Frost * – Day And Age
Whether it’s the past year of lockdown finally catching up with me and breaking my spirit, or purely luck of the draw as far as release dates are concerned, I have found myself rather disheartened by the quality of music thus far in 2021. Though not for lack of trying, trawling through the never-ending stream of submissions and scouting far and wide for new releases each week, I’ve struggled to find the spark. That effervescent tingle across your skin when you find new music that thrills and excites you. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like, and I’d begun to fear that I’d never find my way out of the doldrums, until the new record from Frost* managed to put some wind back in my sails.
The striking artwork, bringing to mind some old Hipgnosis cover for Pink Floyd, immediately set my anticipation rising, and right away I felt vindicated by the epic title track. With gorgeous use of harmonics, engaging and memorable melodies, and elements heavily reminiscent of The Police, it feels quite unlike anything else in the band’s repertoire to this point. While I’m a huge prog fan I’m also (perhaps a little paradoxically) also a believer that often “less is more”. Anyone familiar with the technical prowess of Milliontown will know that Frost* have complexity down to a tee, but Day And Age sees the band in their most streamlined form. The title track feels laser focused and yet has the light touch needed to build its atmosphere. It feels thoroughly engaging and accessible, more than a twelve minute epic has any right to be, but still feels every bit as ambitious. It also perfectly represents the album as a whole; how it impresses at every turn without leaning too heavily on intricacy, and how yet another infectious groove or melody is always waiting just around the corner.
The band could quite easily have settled on an entire record of the same welcoming fusion of prog and new wave found on tracks like ‘Island Life’ and ‘Skywards’ and it would likely still have been one of my favourite releases of 2021 thus far. But instead it’s an album that kept surprising me. Whether it’s the elegant piano of ‘Waiting For The Lie’, or the operatic backing vocals and menacing bass tone on ‘Repeat To Fade’, there are plenty of unexpected delights in store. ‘Kill The Orchestra’ for instance begins with a sparse piano led intro before your senses are assaulted by a gargantuan droning riff that sounds like some weaponised form of the THX sound. Album highlight ‘The Boy Who Stood Still’ meanwhile takes the bold move of beginning with a spoken word section, something notoriously hard to pull off without sounding cheesy or pretentious. But in the context of the track’s narrative, and with the frenetic glitchy funk instrumentation behind it, if anything it helps pull you in deeper. You’re then rewarded with some stunning synth sounds, the album’s most emphatic chorus, and a rhythm section operating on some higher plane. The absurd and intriguing narrative of a boy remaining so still as to disappear beyond the laws of time and space could quite easily have been the basis for a whole concept album, but instead the track just leaves you wanting more in the best possible sense.
By far the most exciting and unexpected aspect of Day And Age however is the percussion. With the band parting ways with their previous drummer and continuing as a three-piece, three different drummers came on board for this latest project – Kaz Rodriguez, Darby Todd and Pat Mastelotto. On paper it just sounds like grabbing a few friends to do some finishing touches, but in actual fact they often end up stealing the spotlight. Each of them plays like their life depends on it, like they’re all competing for the top prize with all the flair and flourish they can muster. The drum work on this album is simply outstanding from start to finish, although with the especially expressive latter half of ‘Waiting For The Lie’ and the thunderous fills that punctuate ‘The Boy Who Stood Still’ particularly standing out as highlights for me.
While Frost* have at times been a little hit and miss over the years, as many bands often are, one thing they don’t do is rest on their laurels. They never make the same album twice, always moving forward towards fresh pastures. As admirable as that is, if they decided to break that trend following Day And Age, I can’t deny I would be the last person to complain. This record ticks plenty of boxes for me. I think the band have really tapped into something special here and I’m most certainly keen to hear more.