Hall of Fame Countdown: Celtic Frost’s “To Mega Therion”

So, it’s 1985, and Celtic Frost have just released their full-length debut, To Mega Therion. And just like that, extreme music is changed forever.

We inducted the album into our Hall of Fame back in our May 2015 issue, and with Triptykon playing this weekend’s Decibel Metal & Beer Fest Philadelphia we had Tom Warrior on the mind yet again, so thought we’d revisit To Mega Therion and rank the songs from worst to best.

You can grab a copy of the issue here to read the detailed making-of-the-album story, featuring interviews with everyone who played on To Mega Therion. And it is with utmost respect and horns held high that we now further dissect this extreme metal milestone.

10. Tears in a Prophet’s Dream

Sure, I suppose this is a song, but the best thing about it is its title, which I quite like. Otherwise, it’s a couple minutes of sort of genuinely spooky sound effects that, to be fair, sound much more interesting than when most bands try this sort of thing. It sets a tone, and sets up the last song, “Necromantical Screams,” but it’s still just a couple minutes of spooky sound effects.

9. Innocence and Wrath

Man, as far as these sort of one-minute intros go—which is usually not very far at all—“Innocence and Wrath” totally kills it, Celtic Frost setting up what is about to take place over the next eight/kinda nine songs in an appropriate manner. So, yes, it’s huge, dramatic, eerie, ominous, and important. It’s everything a good Celtic Frost intro should be. I like “Innocence and Wrath.”

8. Eternal Summer

The happiest of song titles to be found here, unless it just means the sun will burn the shit out of your crusted flesh, which it probably does, as this simple thrasher closes off the original side 1 of the album with Frost in their speedy mode, Warrior death-grunting away, the riffs very much like “Jewel Throne” or “Circle of the Tyrants” but who’s complaining? This is a whole new sound Celtic Frost were laying down, and even the songs like this one, that have a bit less staying power than the classics, still had a vibe and sound like no other band out there.

7. (Beyond the) North Winds

Celtic Frost mastered a certain tempo on this album, and it’s the one that “(Beyond the) North Winds” uses, the band plodding along faster than mid but slower than high, creating a sludgey thrash, a death waltz. Sure, this is one of the songs that you’re less likely to remember from this album, but it’s a killer nonetheless.

6. Fainted Eyes

Not sure what I like more, that suddenly loud bass in the verse, or the fact that the band is playing fast as hell here, the fellas in Frost laying down a fast thrasher that sounds Lemmy-approved right outta the gates, although by the time the band reaches the mid-point of this five-minute song, they take things down to that familiar To Mega Therion mid-paced tempo—although with the frantic bass drums still leading the charge—and give the listener what approximates respite in Tom Warrior’s tortured mind.

5. Necromantical Screams

I always enjoyed muttering the “word” “necromantical” to myself while listening to this song, which closes off To Mega Therion perfectly. It’s huge, slow, dramatic and really makes the listener feel like whoever the hell was creating these songs must have been artists following the muse, way ahead of their time. And they were. The closing seconds sound like the band just throwing down their instruments and walking away, mission accomplished, masterpiece created.

4. Dawn of Megiddo

In which Celtic Frost really started to expand their horizons, and in doing so, they expanded all of our horizons, “Dawn of Megiddo” not only slowing things down to a sludge crawl but also opening things up cinematically with various instrumentation and effects that suddenly made this psycho thrash/proto-DM sound like… something else entirely. Something smart. Something massive. At their best, Celtic Frost songs are more like life or art than songs, and “Dawn of Megiddo” was an early example of that.

3. Jewel Throne

For some reason, I tend to forget this song exists even though it’s basically a classic; I guess “The Usurper”’s excitement puts me in a bit of a stupor for the next few minutes every single time I spin this incredible album. That’s a shame, because no one should be missing out on “Jewel Throne”’s killer DM riffing, stutter-step thrash groove, or “Circle of the Tyrants”-ish tempo changes. The fast parts are Frost at their raging best.

2. The Usurper

Celtic Frost absolutely destroyed with “The Usurper,” the album’s first track after the instrumental intro “Innocence and Wrath.” With all the slow-to-mid-paced tempos, crushingly heavy riffs, and the occasional female vocals, this song sums up this album perfectly. It’s a huge, beautiful monolith, one that has shades and hues, but you need to get through the occasionally ham-fisted proto-death delivery to find them. Plus, the death grunt of all death grunts to close things off. Perfect.

1. Circle of the Tyrants

Nothing short of an absolute extreme metal classic, “Circle of the Tyrants” deserves every single word of praise ever drunkingly muttered its way, every bang of the head sent in solemn respect, every single damn air drum hit it has inspired. It deserves it all, and it deserves more: blast it in public spaces, crank it at hockey games, play it at all our funerals. Nothing less than one of the greatest metal songs ever written.