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





3.66 | 304 ratings

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4 stars Very Good Modern Prog - Veteran Producer Empties the Toybox

I picked this album up after numerous proggies put it on their best of 2008 list, and it was featured on Franz Keylard's podcast. I'd read the basic premise, that the band was a chance for pop producer Jem Godfrey to play, to make his own music without the constraint of commerciality. And what we get is exactly that, a producer in the control room using the full range of gadgets and whizbangs at his disposal. Luckily, though, Godfrey's pop sensibilities are fairly ground in, and this music retains melodicism, pacing, and precision despite it basically being an exercise in self-indulgence. The result is very listenable, adventuresome, and contains a few moments that are truly astounding experiences through headphones.

This album has two signature elements: the processing on the lead vocals and the extremes in dynamics. Both are bound to annoy some, and in some places these elements are overdone. The vocal processing is not as extreme as Cynic but it's nearly as pervasive, making lyrics sometimes difficult to make out. As a result, the voice becomes the lead melodic instrument rather than a story-teller. Similarly, there are many sudden drops from full blast / no headroom multilayered sections to quiet interludes that are so low they'd be inaudible in a car. In fact, it can be hard to tell the difference between a transition within and between songs. Strangely, this gives the album as a whole a cohesion that I enjoy. But I certainly understand that others have criticized this heavy handed choice from the control room.

The opening title song contains everything good and bad about the album. Starting simple and sparse, it grows slowly in layering and intensity until it reaches a fiery climax during a very good guitar solo, and then, boom, drops back to the beginning theme. We go through the cycle again twice, though with shorter sections and slight variations, and (slightly) smoother transitions. Subsequent songs continue with this formula, but also incorporate more complex time signatures, processed guitar tones, electronic beats, and plenty of layers.

Highlights of the album include the opening track, the chorus of Pocket Sun (track 3) which is remarkably melodic despite a pummeling rhythm and highly processed / distorted guitars, the development of the melodic themes at the end of the fairly straight ballad Saline (track 4), the overwhelming spacy multi-tracked craziness at 0:39 of Dear Dead Days (track 5), and the metallic guitar solo on Falling Down (track 6). The later tracks do let up a little in terms of strength, but not to the degree some have criticized. In fact, I really don't find any weak spots on this album, only good and very good. At the same time, nothing totally transports me either.

In summary, this is very good modern prog. The musicianship is very high, it sounds great, and the melodies are strong. Very enjoyable listen and easy to recommend.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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