, _Vanity/Nemesis_ and _Parched With Thirst Am I and Dying_. Indeed, all of the Frost material which followed _ItP_ is written off in the compilation's liner notes as the product of "beating [a] dead horse..." which brings us to this interview. When rumors began circulating that Tom, angered by this verbal slam at his work, was boycotting the entire project, CoC contacted him in Switzerland and invited him to set the record straight. Here's what he had to say about the compilation - and about the current state of the underground, and his new, "heavier and darker" project, Apollyon's Sun.

CoC: Please give us your overall opinion of the Dwell Records tribute. Were there any things about the compilation that you especially liked? Rumor has it that you were unhappy with the finished product. Is that true? And if so, what were you specifically displeased with?

Tom G. Warrior: To answer this, I would like to quote some lines from a memorandum we sent to Dwell Records after the release of the compilation:

"Forming a band like Celtic Frost, you know from the start that there will not always be idle sunshine as far as reviews or criticism go. Working with such a band means that you have to expect that and be able to handle it. -That- was never much of a problem for us. As we are opinionated about music, so is the music scene about us.

Criticism is good. It can help in finding the right path - especially as one tends to be too close to see all aspects of one's work if one is a part of the band (and particularly if it is a band so inflamed as ours was and is). It is beneficial to anybody with an open ear, if it is constructive. But what are we supposed to learn from the wording of the compilation's liner notes? Far from being constructive, it is an expression of personal frustration about directions the band had or hadn't followed. The chosen language of the paragraphs in question adds to the impression. What lack of style. What is -that- doing on a -tribute- to a band such as Celtic Frost?

You will undoubtedly realize that any band like Celtic Frost has/had to deal with much such personally biased criticism, even in the 'holy' early years. We released unconventional products, from the first to the last year, and we got used to both massively overrating reviews and extremely negative opinions. That is still all fair and well.

The biography is not only derogatory towards us, but also towards the literally hundreds of thousands of fans who actually purchased _Vanity/Nemesis_ and _Parched with Thirst..._ and who came to see the corresponding tours and - god forbid - liked it! Is the tribute not for them as well? Is it not for us, too, who played in Celtic Frost? Guess not. We all fail to be in possession of the holy passport to the light.

The bio states as much as that we created this and that style of music. I know that this is incorrect. As if we had been the first band to play dark and heavy. Remember, there had been a band called Black Sabbath. And old Blue Oyster Cult, etc., etc. Yeah, sure, -we- created that style with Celtic Frost. But suppose for a minute that we actually -did-: this, exactly this, would give us the right to create damn well any other thing we liked, too. There are enough coward bands out there who will never ever take even the slightest risk or who will only take a so-called 'risk' after other bands have proven that it is feasible. You can count those bands by the thousands.

It bothers me that a large number of tribute CDs will be bought by younger fans, who will be unable to judge for themselves about the contents of the bio. The incorporation of a few ritzy words and the continuous listing of insider-like 'facts' will serve to make the bio look authentic. As to the 'facts,' in reality they contain numerous inaccuracies.

Frost was Frost and, hate it or like it, what we released under the band's name is part of the legacy of Celtic Frost. That doesn't only include gems like _Into the Pandemonium_. No, we who were part of that project have to be man enough to accept that it also includes utter garbage like _Cold Lake_. But what is labeled a tribute to Celtic Frost really seems to be a tribute to Hellhammer or, give or take a little, to Hellhammer and the early months of Celtic Frost. There were those who loved Hellhammer and didn't really want any of Frost's experiments. They followed us tentatively into the new project and then slowly dropped away, once we had gained the business muscle to actually go and try our ideas. That's completely legitimate. But Frost was about being daring, and Hellhammer was about being heavy. We never had the illusion that those fans were Celtic Frost fans. We saw them as Hellhammer fans who liked Frost's heavy material.

The music on the tribute spells it out clearly: but one or two of the new renditions of Frost songs are derived from Frost's soul. The rest really are Hellhammer's children. It seems that even _Into the Pandemonium_, recorded during the 'good old times' and with 'the classic line-up' hardly received a nod, even though it supposedly is the high point of the first half of Frost's existence. Not only that, but it is the absolute quintessential album of the band: no mention of Frost is possible without it. Yet it is all but ignored on the tribute. That fact alone makes us pose the question again: why label it _A Tribute to Celtic Frost_, while at the same time being too narrow to allow for most of that band's post-1985 material, far too narrow in particular when compared to the horizon of the band it is supposed to be an homage to. This is exactly the kind of limited small-town thinking that almost killed _Into the Pandemonium_. It is what Celtic Frost so vehemently fought against. How absurd, then, that a tribute to the band should be infested with it!

I despise having my work bashed in a biography contained in a tribute CD to my former band, while, at the very same time, having to lend my name for sales advertising on the front cover (i.e., the 'Tom G. Warrior' promotional sticker) and in flyers and advertising. This is not what I call integrity."

CoC: According to the liner notes of the tribute CD, after the _Into the Pandemonium_ album "Celtic Frost was dead and everyone knew it!"--even though the band went on to record both _Cold Lake_ and _Vanity/Nemesis_. What is your opinion on that statement? Was the true Celtic Frost really dead after _Into the Pandemonium_?

TGW: It was dead - or much of it was dead - during the recordings of _Cold Lake_. That this happened was due to the year-long contest between us and the record company as to the existence and recognition of _Into the Pandemonium_ and the resulting cancellation of tours, promotion, video clips and advertising for the album, which caused the band to break apart and which led the subsequent album, _Cold Lake_, to aim for an attitude of no worries, no more darkness and seriousness, smiles and a light-hearted party attitude. It was severe escapism. I know now that there was no way around this album. It was inevitable and, very regretfully, unavoidable. It was both the conclusion of a very destructive phase, legally and on a personal level, and the foundation for a subsequent major rethink and rediscovery of our real line. Yes, I loathe that album. It is a piece of utter crap. Despite my personal feelings, however, it is an absurd fact that _Vanity/Nemesis_ and _Parched with Thirst..._, both of which I love as true Frost albums, would not have been possible without the professionalism and business advantages gained through _Cold Lake_. That album, however, certainly wasn't part of the natural direction of the band.

CoC: One of the great things about Celtic Frost was the ground-breaking fusion of brutality, originality, and atmosphere which the band achieved on songs like "Necromantical Screams" or "Rex Irae" (to name just two). Yet most of the bands on the tribute CD chose to cover earlier, less adventurous material. What do you think this says about today's extreme metal scene, and about the nature of Celtic Frost's influence on it?

TGW: In addition to the comments I made in my first answer, I do not believe that the essence has changed much from the previous decade: there were always numerous bands who were only too willing to choose the "less adventurous" lane. It almost seems as if bands and lack of guts go together like moths and light. I also realize now that any Celtic Frost influence must be seen on two levels: (i) in the thrash metal genre and (ii) with material such as found on _Into the Pandemonium_. And lots of bands are, by design, not looking for anything like _Into the Pandemonium_, which is a legitimate approach. Imagine albums like _Into the Pandemonium_ coming out left and right... would you go for that? I don't know if that would be beneficial. That the compilation is so one-sided merely reveals the mechanisms of the selection process rather than the bandwidth of available bands, though.

CoC: Recently there has been a great deal of renewed interest in the extreme metal scene of the 80's, of which Celtic Frost were a crucial part, along with bands like Kreator, Destruction, Bathory, and so on. How do you think today's underground scene compares to the scene of a decade ago? (Musically, stylistically, and so on.) What do you think of the death metal genre?

TGW: I am really not qualified to comment on that. Not only didn't I expose myself to Bathory or Kreator in the 1980s, but nowadays, I listen to music very selectively and I have very opinionated tastes. Any of my comments would therefore be totally insignificant, perhaps even far from accurate.

CoC: What is your opinion of the black metal scene? I am especially interested to know this because so many black metal bands are clearly influenced by Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost.

TGW: I do not tie Celtic Frost to this scene. With Martin Ain's addition to Hellhammer, the simple and ignorant Venom lyrics rip-off days were unquestionably over and a far more serious and conscious approach began to materialize. Martin aimed at acquiring an expertise regarding the subject of theology and occultism. Therefore, this naturally included -all- facets of the subject, and Martin's studies were by no means one-sided, narrow-minded or biased. By the time we recorded Hellhammer's only EP, _Apocalyptic Raids_, we had solidly determined our stand within the then popular and nearly unavoidable theme, i.e., songs such as "Third of the Storms", "Aggressor", "Messiah", or "Massacra" had, with Hellhammer's naive and undeveloped means, clearly become vehicles of fervent proclamations and caution against such dark tendencies in heavy rock. Months of respective discussions in the band as to the definition of a clear line had preceded this process. Celtic Frost were later to solidify this direction in that band's early years. As you and any true Frost fan know, Celtic Frost's lyrics presented an aggressive stance against such trends, from the band's very first composition, "Visions of Mortality", on. Also analyze lyrics such as "Into the Crypts of Rays", "Procreation (of the Wicked)", "Nocturnal Fear", "Morbid Tales", and, and, and... Therefore, should Celtic Frost have anything to do with the resurgence of interest in black metal, it would be rather absurd! This all simply seems to indicate that such people have never really taken five minutes to read our lyrics and analyze our ideology.

CoC: How are things going with Apollyon's Sun? Can you give us a brief history of this group?

TGW: Things are going very well with the project and we are both happy with our current material and aware that any project with a difference requires an undeterminable amount of work. For an insider's view at Apollyon's Sun, please point your readers to our home page: http://www1.psi.ch/~uenala/as.html. I propose to only give an abbreviated glimpse here. After the end of Celtic Frost, I was not sure whether or not I would ever want to be part of a band again. After Celtic Frost's passionate and distinctive years, I had a hard time seeing myself involved in a new project. In summer 1994, I received a call from Erol Daae, a guitar player, about a production job. I had just begun to feel a careful and discreet urge to create music again. Our subsequent meetings exposed much shared chemistry, and I asked him to participate in a tentative limited-duration studio project of mine. But when we wrote music together over a period of several months, the project developed into a band, to which we are now both fully committed. Apollyon's Sun's first practice session took place in late spring 1995, and we had Stephen Priestly [drummer for Hellhammer and for some Frost lineups] lend us an essential hand during the first months of rehearsals.

CoC: Can we expect to hear more recorded material from the band any time soon?

TGW: We are working on a material of quite some bandwidth. There are also a number of unreleased Celtic Frost tracks from _Under Apollyon's Sun_, which we have remolded. [This was to be Frost's follow-up to _V/N_.] All this work points at a single project right now: an album in 1997. Recording budgets for a debut album permitting, we are out to find out what Celtic Frost hasn't dared to do, to go further than _Into the Pandemonium_ has gone already. An official demonstration tape will be available to the industry at the end of this year.

CoC: Does Apollyon's Sun intend to pick up where Celtic Frost left off, or do you look at the new band as a completely independent musical entity?

TGW: It is impossible to simply revive Celtic Frost. Apollyon's Sun is a different band in that it was born in the 1990s and that our work reflects that time. In a very cautious way, our new band is a continuation of Celtic Frost. No doubt about it, we are proud to be the successor to Frost. However, we are different people, have a much more modern concept, and the effects of the pause between the two bands are evident. The connection lies in the fact that it allures us to see what Celtic Frost hadn't done yet and that our sound is built upon the Frost roots, while being heavier and darker. [!!] But both music and lyrics are very contemporary.

CoC: Were the various "atmospheric" elements present on Apollyon's Sun's version of "Babylon Fell" simply included out of respect for the original, or will such avant-garde ingredients also play an important role in Apollyon's Sun's own sound?

TGW: Both. With Alexandra Rolland, for example, we have for the first time a permanent female backing vocalist, which will serve to define the atmosphere of our music now and then. And rather than merely repeat elements which Celtic Frost has used as well, we are also aiming at finding additional toys. So, yes, it will play an important role in our sound. I now find that I cannot rest happy in a band anymore unless it defines its approach to music as -unusual-, -borderless-.

CoC: Any parting words for us?

TGW: There are issues far more important than any of the above, which really should concern us as the generation now inheriting the planet. What matters is responsibility and integrity regarding nature and environment, the guts to make inconvenient - perhaps "uncool" - decisions, so as to be able to earn -true- respect. I would like to express our sincere thanks to those who were and are willing to listen to what Celtic Frost had to say and what Apollyon's Sun is going to say. As I have said in countless interviews before: no matter how elaborate concept and music are, it is at all times the faith of the fans that makes it all possible.

(article submitted 17/7/1996)

3/5/2000 P Schwarz Apollyon Sun: The Morbid Tales of a Dethroned Emperor
8/12/2000 P Schwarz 8.5 Apollyon Sun - Sub
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