1987 marked something of a cultural rebirth. Freed from the dysfunctional apron-strings of provincial prevarication, 4 years of architecture school had summoned me to London. It’s filthy streets, were far from paved with gold, but the airwaves on the other hand, resounded to the sturm und drang of METAL!

The bozo’s at university regarded London a worthy destination, facilitating completion of the next hurdle to “professional practice”. I on the other hand, had been drawn, hypnotised by the hallowed promise, of the altar that was the Hammersmith Odeon

I managed to see, pretty much every band that played there between July ’87 and September ’88 – only those of course, attuned to my lofty standards. All too few, scaling that ascent, would transcend the majesty of Shambhala – one such band who did, was Celtic Frost, along with their game-changing 1987 release, ‘Into The Pandemonium‘.

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To this fledgling free-thinker, aspiring anarchical aesthete, finding myself presented with an album, encompassing the rich, eclectic diversity of my musical palette, was nothing short of an epiphany. Hailed as pioneers of “Avant-garde metal”, Celtic Frost redefined the zeitgeist. ‘Into The Pandemonium‘, is an œvre awash with the thematic stylings of classical, industrial, goth and new wave, yet still firmly rooted, it’s seething tendrils of radical bombast, enmeshed within the metal fraternité.

Celtic Frost revolutionised the narrow confines of “heavy metal”, their underground DIY aesthetic, wracked with an intensity of introspective idealism, punched an esoteric hole in the sky.

Victims of their own runaway success, coupled with the vagaries of touring, sadly meant it would be almost 20 years, and the release of ‘Monotheist‘ in 2006, before these ‘Dethroned Emperor(s)’, would once more ascend the ‘Jewel Throne‘ – only to see that lustrous promise again, ‘Drown In Ashes‘, borne on ‘Suicidal Winds‘…

Thankfully, the well-spring of pervasive eloquence, residing within Tom Gabriel Warrior, did not remain dormant for long, morphing in 2008 into the phoenix that is Triptykon. The longevity of this latest incarnation, bears testament to the inherent stability of it’s constituent parts – the legacy of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost’s tabula rasa, chiselled anew.

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I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that if I was ever going to see Triptykon, I’d have to make the pilgrimage from Ireland, to one of the european festivals. Then, completely unexpectedly, the Red Bull Music Academy Weekender Zürich, appeared on the horizon. Joy of joys, not only would there be a Triptykon gig, in the most intimate of settings, there would also be, ‘A Conversation With: Tom Gabriel Warrior’, hosted by legendary metal scribe Ian Christie, AND a screening of the Adrian Winkler documentary, ‘A Dying God‘ – which charts the highs and lows of Celtic Frost’s 2006/2007 ‘Monotheist‘ tour. All within a stone’s throw of the Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of Dada, I found myself in avant-garde nirvana.

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The evening kicked off at 6pm, in the relaxed setting of the Zukunft Lecture Room – the assembled acolytes, transfixed by the promise of this congenial audience. Ian Christie, lynch-pin proprietor of Bazillion Points – 2010 publisher of, ‘Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History of Hellhammer and Early Celtic Frost 1981–1985‘, written by Tom Gabriel Fischer with collaboration of Martin Eric Ain, proved the perfect host. Asking just enough questions to allow Tom the space to breathe, to illuminate and elucidate, his labyrinthine tale of ouroboros machinations.

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What the complexities of the music, and intricacies of the lyrics had always suggested, found gratifying substance, in the humble persona of Tom Gabriel Warrior. A genuine, heartfelt individual, burning bright with emotional intellect, forever striving for innovation, steeped in passion, his words nothing short of inspiration. So much so, I felt compelled at the end to shake his hand, to thank him for everything his vision had brought me over the years. In many ways his goal, “to combine heaviness, with something that approached art”, has provided a mantra I have aspired to follow…

 

Onwards and 8pm sees the ranks swollen further, cosseted within the warm bosom of Kino Roland. Fortunately, I have watched Adrian Winkler’s documentary, ‘A Dying God‘, often enough with english subtitles, that my rudimentary grasp of high-school german, allows me to enjoy the movie afresh. It is a delight to witness the film on the big screen, surrounded by like-minded natives. This 2008 document of Celtic Frost’s re-baptism by fire, following a sixteen year hiatus from live performance, sees the band zig-zag it’s way between the Wacken festival and Japan, finally charting the painful, unravelling lurch toward demise, at the end of the US tour…

There is just time for a couple of swift drinks, Tanqueray gin laced with the obligatory Red Bull, though in keeping with the exotic atmosphere, I opt for the tropical flavours of the yellow edition, before staking my claim, front of house, next to the minuscule stage. Grinning from ear to ear, in the sure and certain knowledge, that I’d never have gotten this close, at any mud-splattered festival.

I was ecstatic when Triptykon emerged in 2008. So very few bands, over the passing decades, had continued to deliver on their early promise, becoming little more than bloated facsimiles of their former selves, many, no longer even, their own best cover bands. It was clear that Tom Gabriel Warrior still had unfinished business, the promised further, “experimental development” on those themes  explored on ‘Monotheist‘, augured well. This substantial evolution, finding it’s way to me, then living in Oz, in the guise of, ‘Eparistera Daimones – The Complete Sessions’ – a diabolikally numbered vinyl edition of 066/500, including the sublime EP ‘Shatter‘, which birthed a sumptuous, Weimar-inspired, expressionist cinematic gem…

The band, comprising Tom Gabriel Warrior – guitar, V. Santura – guitar, Norman Lonhard – drums and Vanja Slajh – bass, materialise on stage, conjured forth from the all consuming, stygian dry ice blanket. Their subtle nuances, counterposed with crushingly decompressive riffs, a celebration in structural dexterity, belying a finely honed, covert complexity.

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The setlist traversed a chiaroscuro mix of current and back catalogue, so enraptured was I by the experience, I can even forgive the omission of any ‘Pandemonium‘ tracks! On at least one occasion during the set, it literally felt as if the flesh had been flayed from my bones, such was the invigorating sensation, of ritual cleansing and rebirth.

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All encompassing is the breadth of Tom G Warrior’s auteur-ship of this band, underscored by his longstanding association with that other Swiss maverick genius, H.R. Giger – perennial outcasts both.

All too soon, the curtain on this cathartic communion draws to a ceremonial close. To ecstatic cheers, band and audience alike, exchange sincere genuflexions. 29 years after that star-crossed evening in Hammersmith – Zürich and Tom Gabriel Warrior have again, initiated over my reincarnation. If indeed, ‘Only Death Is Real‘, tonight’s metamorphosis completes my transmutation, I am stirred by a sense of how it feels to be, ‘A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh‘…

Some images from the show…

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For further image gallery click here.

For the stalwarts, the evening is brought to a glorious close, with an aftershow dastardly DJ duel, between Ian Christie and “Heavy Metal Maniac”, Erich Keller

Written by Chromaticism