Every week it seems like another metal band reissues their catalog. However, one of the seminal catalogs in metal’s storied history has not been reissued with all the benefits of modern recording technology in close to two decades. The last time Celtic Frost reissued their classic albums was 1999, when their first label Noise Records still existed and MP3 players were in their infancy. Nowadays, it’s often challenging to find a copy of those reissues.
That will soon no longer be the case. As the record industry atrophied in the new millennium the rights to the classic Celtic Frost records were kicked around several times before landing with giant BMG. Celtic Frost founder Tom Gabriel Fischer asked the label for years if they’d be interested in reissuing Frost’s back catalog but heard nothing. Last year he unexpectedly received word that BMG wanted to put out all the Celtic Frost albums. Fischer tells Decibel that the catalog will be remastered and that reissues — both in CD and vinyl — are packed with archival material.
Can tell you tell me about the reissues? Who is putting the albums out?
The rights to the classic Celtic Frost catalog rest with BMG in the United Kingdom. I’ve been trying for years to get some cooperation going with them to release the Celtic Frost albums. It was unbearable that they were unavailable in current editions. But they acquired so many rights that even though Celtic Frost is a household name in the metal scene to them it was nothing. They reissued all kinds of big things but there was no interest.
Last year, to our surprise, they came to us and said they had decided to release some of the Noise catalog and they wanted to do the Celtic Frost records. Of course, I have no rights to be involved but they were kind enough to enter negotiations with my management and they gave me supervision of the project and approval of everything. We had to find each other in the middle. We should be finished with the project shortly. I would expect it would be released in the next few months. It will be all the classic Celtic Frost albums. The non-classic Celtic Frost album (Cold Lake) will not be released because it’s an abomination.
The classic albums got a fanatic treatment. Victor (Santura) my bandmate in Triptykon, is a master engineer and we spent a great deal of time restoring these songs but not meddling with them. We restored tape dropouts and remastered them to sound as good as possible using the original mix. There are a lot of lost photographs and liner notes. I did whatever I could to make it worth your while.
Will these be superior to the 1999 reissues?
It’s better. There’s more technology and I’ve gathered more material. And Noise Records is no longer in the picture. I’m not just saying that so you will buy another set. The 1999 reissues will do. But I’m convinced the new ones sound better.
Will there be any new tracks or Easter eggs?
We already unearthed most of the unreleased tracks for the 1999 reissues. There isn’t much new music. What’s new is a number of cool rehearsal tracks from the Morbid Tales time. They were recorded in the Celtic Frost bunker in 1984. They were recorded on deficient cassette tapes and needed to be carefully restored. But we didn’t meddle with them. They sound brilliant. For To Mega Therion we tracked down a mix of “Visual Aggression” from Emperor’s Return that we knew existed but didn’t know in what archive. A friend helped us track it down and it’s an aggressive, fantastic mix. Outside of that all of the bonus tracks exist on earlier reissues. But there are some jewels and the albums sound much better.
Will people hear new things in the remasters and do the originals come more to life?
I’m convinced of that. I think you can hear more. Again, we didn’t change the sound but with technology you can get a lot more details. It was quite a philosophical experience to spend a week with these albums day and night. The music seems to have aged quite well, especially on Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion. Victor and I are also convinced we will have to play these albums in their entirety for a special occasion. We really liked what we heard.
Did anyone at BMG try to convince you to put out Cold Lake?
Cold Lake was in the original proposal. The first thing I did was discuss it with them. They had no idea, of course – they had just acquired the catalog. They didn’t know the details of metal history. I briefed them on the history and told them it was a deficient album. I said if we put it out it will destroy the work on the other albums. They actually understood and agreed. They would have just wasted money on Cold Lake because who on earth would buy that atrocity? Even if I wanted to I would have never sat down for days to remaster that piece of shit. They would have had to do it themselves. I haven’t heard Cold Lake since 1988 and I have no intention to do so before my death, although it will probably be played in hell for the next million years.
I have to imagine it’s gratifying to get cooperation from a label to put out the albums in a way that speaks to the band’s legacy.
It’s as good as it can get under these circumstances. If I could have done it with Prowling Death I could have held it to the standards of Monotheist or Triptykon. I was happy that I was allowed to take over and get approval. But it’s not a Prowling Death or a Tom Warrior project. It’s a BMG project. It’s as good as it will get. I know there is more potential but I won’t live to see it realized.
So the records will come out with a BMG label?
I think they actually might resurrect the Noise label. I don’t know the exact setup. I know they have the Noise logo. But I’m just an artistic consultant, not a business consultant.
Will they be out by the end of the year?
We’re very far. We had some very fervent discussions about what to include but we are in a good place.