by Aaron Gidney
The definitive Frost* retrospective is finally here, and having been teased for quite some time, this boxset nicely ties up all the loose ends that all Frost* fans have been begging for. It’s always nice to review these anthologies because it allows for the body of work to be considered as a whole and to be able to see the musical journey a band makes over a number of years, in one cohesive canonical vehicle.
The boxset contains every studio album remastered, EP, live releases, with some added bonuses like instrumental versions and extra tracks/demos.
First up is the astounding debut, Milliontown from 2006. I vividly remember seeing this advertised on the little leaflet inserts you used to get included in any InsideOut Music release back in the day, and assuming that the band couldn’t be anything other than British, given the red telephone box featured on the artwork. In 2006, we’d all heard Neo-Prog but nothing like this – the use of samples, electronics, extensive vocal treatment, and generally faster-paced, happier tracks with more pop sensibility, really sets this band and debut release apart from many of the Neo-Prog releases at the time.
Leader, Jem Godfrey stated the intention of Frost* was a direct reaction to his work as a songwriter/producer with Atomic Kitten – who’d have thought we’d have Kerry Katona to thank for this! Interestingly, Jem also states that the concept of Frost* was an “anti-them” statement when considering what other Neo-Prog bands were doing at the time. The irony of this is that the musicians involved in this release are Arena/IQ alumni which perhaps is a testament to their versatility as musicians and willingness to be involved in such an experimental project with someone part of Gary Barlow’s production team and a style quite far removed from the day job of those classic Neo Prog bands.
Interestingly, the liner notes also reveal that Jem was going to do a Manic Street Preachers-style approach and release the album to hopeful critical acclaim and then disappear into obscurity – thankfully he didn’t, and we’ve been benefitting ever since.
Milliontown has aged very well considering it is nearly 15 years old now. This appears to be a testament to Jem’s vision, production skills and attention to detail in relation to the mixing and musical arrangements. It’s still a bombastic tour de force of modern prog and fair play to him for taking so many risks on a debut release – you can hear this in the contrasting difference between opening one-twoer, Hyperventilate and No Me No You.
Milliontown has been nicely remastered in 2020 and given the gaps between releases, brings it right up to date with the rest of the catalogue.
A milestone release whose highlights include opener Hyperventilate, the lydian mode-tinged Black Light Machine featuring THAT John Mitchell solo, and album closer, the epic title track.
Sophomore release, Experiments in Mass Appeal, has always been an interesting topic for discussion amongst Frost* given that Jem had disbanded the band following their debut and then introduced Dec Burke as the singer of the band for this second release. The 2008 album has been remixed AND remastered in 2020.
EiMA has an overall different feel to Milliontown, and deliberately so according to Jem, stating that he couldn’t do a Milliontown 2 and basically did the opposite. This is clear from the self-titled opener, which sounds like an entirely different band – lots of layers of guitars, hardly any synth and a much rawer, harder edged than anything on the debut album. As a two guitar band now, and with a new singer, this clearly offered a new sonic and dynamic range for the band and as Jem says “It possibly opened us up to a different market of listeners.” according to Nick Shilton’s liner notes.
It’s most definitely a more organic affair than their first outing and perhaps with this remix/remaster/rerelease, it will be exposed to a new audience. EiMA is much more experimental than Milliontown and much more of a musical risk, however, what is clear, is the musical dna of the band is still there – it’s just manifesting itself using a different facet. The title of the album gives it away so no-one should have been surprised – “As the album title says, it was an experiment. We were trying to be more mainstream.” says Jem…
Highlights include Dear Dead Days, Pocket Sun and Falling Down.
2016’s Falling Satellites was a return to form and much closer in sound to their debut, albeit with some added ingredients (see Tower Block!) and being a completely different lineup with Edwards, Burke and Jowitt no longer part of the band and Nathan King (Level 42) and Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson) now in alongside stalwarts Godfrey and Mitchell. Amazingly, instrumental guitar legend, Joe Satriani features on Closer To The Sun. The album’s single, Numbers is perhaps the band’s most instantly accessible track in the whole of their discography, and still manages to maintain the Prog credibility with its King Crimson Discipline-era contrapuntal intro. The chorus is also perhaps the most instantly catchy too and a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the band.
Again, the third studio album has been remastered in 2020 and comes with the added bonus of a full instrumental version of the album for those who may wish to attempt karaoke if they’re bored.
Companion live album, Falling Satellive is a nice addition to the boxset, recorded at Dingwalls in 2017. For those of you familiar with good ol’ YouTube on the t’interweb may have seen the videos for some of these tracks – with Towerblock perhaps being the most musically noteworthy simply due to the band’s ability to pull off the infamous grime/dubstep-style stutter/breakdown section in a live setting.
The sixth disc is the experimental placeholder, Others EP which was released in 2020, whose review can be found within the hallowed pages of this site for those of you unfamiliar with it – https://spirit.rocks/2020/06/20/cd-review-others-ep-frost/ In essence, the six track, thirty minute EP has a mixture of classic distorted sawtooth Frost* riffage amongst some other more electronic influenced ventures – something for everybody until the next studio release.
Disc 7 is live venture, The Philadelphia Experiment from 2009, following the EiMA album on the road at Rosfest, Pennsylvania. There’s a good mix of tracks from the debut and EiMA, however, the real appeal of the original release was the inclusion of new epic track, The Dividing Line – which has now been moved onto the Disc 8 B-Sides and Rarities disc which includes a number of non-album tracks along with some demo versions of other Frost* tracks.
All in all, this is a definitive, and lovingly put-together package with some beautiful new artwork, liner notes from Nick Shilton of Prog outlining a brief history of the band and some of Jem’s thoughts. The fact that it comes as an artbook adds to the value of the package and draws this era of the band to close in (hopeful) anticipation of a new album on the horizon! At 7hrs 34 minutes, there’s enough to fill a working days’ (shhh!) worth of listening and enough musical nuggets to keep the die-hard fans happy for a while too.
Disc 1 – Milliontown (2006) Remaster 2020
1. Hyperventilate (Remaster 2020) 7:30. 2. No Me No You (Remaster 2020) 6:08 3. Snowman (Remaster 2020) 3:54
4. Black Light Machine (Remaster 2020) 10:08 5. The Other Me (Remaster 2020) 4:48
6. Milliontown (Remaster 2020) 26:09
Playing Time 58:37
Disc 2 – Experiments In Mass Appeal (2008) Remix/Remaster 2020
1. Experiments In Mass Appeal (Remix/Remaster 2020) 7:54 2. Welcome To Nowhere (Remix/Remaster 2020) 5:32
3. Pocket Sun (Remix/Remaster 2020) 4:29
4. Saline (Remix/Remaster 2020) 6:09 5. Dear Dead Days (Remix/Remaster 2020) 6:50 6. Falling Down (Remix/Remaster 2020) 5:50
7. You/I (Remix/Remaster 2020) 1:05
8. Toys (Remix/Remaster 2020) 3:05 9. Wonderland (Remix/Remaster 2020) 5:54
10. The Secret Song (Remix/Remaster 2020) 8:21 Playing Time: 55:09
Disc 3 – Falling Satellites (2016) Remaster 2020
1. First Day (Remaster 2020) 1:39
2. Numbers (Remaster 2020) 4:21
3. Towerblock (Remaster 2020) 6:13
4. Signs (Remaster 2020) 6:35
5. Lights Out (Remaster 2020) 3:51
6. Heartstrings (Remaster 2020) 6:20
7. Closer To The Sun (Remaster 2020) 7:20
8. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 7/8 (Remaster 2020) 7:49 9. Nice Day For It (Remaster 2020) 6:37
10. Hypoventilate (Remaster 2020) 2:00
11. Last Day (Remaster 2020) 3:25
Playing time: 56:10
Disc 4 – Falling Satellites – Instrumentals (2016) Remaster 2020
1. First Day (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 1:39
2. Numbers (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 4:21
3. Towerblock (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:13
4. Signs (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:35
5. Lights Out (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 3:51
6. Heartstrings (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:21
7. Closer To The Sun (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 7:20
8. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues in 7/8 (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 7:49 9. Nice Day For It… (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 6:37
10. Hypoventilate (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 2:00
11. Last Day (Instrumental/Remaster 2020) 3:24
Playing time: 56:10
Disc 5 – Falling Satellive – Live 2017
1. Numbers (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 4:45
2. Towerblock (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:48
3. Signs (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:18
4. Lights Out (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 5:40
5. Heartstrings (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 6:02
6. Closer To The Sun (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:35
7. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 7/8 (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 7:49 8. Nice Day For It… (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 6:44
9. Hypoventilate (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 1:02 10. Last Day (Live at Dingwalls, London, 2017) 3:45 Playing time: 58:28
Disc 6 – Others – EP
1. Fathers 4:54 2. Clouda 6:54 3. Exhibit A 5:35 4. Fathom 3:58 5. Eat 4:39
6. Drown 5:59 Playing time: 31:59
Disc 7 – The Philadelphia Experiment – Live 2009
1. Intro (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 2:06
2. Hyperventilate (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 5:55
3. Wonderland (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 4:56
4. Black Light Machine (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 10:29 5. Snowman (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 6:18
6. Saline (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 6:16
7. Milliontown (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 25:58
8. The Other Me (Live at The Keswick Theatre, Glenside, 2nd May 2009) 7:19 Playing time: 69:17
Disc 8 – This And That – B-Sides And Rarities
1. The Dividing Line 16:50
2. Lantern 3:45
3. British Wintertime 6:29
4. The Forget You Song 2:24
5. Numbers (Day 1 Demo) 4:14
6. Towerblock (Day 1 Demo) 3:01 7. Heartstrings (Demo) 5:00
8. Closer To The Sun (Demo) 7:16
9. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light In 7/8 (Day 1 Demo) 7:54 10. Last Day (Demo) 2:48
11. Hyperventilate Hypoventilate Paulstretch Test 8:53
Playing time: 68:34
Jem Godfrey – Vocals, Keyboards, Production John Mitchell – Guitars, Vocals
Nathan King – Bass