Heavy Metal Catechism

Celtic Frost goes beyond mere symbolism.

After its 20-year absence allowed fan anticipation to reach a fever pitch, legendary thrash outfit Celtic Frost is currently making short work of stateside audiences on an extensive American tour. Bassist and co-founder Martin Eric Ain checked in with Outtakes from his home in Zurich, Switzerland, shortly before beginning the journey and discussed his childhood bond with Satan and schooled us on Carl Jung.

Outtakes: You grew up in a very Catholic household.

Eric Ain: My mother was a Catholic religion teacher. She taught the catechism. Most probably, the reason for me joining up with the arch rebel — Satan himself! — was because that was the most powerful force to oppose my mother. I remember that traumatic experience being in a church, and there was this life-sized cross with this tormented human figure nailed, its limbs twisted and turned. I must have been about 5 or 6. That was really bizarre, having all those people around me being solemn in a way, but then, on the other hand, really getting joyous toward the end of that ritual about this person dying. And then going to the front of the church and coming back having devoured part of the body of that person. As a child, you take something like that quite literally, you know? And it was never really explained to me in a way that seemed really logical. I had nightmares. For me, religion didn't have a redemptive quality. It didn't help me to have a more positive outlook on life. It was a negative, oppressive kind of thing. Christ was a symbol of utter failure and absolute totalitarian control.

Eric Ain will give you frostbite.
Eric Ain will give you frostbite.

Clearly, Celtic Frost uses devil imagery with aesthetic depth. But when metal bands say "it's just a symbol," it starts to wear a little thin.

Symbols don't wear thin. The symbol is the most powerful expression of basic emotions, needs that we as human beings have — be it the cross, the horns of the devil, or the figure of the snake — that go way, way, way back to the beginning of the culturalization of humanity. If one realizes that, one has the chance of creating meaning, putting one's personal definition into that symbol. This is very Jungian — you know, Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist?

Yes.

He also came from Zurich.

He probably would have loved rock T-shirts, with all their occult symbols.

Yeah, I think he would have been a great fan of heavy metal music. Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Celtic Frost performs with Goatwhore and Kult of Azazel on Tuesday, October 24, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20. Call 954-564-1074, or visit www.cultureroom.net.Dark Memories

Goth, though strictly defined, is codified as much by its music as its formal dress and makeup regulations. The line of succession from the Damned to Bauhaus to Sisters of Mercy (sorry, Andrew Eldritch, but you are goth) to VNV Nation is clear and somewhat non-negotiable. From first glance, Rhino Records'Life Less Lived: The Gothic Box is just wrong, having excluded so much that is goth, included so much that is not, and boarded up the whole thing as if Bela Lugosi really weren't dead.

The omissions are critical (where's Wolfsheim? Or Carpathian Forest?), as is the lack of contemporary specimens (what about Cruxshadows?). The disc includes some obvious choices like the Creatures ("Exterminating Angel"), Alien Sex Fiend ("I'm Feeling Zombified"), 45 Grave ("Party Time"), and Christian Death ("Romeo's Distress") as well as some disinterred treasures by the March Violets ("Snake Dance"), Miranda Sex Garden ("Ardera Sempre"), and the Birthday Party ("Mutiny in Heaven"). But nearly all of these cuts are from the mid-'80s to mid-'90s, a fallow period, really, considering Bauhaus and Joy Division had disbanded by 1983 and Cranes, Fields of the Nephilim, and London After Midnight didn't really kick up again until this decade just past. In fact, only LAM's "Kiss," AFI's "The Hanging Garden," and the Rose of Avalanche's "Dreamland" harken to the genre's newer circle.

And then there's the stuff that just doesn't belong. Since goth is largely about being inside or outside, these inclusions are egregious. It's not that Skinny Puppy's "Assimilate" or the Chameleon's UK's "Don't Fall" aren't great songs; they are. But Skinny Puppy and Chameleons just aren't goth bands, and neither are Gene Loves Jezebel (emo progenitors), Dead Can Dance (Renn Faire hippies), or Flesh for Lulu (one-hit wonders). With YouTube.com and MySpace.com's music component making it possible to evaluate and identify goth's entire catalog, perhaps Rhino's effort is more sentimental than practical; the three CDs and one DVD come cloaked in leather. Still, how can any collection of such music that aspires to definitiveness fail to include Ministry's "Halloween," the recipe of the genre? Jean CareyGNR in the USA

"Do you know where the fuck you are?"

Although put as a rhetorical question to the audience at the 2006 VMAs, Guns N' Roses' frontman Axl Rose might as well have been asking what was on the mind of everyone who watched him saunter onstage that evening. After all, this was one of a small handful of times Rose had dared to make a public appearance over the past decade — a decade that has seen him sack or lose the majority of his bandmates, flirt with nü metal, and perpetually promise the release of the long-awaited Chinese Democracy. And he's done it all from the comfy confines of his Los Angeles abode.

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