The last installment of Riffology featured one of my favorite bands, Mercyful Fate. This week, the trend continues with Celtic Frost.
In a few short years, Celtic Frost created a wildly diverse (and wildly uneven) catalogue that managed to influence just about every form of what we call extreme metal today. For my money, however, the early shit is where it’s at, namely: Morbid Tales, Emperor’s Return, and To Mega Therion. The riff we will cover in this lesson is from the Morbid Tales track “Procreation of The Wicked.”
In 1984, when Morbid Tales was released, thrash was starting to explode: speed was king. While thrash was certainly a part of Celtic Frost’s sound, one of the things that made band unique was its willingness to slow things down, and a classic example of this is “Procreation of the Wicked.”
Our focus for this lesson will be on the song’s main riff which first appears at 0:18 in the video below.
Tom G. Warrior was (and if we are being honest, still is) a mediocre, self-taught guitar player. Tom would never dazzle anyone with technique, and his riffs were dead-simple to the last. But there is no denying the man had an ear for the musically macabre. The “Procreation of the Wicked” main riff is little more than a trio of power chords and a few chugs on the open sixth string over a slow, steady groove, but the sick-sounding bend with which Tom starts the riff turns it into an all-time classic.
While Mr. Warrior might have had nary-a-clue about music theory, he was clued into one musical secret: between the notes is where they keep all the extra evil. Tom exploited this fact to the fullest by littering Celtic Frost riffs with cruelly bent notes at every turn. Upping the evil quotient on the riff in question is the fact that it starts on B-flat, which, if you do not know by now you can probably guess, is the diminished fifth in this song’s key of E-minor.
While “Procreation of the Wicked” will likely never eclipse the popularity of fan favorite “Circle of the Tyrants,” the track was a highlight of the band’s set during Celtic Frost’s reunion tour in 2006. To accommodate material from the Monotheist album, the band employed an ultra low-tuning for live shows. Unfortunately, this tuning dulled the edge of the band’s faster material, but the slow trudge of “Procreation of the Wicked” ended up being rendered even more devastating by the lower pitch. Tom G. Warrior continues to explore the slower and heavier side of metal with his new band Triptykon, and it is, I believe, no-coincidence that the band frequently opens shows with “Procreation of the Wicked.”
Post your favorite Celtic Frost riff.
Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales
Learn to play “Procreation of the Wicked”. It is a rather simple song, so give it a shot by ear before going to the tab.