With Winter coming to an end, the weather gods are making last ditch attempts to get us with snow, ice, howling winds and pissing rain. If there was one genre designed for such weather it would be black metal so settle in and enjoy The Endless Winter, the new album from Frosthelm. It’s grim outside, you might as well make it grim inside.
Another day, another new subgenre name to learn. Hot from the press release is today’s genre; “thrashened black metal”, a twist on the usual blackened title bands like to use.. is deathened *blank* metal a thing? (I googled; yes. God help us all)
Enough subgenre Googling though, it’s time to get to the important part, the actual music.
The black metal is the real meat of the band which is apparent early on. Forlorn Tides rapid guitar work over the crunchy production followed by the growl in the introduction of A Tomb of Sordid Ruin is pure black metal. With blastbeats and generally pounding drums supporting the guitar and bass attack, each song is a sensory assault with only slight gaps, such as the gentle section in Hell Between Us, to allow us any form of rest
I’m usually the first to call for good production. People can bitch and moan about albums being overproduced but when you have your headphones on and the drum beat feels like a stampede of elephants it really can’t be argued with. However, black metal is one of those sub-genres that demands a looser production. This doesn’t seem forced though, you sometimes get an impression some bands are forcing the low-fi approach too much which sort of defeats the purpose. Frosthelm in collaboration with Eric Milos, Alec Schneider and Matt Hyde have managed to create an utterly filthy sounding record that does not make for easy listening in the slightest, and they have managed to make it seem perfectly natural.
The thrash element really comes out in the lower riffage, The Dragon being a good example. While a lot of the guitar notes on the higher strings adopt the high intensity discordant black metal feeling, the actual riffs are heavily thrash influenced. Though it’s like thrash with a disease, much like the production the riffs also feel unclean. The overall aesthetic of black metal is nailed perfectly. In fact, it’s almost jarring to look at the accompanying press photo that comes with the release and not see corpse paint or the band perched atop a Nordic Fjord.
One of my highlights from the album is the vocals. Tyler sliding from the deeper thrash style growls into the higher black metal growls is oddly pleasing. Not being stuck in one state of growling is an interesting departure and a welcome change from vocalists who seem limited to just death, or just black metal etc type growls and screams.
A further, and welcome, influence from the world of thrash is the song lengths. Ever since the days of Reign in Blood we’ve had thrash bands aiming for the elusive half hour of high paced, no filler metal. On the other hand, we also have black metal bands who try to follow in the footsteps of bands like Emperor and their lengthy offerings. The Endless Winter is much more the former, you’re left wanting more rather than waiting for the end. You want to return and listen again and that is the key to having a good record. It might be ugly, abrasive and dark, but in black metal that’s what you want.
The Frozen Winter is out March 22nd, keep an eye on the bands Facebook for updates