Released: 2014, Corpse Flower Records
This month I have decided to review two books by Illustrator Mark Rudolph. Mark has had his artwork published in any number of Metal magazines and in 2012 he decided to do a book, a graphic novel more precisely about Mercyful Fate. In 2013 SATAN IS ALIVE became quite an underground success and he continued on with a next graphic novel in 2014, a tribute to Celtic Frost. I have reviewed both and interviewed Mark this month (March 2015) Please enjoy all three parts of this feature.
In the history of recorded music and popular culture, Heavy Metal is still quite young genre. It is not difficult to look back and pin-point exact moments in time, and specific individuals who can be credited with being so innovative they can be (almost) single-handedly responsible for creating an entire sub-genre. Tom G. Warrior is one of those people and is has been a long-held and widely accepted fact that he is among a small, elite cadre of artists who laid the ground work and inspired hundreds more in the field of extreme Metal. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before there was to be a tribute to Tom G. Warrior and all of his bands. Tributes can appear in the form of film documentaries, biographies, tribute albums, but in this instance, it is a graphic novel called MORBID TALES!-A TRIBUTE TO CELTIC FROST
The book itself is a small-ish paperback, printed in black and white and runs about 150 pages and published by the good people at Corpse Flower Records. It's nicely put together and has a brief introduction by editor and creative director, Mark Rudolph. Please check out our interview section (March 2015) for an interview with Mark. The concept is simple MORBID TALES! is a tribute to Celtic Frost from various authors, musicians and artists. Over 30 people contributed prose or art or both. This goes beyond a mere 'comic', nor is this book a standard graphic novel, in the sense of having a liner story; this is more a compendium of art about Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Members from such acts as Enslaved, Repulsion, Napalm Death, At The Gates, Autopsy, Darkthrone and more, pen brief testimonials about the enduring legacy and influence of Tom G. Warrior on their own artistic endeavours. Some critics and cynics might suggest that the whole project is an extended love-letter to Tom, but I can't think of a more deserving person to get such a tribute, in terms of extreme Metal. The art ranges from semi-crude to incredibly elaborate. Some of of it it is funny, much of it is dark, sexual and appropriately grim. The art ranges from cartoon-like to caricatures to strictly interpretative pieces. There are a few moments of humour laced in the works, with repeated references to Warriors now infamous 'death grunts'; it it makes you realize that something as a simple expulsion of air delivered in such a manner at the precise moment, can create such an auditory impact. In reality there are not that many 'death grunts' in the Hellhammer/Celtic Frost/Triptykon canon of works but those simple moments in time captured on wax, captivated the minds and imaginations of so many. For a knowledgeable Metal fans there are many hidden lyrical and visual references in many of the compositions and stories, making it even more enjoyable to find little clues and hidden meaning or references to lyrics and so on.
All eras of his career are covered, but as expected much of the emphasis is one the first two Celtic Frost albums. In hindsight, it is odd to think that the band has only had five albums in two decades. Four of those came in a short six year burst of activity (1984-1990) and of those two of those four albums were not that well received. In the various narratives, there is no consensus about the controversial COLD LAKE era. Some contributors have little tolerance for that era and others, more forgivingly, paint Tom as an avante-garde artist, one who was willing to experiment and grow. For the record, I'm siding with the latter. I've said it before and I'll say it again, people listen with their eyes and too many people judged COLD LAKE on the visual aspect and rather than actually listen. I'd wager than if COLD LAKE was reissued, remastered with a complete overhaul of artwork (maybe a Giger piece) and new band photos etc, many more people would appreciate it. Overall the band built a incredibly legacy essentially on two albums an couple of EP's in a very short space of time, just over four years and a couple dozen songs. That's a powerful testament to the strength of the material and hence this tribute.
My prediction is that this will be one of a four part series. It started with Rudolph's book SATAN IS ALIVE-A Tribute to Mercyful Fate. (See my review of March 2015 as well) Following MORBID TALES! I expect, (I hope!) that the next Mark Rudolph project will be a Venom book or a Bathory book to take us one step closer to closing the circle of the original 'Big Four' of Black Metal. Even if this masterplan never materializes, this unique and interesting book deserves a place in the library of every extreme Metalhead.