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Unexpected sounding return to form
on 17 December 2009
After the misstep of Cold Lake the Frosties had to come back with an album that was so killer hot it would melt your face (to quote Manowar). The result of this is Vanity/Nemesis. Interestingly the band veered away from pleasing their hard core fans, who were baying for a return to the death metal, avant garde Frost of old, and plumped for the middle ground of metallic thrash largely dominated by Megadeth at the time. This crime against the hardcore followers would be unforgiveable if the output wasn't any good. Fortunately for less partisan fans, Vanity/Nemesis is a refreshing triumph. The overwhelming feeling when listening to this is one of high confidence, purpose and exhuberance. It is heavy, but in a light and shade melodic and controlled way, and it is well produced to give maximum sparkle and sledge hammer crunch to the sound. Tom 'sings' better than he has ever sung, traditional guitar solos abound and each piece stands on its own merits. Highlights are the meandering pairing of the catchy Vanity and Nemesis (aka Barrel of Fear in demo form) and the brutal sounding barrage of Wine in my Hand (to name but two).
In the grand tradition of say the Sisters Of Mercy, Tom marries up the band's quirky and distinctive style (particularly in the vocal department) with a female foil on a number of tracks (e.g. Nemesis and The Wings Of Solitude), an effective trick that he continues in his later work on both Monotheist and with Tryptikon. Also similar to the Sisters, who personalised say Hot Chocolate's Emma, Dylans' Knocking On Heavens Door or Parton's Joleen, Tom completely reworks Bowie's 'Heroes' and Ferry's 'This Island Earth' to great effect on this CD. Finally there is a touch of wry humour in the throwaway thrash cut of 'Phallic Tantrum', which follows in the tradition of say including 'Mexican Radio' on 'Into The Pandemonium' or 'Return to the Eve (Party Mix)' on Parched with Thirst (or pretty much all of 'Cold Lake' for that matter - ie Petty Obsession, Seduces Me Tonight - take your pick really....and of course the now infamous band photography on the cover).
Showing my cards, I actually quite like the aforementioned 'Cold Lake' and there is a small element left in the DNA on this CD (the resulting tour had both Vanity/Nemesis and Cold Lake tracks left in the mix, so Tom hadn't quite got over his Cold Lake phase). But this weakness shouldn't deter people from going out and buying this. Crank it up loud and this will compete and beat hands down any contemporary thrash in the late 80's - heavy, slick, intelligent and in the great tradition of Celtic Frost, maintaining that feeling of being somewhat arty.