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Frost* - Experiments In Mass Appeal CD (album) cover





3.66 | 304 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Experiment or not, it certainly is appealing

That spray painted asterisk really needs some attention, this is a fantastic album. Supergroup Frost* has had an interesting life up to this point, in the course of a few short years they've released their debut album, broken up, regrouped and decided to strike back at the progressive community with this monster of a release. The band is harder edged, more aggressive and more out for the kill than ever before.

There's been a trend in the Neo-Prog community that many people have noticed, and that's the gradual darkening of the bands in the genre. Think of it like this, if Symphonic Prog is the father of the community as it stands right now with bands like Genesis and Yes hanging around with it all this time, Neo-Prog would be their teenaged son with an identity problem. Over the course of his life he's gone through some phases, at first trying to be a clone of his father who had to change with the times to make money to feed the family, so Neo tried to fill that gap. After taking a lot of criticism over the years Neo decided that he didn't want to take any more of this abuse and so is distancing himself from his father genre. He's putting on some eyeshadow and dawning all black clothes and hanging out with the wrong crowds. Bands in the genre like Pendragon, IQ and even Marillion have gone dark, and apparently so have Frost*. While results have been varied for other bands it's pretty clear that for Frost* this was a good move, the songs are chilling, moving and genuinely hard to call retro.

The band also seems to have decided to move away from the 'side-long epic'. While their first album featured the lengthy Milliontown, which was controversial depending on who you are, this album has no songs that reach over 9 minutes (if you discount the fact that there's a hidden track at the end of the album). This really works for the album though, and it allows development of theme and emotion before moving onto the next section or song. There are a few songs that run very close to one another and segue perfectly, making one wonder if they were indeed to be thought of as a suite, and then there's other songs which just hold their own very well. It's that emotional aspect that makes the songs so memorable. Opening with the wonderful Experiments In Mass Appeal the band prove that they can do everything a post-rock band can do in terms of build and release of tension while still maintaining a great melody and perfect structure.

A couple of songs on the album work just as short rockers. While short still means about 5-minutes and ''rockers'' still shows the songs going through a progression that stops them from being too simple, these songs help fill out the album and make it feel complete. Welcome To Nowhere has an explosive chorus which picks up the song from its somewhat slow intro, Burke's shrill voice makes for a good addition to the instruments that pack a wild punch and the song even has some headbanging moments. Pocket Sun has a brief guitar into which sounds for a moment like a Daft Punk song before blasting into full motion. Toys is the shortest song on the album and almost sounds like Coheed and Cambria at times with the style of guitar, but its fast, upbeat delivery with some quirky vocal lines (''it's dog eat God/In dog we trust...'') make for a very good addition to the album. Saline is a slow and emotional tune with some very nice instrumentation that allow for a full range of sounds to come into play. But even the excellent short songs have heavy competition on the album.

Easily the standout songs are the collection of mid-lengthed tunes that lie in wait in the middle of the album. Dear Dead Days has got to be one of the best progressive songs to have been written in 2008. With a blistering fast keyboard intro from Godfrey that for a moment has an almost James Bond like atmosphere the song turns into a growling darkness-fest coming into the chorus. This is the kind of song you have to crank to mother-effing-eleven when you have it in a vehicle of any kind, and doing so will give you a full appreciation of the killer rhythm section provided by Jowitt and Edwards while the evil guitar backing provided by Mitchell only adds to the intensity of the song. This is an excellent tune full of all the pomp, virtuosity and atmosphere that prog fans looks for without going overboard in any department. This segues into the equally memorable Falling Down which uses its melodies to make for somewhat of a crash-pad for the previous song. They run together incredibly well and really could have been combined to make a 13-minute suite, but weren't.

The last song on the album is also a very good one. Wonderland is a very Radiohead kind of song with its atmospheric build - that is, until the piano comes in and takes over, and then it's all Frost*. More emotional playing from every member here makes for a good ending to the disc. Although it's not really over. The 15-minute long track is only partially taken up by Wonderland, the other song (the name of which is as of know unknown) is another dramatic and emotional tune that makes for a second satisfying end to the album.

All in all this is an excellent album that deserves multiple spins this holiday season. It's great to see that Frost* is back on the block with some excellent new music, and that the Neo bands can use their new found dark powers for good and not evil. 4.5 out of 5, one of this year's best releases, just shy of a masterpiece. Definitely recommended! Even to those who think that Neo-bands don't have a shot at producing unique music.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |


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