a unique and curious blend of heavy rock riffs, thumping electronica, and anthemic choruses…
Happenings in the Frost* camp have been fairly intermittent in the four years since their third album Falling Satellites was released to largely positive reviews. But recently the good news broke: a new album is due to be released in September of this year (…”and there was much rejoicing“). In the interim, a smaller release has been crafted to whet appetites the world over. Originally intended as a double album, the band decided that Satellites would be more palatable as a single, so six of the tracks were shelved in an effort to keep it a work of more respectable length. To their credit, this move towards succinctness was wise, as even the most ardent listener can become fatigued by overlong albums and gloss over quality songs, misconstruing them for bloated filler.
Still, the six pieces squirreled away were worthy of bearing the Frost* moniker. And so, last year they were revisited by band leader Jem Godfrey, who mixed, polished, and ultimately rescued them from the dreaded Abyss Of Incompleteness. The result is Others, a standalone EP due to arrive in digital format on 5 June, and as a physical release later this year as a part of the limited edition 13 Winters anthology art book (a droolworthy prospect for the collectors, no doubt).
Frost* have garnered much acclaim as an edgy, modern, forward-thinking band who rarely sound much like their influences (or their contemporaries). Often a unique and curious blend of heavy rock riffs, thumping electronica, and anthemic choruses, the music on Others dares to challenge the listener’s expectation of what modern prog rock should be – in style, arrangement and subject matter. Naturally, the tracks themselves do not differ wildly in scope from those found on Falling Satellites, and despite Others‘ shorter running time of 32 minutes, the two releases could be viewed as sister albums (what constitutes an EP nowadays was often a full album in decades past anyway). Once again, production itself is employed as a kind of instrument, and one wonders how some of these tracks could ever be pulled off in a live setting, but that’s a question for another time.
Variety is a key asset of Others. No two pieces are alike, and there’s no danger of the listening experience devolving into background blandness. The band comes roaring out of the gate in the killer opening track Fathers – a dense, ballsy, high-octane rocker with an earworm chorus and those creative keyboard sounds long familiar to Frost* listeners. Already it’s clear that these are fully album-worthy tracks – not the reheated leftovers often relegated to ‘b-side’ status or rarity compilations. Followup song Clouda (no, not a typo) bears little relation to its relentless predecessor. It’s an unusual arrangement, with melodic peaks and valleys of the verse and chorus structure interrupted by a long, strange bridge. The piece has a quiet, spooky finish that wouldn’t be out of place in one of those horror movies where a doll comes to life in some dusty old attic.
A 180-degree turn follows with the bizarre tribal chant that opens Exhibit A. This is the most frantic rocker of this new batch, with its unexpectedly ethereal middle section giving way to frenzied lead parts and repetitive but spirited vocals: “We don’t pay you to think, we just pay you to do whatever shit we tell you to! We own, we own, we own you!” Ending somewhat abruptly, we are then into the song Fathom, changing the pace (sense a pattern yet?) with organ and a single vocal that are soon joined by the other instruments, slowly building a rhythm before the song eventually quiets down again. Perhaps the most conventional track here, it still has its little quirks to keep it slightly off-centre, and likely far away from radio (though it shouldn’t be, it deserves to be heard).
The wackiest track on the album, Eat, begins with voices, coughs and strange noises that seem to be sampled and played on random keys. A funky beat appears and combines with said miscellany to form a kind of hybrid rhythm over which the vocals and keys float. A surprisingly catchy track, it finally reaches a more fleshed out, cinematic climax before the noises reappear as a kind of extended outtro. Quite bizarre indeed, one gets the feeling it could be divisive among fans… I look forward to finding out. Final track Drown is one of unconventional but captivating beauty, with the initial vocals vanishing and the latter two-thirds forming a dreamy, fluttering instrumental finale. One of the most noteworthy tracks of the Frost* catalogue, it’s an instant favourite and a compelling finish.
Ultimately, Others scores major wins with its dynamics, inventiveness and charm, and perhaps most importantly, it succeeds in providing a welcome stopgap until full-length album number four arrives later in the year. It would be naive to expect that it’s any kind of giant leap forward from the previous work, but it doesn’t need to be (it’s something of a foolish notion that every work of art has to somehow be groundbreaking or reinvent the wheel). Regardless, with tracks like Clouda and Drown, Frost* somehow do seem to advance after all. And though they don’t sound alike, I tend to view them the same way I do young American band Bent Knee: fascinating production, diverse compositions, bravely experimental, fiercely original… and unapologetically eccentric. We need artists like this, now more than ever – and if I was holding a physical copy of Others right now… I just might hug it.