Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Frost Despair - The God Delusion (EP) (2013)

Whether or not you've had formal audio engineering training or not, you know that there are limits to how much sound you can justifiably fit onto one recording. It may not be a numeric answer, but a case of logical derivation. Frost Despair, a seven piece band from Brazil, have agreed to throw caution to the wind, and try to fit their own blend of black metal and classical music onto a single recorded file. But even digital media has a limit, one that, when exceeded, can sound like the war has come home. Based on the works of Richard Dawkins, 'The God Delusion" is an album of metal fusion, exploring the thoughts on atheism and the violent spread of religion. But, as these seven tracks reveal, it is also an exercise in proper production and mixing. Seven members, seven separate layers, and one gigantic wall of distortion. With a sound that often gets in its own way, muffling and muting one element in favor of another, it succeeds in message but fails in delivery.

The first track, "The Dark Ages" sets up what is to be a bizarre contradiction. It extends well beyond what you could call an intro track, but remains at a constant level throughout. Touching on the darker side of classical music, it is a composition that is as rich as it is gloomy, adding so much depth to the low end. But rather than build onto that sound, the title track boasts a blasting blackened thrash aesthetic. The orchestral element is still there, but it is now hidden behind a growing wall of distorted guitars and drums. The layering of sounds here doesn't do the track any favors, tilting the mix too heavily towards one element. A trade off between male and female vocals is a treat at times, while exposing how one dimensional each can be without the other. The danger here is packing the mix too full, with a constant peaking of levels detracting from the individual pieces. As it stands, "Damnation" is merely the intro to the following track, "Splendor Of War," although their separation makes little sense, from a flowing perspective. The latter reinstates the symphonic element in full swing, despite drum work that could drown out a war itself. In the quieter moments, particularly when the female vocal is allowed to see lead time, you can get a far more detailed view of the soundscapes. As the drums are dialed back for a guitar solo, it starts to come together.

Unfortunately, the problems persist in the album's second half, rendering "Dark Bachiana" a murky mess of a song. The layers begin to condense themselves into one massive chunk of distortion, a production miscue that makes parts of the track unidentifiable. There are moments where the bands shines, both musically and vocally. The keyboard work here, tinged to echo the sound of a church organ, is top notch when it comes through. The section around the three and a half minute mark is evidence that balance can be found. It manages to extend into the opening stages of "The Final Breath" before chaos reigns supreme. The verse is an organized assault, while the chorus and bridge or hectic, at best. With the drums now dominating the mix once again, half of the track is spent righting the ship, while the other half is spent spinning off course. Beautifully orchestrated piano steers the track back onto the right path, and dazzles you into "At The Gates." In the most impressive piece of musicianship, the keys take over in full here, fluttering and winding through a series of high tempo melodic shifts.

One of the biggest shames of the modern metal experience is when production gets in the way of the final product. Frost despair have written and recorded an album that might have embodied the spirit of their original concept, but fails to meet the threshold for success. Whether the problem be in pre, post, or during the recording sessions, there is a significant hurdle in the way. With multiple listens, one can dissect a lot of the background work that goes on here, from guitars to bass to keyboards. But on first impressions, it could be dismissed as a lost cause. If you could look beyond the faults of the mix, there is a lot to hang your hat on; the guitar work is solid, the vocals are versatile and on the daring side, and the keyboards are worthy of a round of applause. The true shame is that they all shine separately, yet fail to do more than flicker when crammed in so tightly together. if this act can find balance where there was no room for it before, "The God Delusion" might not have all been in vain.


Official Site - http://www.frostdespair.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Frost-Despair/170368476397736

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