CD REVIEW – DAY AND AGE – by FROST*

by Aaron Gidney

“Hello, and welcome to the rest of your life. Before we begin this short journey – please, sit back, relax and remember, enjoy yourselves…you scum” says a child – what a way to open this long-awaited album!

Whilst the last year or so has been busy in terms of Frost-life, this is the first full-length release for 5 years. 2020 saw the release of the experimental interim EP ‘Others’, as well as the retrospective box-set ’13 Winters’ which reissued the back catalogue, deleted titles and various other rarities.

‘Day and Age’ seems to have been an eternity in the making and Jem and John began teasing us with Facebook posts all the way back in September 2019 (how time flies!) when they rented a cottage to begin writing and demoing. In January 2020 they then rented a coastguard tower in East Sussex to continue the writing and demoing sessions eventually coming to fruition after the great delay of lockdown and we now have the new material in our dirty, scummy hands. Hurrah!

I was initially concerned the new album would follow on from the ‘Others EP’ with its overtly electronic experimental slant, however, it doesn’t take long for the titular album opener to allay those fears. This is an updated Frost* sound – one that’s beautifully melodic whilst retaining some of the key hallmarks of their sounds. I love the guitar harmonics peppered throughout the track and John’s vocals are a perfect accompaniment to Jem Godfrey’s cascading piano arpeggios. The drum and bass engine room are intact, motoring along nicely, never standing still – resulting in the 11 minutes and 49 seconds flashing by without overstaying it’s welcome. This new Frost* sound feels more subtle than previous albums and clearly a lot of thought has gone in to keeping things fresh and sticking to the true mantra of Progressive Rock and ‘progressing’.

‘Terrestrial’ opens with some stuttering electronic string samples, harking bark to the more experimental elements that we have come to know over the years. The main riff is a classic busy Frost* guitar, bass and lower register keyboard sawtooth riff – no album would be complete without it! There’s some lovely Bass work from Nathan King on this one, and is particularly highlighted as there’s little other accompaniment bar the drums – it pops out of the mix very subtly and offers a nice additional dynamic to the Frost* sound.

‘Waiting For The Lie’ builds around a piano motif that eventually morphs into a string accompaniment and is Jem’s main introduction into the lead vocals. The chord changes on this one are somewhat unusual, utilising major and minor tones where least expected.

“Wake up” another child says before an augmented voice of Jason Isaacs introduces the story behind ‘The Boy Who Stood Still”. During the spoken word, the Chapman Railboard makes an appearance. For those not acquainted with the Railboard, it’s an aluminium Chapman Stick that Jem plays flat like a piano. It’s an absolutely innovative and fascinating piece of music and the highlight of the album for me. The groove throughout the song has an irresistible ’80’s feel to it, with shades of the 1989 Seven Souls track by Material ft. William Burroughs narrating.

John Mitchell returns to the lead vocals on ‘Island Life’, whose catchy chorus echoes Mitchell’s forays with Kino. It’s a more straightforwarded rocker in a conventional song structure which is a welcome follow on from the deliberately meandering storytelling of the previous track.

The more keyboard-heavy track ‘Skywards’ is another Mitchell chorus-cracker with the addition of electronic sampled drums.

I wasn’t looking forward to penultimate track, ‘Kill The Orchestra’ – as an ex-orchestral alumnus, I had wondered what the band had in store! Jem Godfrey takes the lead on the gentle intro with minimal Rhodes-esque piano accompaniment. At nearly 9 and a half minutes, it certainly feels longer than the titular album opener and is perhaps initially missing that immediacy (the pay off comes later in the track). About a third into the track, there’s a cool keyboard pitchwheel effect used on a riff, which is quite unusual and the sort you tend to only hear using fretless bass or Sons of Apollo axeman, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal on his fretless guitar – a nice touch. The latter third of the track features another voice whispering “Everything is okay, everything is okay – relax, enjoy yourselves” before descending into gloriously epic melodic instrumental section of Floyd-esque proportions. The track seamlessly follows into album closer, ‘Repeat to Fade’ which bookends the opening comments of “Enjoy yourselves…you scum!” – this time by an angry John Mitchell in a ‘Wall’-esque rant. The chorus is a cinematic one, worthy of closing any Frost* album and is quite appropriate given the widescreen, cinematic feel of the whole album. The child that opened the album returns towards the end of the track, along with John Mitchell’s screamed rants. The song finishes with…a fade followed by white noise and a ‘Can you hear me?’ before fading to black. How apt.

A fantastic return to form following the mixed results of the ‘Others’ EP from last year. A modern feel, highlighting progression and more a focus on melody makes this album a worthy listen and a welcome addition to the diverse Frost* discography.

Tracks:

  1. Day and Age
  2. Terrestrial
  3. Waiting For The Lie
  4. The Boy Who Stood Still
  5. Island Life
  6. Skywards
  7. Kill The Orchestra
  8. Repeat To Fade

Line-up:

Jem Godfrey – Keyboards, Railboard, Vocals

Nathan King – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals

John Mitchell – Guitars, Bass, Vocals

Guests: Kaz Rodriguez, Darby Todd, Pat Mastelotto – Drums

Online: https://frost.life/

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