Friday, November 2, 2012

Frosttide - Our Journey (EP) (2012)

There has always been a misconception among the casual music fan that putting together a band is easy. There must be a flood of musicians out there, just waiting for the chance to make some good ol' metal. And while that isn't entirely false, that doesn't make getting the right lineup any easier. Case in point, Finnish folk metal band Frosttide who, despite their best efforts, haven't been able to field a full band for any extended amount of time. With a bassist and keyboard position left vacant, you would assume a gap would exist in the music. But there is something about their take on the folk genre that makes it all work, this three piece and their aptly titled EP, "Our Journey" is proof.

The unbridled energy that opens "Enemy Is Back" would be hard to duplicate in any other genre. Light backing synthesizers do wonders for the mix, elevating the sound. The thrashing of guitars and pounding of drums at this speed would be certain to leave your neck sore, but adding in some gritty, borderline death metal vocals is the key to the track. The growls become the conductor, leading and driving the track, giving a sense of urgency to the melodic tinged riffs, despite limited use. That same dynamic is at play on "Carefree Village," bolstered by a dance worthy guitar riff. The dual guitar attack, with the second one laying down a massive chugging section, is glorious. Once again, the keyboard part is a keystone of the track, adding just enough accent to be noticed, without crowding things. In particular, it shines through in the bridge section, giving a boost to a twirling guitar riff. The track is relentless and, if you aren't careful, could leave you drowning in its wake.

The same could be said for "Face Your Demons," which contains a kit drum sound that could only be described as huge. It is here that the production work shines brighter than before, balances a pounding drum kit with two guitars and a devastating vocal line. But even more than that, the mix allows for short acoustic and clean passages to mesh perfectly within that framework, including some intense string bending action. And when you decide to name a track "Assault," there is a certain degree of heaviness that must be included. But rather than make this one an all out thrasher, there are small pieces of melody that keep it afloat. Hidden in the percussion and growling lyrics is a pretty impressive guitar riff, one that could easily make you a believer. That riff becomes the foundation for the rest of the track, with a keyboard backing at the midway point only adding fuel to the flame. The longest track on the album, the closing "No Turning Back," is a text book folk track, taking all of the thrash worthy guitars, and putting them together at break neck speeds. It is here that the band is at their best, combining the hard nosed guitars and drums with a talent for melodic songwriting. The mix is done in such a powerful way that it leaves the track feeling much larger than a three piece band, a true credit to engineering.

Band members come and go. For Frosttide, it has been an absolute fact of life. Bass players, keyboardists, they fill and vacate their positions time and time again. Yet somehow, with all of the turnover, the three members are not only surviving, they are flourishing. The five songs on "Our Journey" are all the evidence you could need that this is a band on the rise. And while the folk genre is a crowded arena, there is something woven into the fabric of this album that makes it undeniably catchy, and undoubtedly a victory for Finnish metal. Forget adding extra members; this three piece is doing just fine without them.


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