Review Summary: An extremely poor effort from a band considered to be one of the pioneers of metal.
Prior to listening to this album, I had heard good things about Celtic Frost, such as their ground-breaking work that defined several genres. I’d listened to a few tracks off To Mega Therion and Morbid Tales but not enough for me to get a good picture of the band. I then listened to both albums in their entirety, and I thought they were a bit dated and average sounding. I decided that this was due to the sort of metal being produced during the mid-80s, but then I remembered such albums as Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood and Scream Bloody Gore which were all released around the same period. Celtic Frost overall was not on the same level. However, To Mega Therion and Morbid Tales are quite good albums (I’ve also heard that Into the Pandemonium is good, but I haven’t listened to it), and as much as they may weaken in the likes of the classics, are still considered to be pioneering albums. Vanity/Nemesis though, does not have an excuse. It is just terrible. Compared to the classics, earlier Celtic Frost, or any metal in general, this album is mediocre and a very boring 50 minutes.
The album begins with a track entitled The Heart Beneath. If you listen to this song alone, you’ll hear basically everything that can be found on the rest of the album. Every song is uninterestingly similar, and the songs are all individually average that you wouldn’t want to listen to any of them anyway. Most reviews say things like ‘every song sounds the same’, and this can be an extremely good thing if the sound is good. An example is Master of Puppets. All the songs on that album share a similar sound (albeit a lot more diverse than Vanity/Nemesis), but the sound is so good that Master of Puppets has become a legendary album. In the case of Vanity/Nemesis, I wouldn’t be able to think of a more boring thing to do with my time, other then stare at my wall.
The blandness of the album is contributed to by many things. The first one I’ll mention is the drumming. I’m not conversant with the history of Celtic Frost drumming, but the drumming on this album is just awful. They plod along at the some slow boring beat, every fill sounds the same, every beat sounds the same. I’ve only played a set of drums twice in my life, and the drumming on this album sounds so basic that I feel that I would be able to learn each song on the drums on my first try. While we’re on the note of instruments I will mention that the bass is audible (as opposed to most metal albums), and the guitars sound quite crisp and chunky. The riffs however, are all basic and really, really similar. Once again, this makes the album extremely dull.
Aside from the rhythm guitar and drumming, the lead guitar is not too bad. There wasn’t a single song overall that jumped out to me (I actually thought every song was really bad), but there are several lead breaks which are quite good. They are the only thing that has stopped me from giving this album a 1. When taken separately, I’m confident the solos are good, but in the context of the album they just seem dull as well. They are probably the best part of the album. However, the worst part of the album is definitely the vocals.
The vocals on To Mega Therion are quite good and Fischer actually makes an attempt to sound evil, and succeeds. In Vanity/Nemesis, all I could relate the vocals too were a really bad Dave Mustaine imitation. His delivery and vocal style were replicate of Mustaine, just nowhere near as good or effective as Mustaine would have done it. Fischer neither sings, nor growls, he basically spouts out the lyrics with the occasional grunt to try and make the songs sound heavier. All that the grunts really do is make you realize how boring the riffs are. The one moment on the album in which the vocals were actually above average is on the track Wings of Solitude, when a female guest singer contributes. Fischer sings in the song also, and the comparison between the two really shows how horrible Fischer sounds on this album.
I honestly do not have anything more to say about this album. I’ve listened to To Mega Therion a little more, and this album pales alongside its predecessor (and I don’t think To Mega Therion is that brilliant). I suggest avoiding this album. If you must listen to a Celtic Frost album, I’d suggest To Mega Therion or Morbid Tales. Stay away from this one.