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"For me, religion didn't have a redemptive quality," says Celtic Frost bassist and co-founder Martin Ain. "It didn't help me to have a more positive outlook on life. It was a negative, oppressive kind of thing."
Speaking to New Times from his home in Zurich, Switzerland, Ain is describing his Catholic upbringing, which led to his rejection of Christ and his lifetime allegiance with Satan, whom he describes in hushed, giddy terms as "the arch-rebel himself!"
"My mother," he explains, "was a Catholic religion teacher. She taught the catechism. Satan was the most powerful force to oppose my mother.
"I remember that traumatic experience of being in a church, with this life-sized cross with this tormented human figure nailed, its limbs twisted and turned," Ain says. "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. So Christ became a symbol of utter failure and absolute totalitarian control."
Although the use of occult symbols goes all the way back to the band's earliest work under the name Hellhammer, the Celtic Frost back catalog also reflects the rebellious attitude of fantasy-minded youth. In retrospect, in spite of its dour, contemplative edge, the music sounds almost playful today.
By comparison, Monotheist, the band's comeback album after nearly a 20-year hiatus, comes off as deadly serious. From the elaborate, hideously elegant demon/bird figure that graces the cover to the extensive liner notes that detail all manner of ancient Judeo-Christian history, it's clear that this isn't a band pandering to pentagram-scrawling high-schoolers.
"Symbols," Ain posits, putting the band's thought process in perspective, "be it the cross, the horns of the devil, or the figure of the snake, go way back to the beginning of the culturalization of humanity."
Now that's heavy.