Friday, June 26, 2015

Istapp : "Frostbiten"

After playing the hell out of this band's first album when it came out in 2010, the five year wait for this one had me wondering if they had fallen into the where are they now file. Things have changed. Right out the gate it doesn't touch on thrash as much as their first album and fall more in line with what you would normally expect from black. The opener is much faster than anything from the first album. The title track brings thing back closer to the first album with a viking chorus singing the clean vocals. The riffs are more refined and drumming more precise on "Kall" which pulls from a darker place of anger. There is a more berserker punk mania to the frantic pacing of "Skoll" that blasts off with the guitar melodies trying to keep up. These almost folk flavored melodies gave the first album more of a pagan feel, where this album is heavier and in your face with every chug meticulously in place.

The bass coils into melodies of its own when the blur of riff relents enough to provide such breathing room. The baritone chanted vocals call out from the background and never demand the spotlight. They maneuver tricky syncopation and summon pretty epic passages  to come flying out at in speeds twice as fast as their debut. The melodic section in "Primum Frigidum"doesn't come across as being contrived, but a needed shift in dynamics. The touch on the thrashy side of their previous album on "Polcirkelns Herre" or the Arctic Lord. They do slow for the punches on the chant that would be a chorus of sorts. "Fimbulvinter" fall back into a more blast beaten form of  frosty black metal, though the bass playing wanders out from under the drums and continues to be one of the albums strengths.

They reclaim their melodic pagan sound capturing a hooky groove as they scale to epic new snow covered heights on" Ma Det Aldrig Toa".  The barbarian men's chorus chimes in again on this one. The continue to show their keen ear for arrangements here as the song takes plenty of twists and turns without feeling cluttered. The speedy guitar sticks to its melody on the rapid palm muted gallop of
"Vinterland" that finds the vocals carrying a convincing snarl and going back to the place I liked so much on their first album where they are still growling but following the intervals of the guitar melody in such a way that it comes across more like singing.  They close out the album with the catchy chugging that dominates "Vit Makt"  or "white power that from the lyrics sung in their native tongue are more about the power of the white snow and NSBM. They don't have the same manic feral thrash as their first album, they have matured into a darker more punishing machine without compromising their melodic nature. This is going to be one of the best black metal albums of the year. I will round it up to a 9, as there are a few moments where they sound like every other black metal band, the gravitational pull of the genres confines don't mar the quality in the big picture of the album, there is just some dissonance it hearing this at the same band whose first album I wore, but the high bar I had for them might settle for me after continued listens. Granted listening to an album about frosty winter in the dogs days of summer can be hard, this will be more appreciated when things cool down. Hot months call for more death metal which is why Tampa was such a hot bed for it.

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