Pros: Its lack of availability is a big plus.
Cons: The image, the songs, the lyrics (what can be understood of them). It's all wrong.
Oh dear god. This album is every bit the pile of buffalo dung everybody always said it was. I cannot believe I paid a dollar for it on some foreign mp3 site. I'm now looking for a lawyer to retrieve my money and the innocence I had before I foolishly subjected myself to it. Yes, friends and fiends, Cold Lake is possibly the worst heavy metal album ever made.
Let's go back to the beginning of this mother of all mistakes. Let's say you're the leader of a popular heavy metal band, one that's even cited by such major names as Metallica and Megadeth. You just got off a tour promoting an album that combined dark European power metal with orchestral decorations, French poetry, spooky female voices, esoteric lyrics that hint at all kinds of malevolent things, and even industrial experimentation. Three members of your band just bailed out and left you holding the well-respected name of Celtic Frost, not to mention the high expectations of metal lovers around the world. What would you do?
If your answer is "tease my hair, hastily assemble a group of musicians who have no business being in a studio, and quickly kick out an album of the worst cock rock/power metal hybrids imaginable", then you are desperately in need of therapy. And that's just what Tom G. Warrior needed after his band fell apart following the tour for Into The Pandemonium. Or maybe he just needed a couple of months to clear his head and some good advice; either way, what he did forever ruined the good name of Celtic Frost and made him look like the dumbest guy to ever claim Swiss citizenship.
For the record, Celtic Frost was a tremendously influential, innovative, and magnificent project before Cold Lake. Not the most musically sophisticated bunch, Tom, Martin Ain, and Reed St. Mark made up for in imagination what they lacked in technicality. They weren't afraid to throw a French horn into the middle of their demonic cacophony. They were scary to look at, and far more mysterious and menacing than Slayer, or any of those other metal dorks that relied on Satan and serial killers to sell their records. There was something beautiful and intelligent about the ugliness Celtic Frost was putting out.
Which is precisely why Tom G. Warrior had no business trying to compete with Motley Crue and Cinderella. For one thing, he hung on to the very un-glammy riffs and grunt of a singing voice, which no sensible fan of hair bands would enjoy at all. In other words, he had nothing to offer the disciples of Ratt and Bon Jovi. What's worse is that he decided to dress up like an Aquanetter and write songs with titles like Dance Sleazy, Seduce Me Tonight, and Little Velvet. Add to this equation the fact that Tom G. Warrior is one of the most disgustingly ugly white men on the planet, and what you have is a car wreck that's not even fun for rubberneckers. Cold Lake is a catastrophe all around.
Starting the album out with Human II, an intro that sounds like someone trying to rap at an L.A. Guns soundcheck, was bad enough, but it amazingly just gets worse from there. The lyrics are thankfully incomprehensible, the guitar leads are out of place and seemingly out of key at times (and not very well mixed, I might add), and the riffs sound like a garage band putting forth their best facsimile of Iron Maiden and Metallica after having been together a whole two weeks. In fact, Cherry Orchards, the single that gave us CF fans a collective limpy, sounds hauntingly reminiscent of Seek & Destroy at times, which gets a double dunce from me- I think that's Metallica's worst song.
Anyway, despite the fact that the tunes are mildly dark in riffage and fairly quick in tempo, there's just nothing about them that's impressive or catchy. Tom's growls were made for evil yarns about dungeons, horsemen, and Yog Sothoth; hearing him on Juices Like Wine, Petty Obsession, and (Once) They Were Eagles is about as awkward and unpleasant as Vince Neil covering Ace of Spades. Only Downtown Hanoi comes anywhere close to the feel of old CF, and even that's a stretch. By the time the "bonus tracks" roll around, those being a sloppy live run-through of Mexican Radio and another crap tower called Tease Me that briefly tries to incorporate the riff from Procreation Of The Wicked, I'm fully ready to open my carotid with a broken whiskey bottle.
There are some albums that are amusingly bad. Some bands, like Poison and Pearl Jam, made lots of money by providing perfectly acceptable terrible entertainment. This, however, is an audio document of the worst decisions a band can make. Tom apparently realized it right away and fired everybody, and even made a decent comeback with Vanity/Nemesis and the truly awesome Monotheist. However, it's kind of like sticking with a lover that's cheated on you- he or she can never be fully trusted again, and you can't go back to where you were. The only thing more abominable than listening to this album is trying to imagine some poor dolts paying the fifty or sixty bucks that it actually goes for on the Internet. Don't be one of them, even for curiosity's sake.
In the words of the great Rick James, I wish I had more hands so that I could give this album four thumbs down.