Review – Frosthelm: The Endless Winter

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Review – Frosthelm: The Endless Winter
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Frosthelm: The Endless Winter
Black Metal, Thrash Metal
Alkemy Brothers
March 22nd, 2015
Release length: 34:32
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North Dakota’s Frosthelm formed back in 2009. Since then, they only went through one line-up change, which was the recent departure of drummer Ji Peterson in 2013, who was replaced by Shannon Frye (Avenger of Blood, ex-Vengeance Rising). It wasn’t until about three years had passed that Frosthelm finally released their first studio recording, the 2012 EP The Northwinds Rend Flesh. For 2015, the new formation bring us their first ever full-length album, The Endless Winter, which is due for release through Alkemy Brothers. But does it channel the true spirit of Black and Thrash Metal, or is this a US Black Metal outfit that missed the point of the genre as a whole?

The Endless Winter stands as a crisp sounding recording, that, while it has its faults, it in no way does leaves the album sounding at all sterile. The guitars all have a nice sharpness to them, even creepy atmosphere when the distortion is dropped for a cleaner output, while the bass guitar is pretty loud in the mix with a deeper hum that provides a strong backbone to the release. Even the raspy vocals carry a fair amount of vileness to them, though it seems to be thanks to the hint of static utilized, something that is a little more obvious on the guttural segments.

The main problem, however, is how the drums sound. Sometimes you can pick up a little washout on certain cymbals, but that’s not all. For the most part, the kit just doesn’t sound right. Like the vocals, there just sounds like static or interference that wreaks havoc on the mix. “Beneath Dead Horizons” is the best representation of these issues. When hammering away with robust patterns or a surplus of blast beats, all is well. However, when it relies heavily on the cymbals, you can hear them cutting in and out to the point where you’ll find yourself continuously check the cables looking for the split that is causing this issue, especially as you approach the two minute mark when the performance takes on more of a Hardcore groove prior to some additional two-steps that don’t always sound executed properly. The song also lets a crash ring out to silence twice, the first time being a fake ending, and you can perfectly hear what is best described as a worn out cassette tape’s output. Of course, if this instrument weren’t so loud in the mix in the first place, this wouldn’t be anywhere near as obnoxious a problem as it is.

But, if you can look past this problem, or focus more on the tighter, less crash-heavy songs, The Endless Winter does have a good deal of hard hitting tracks to get into once you pass through the somber-turning-to-nightmarish introduction that is “Glacial Eon”. “Storm of Teeth” kicks in with furious Black Metal riffs that carry a tight modern grandeur to them that is just shy of incorporating symphonic keyboards. This makes up the first half, other than a brief audio sample from the Hellraiser film series, but the latter half throws some mid-tempo Crossover Thrash your way for about a minute, slowly building back through blackened hooks that leave an uplifting atmosphere in their wake before crashing down to a burdening slower tempo once more.

Unfortunately, you will find the foundations per track are all about the same the deeper in you get. “Forlorn Tides” can be summed up about the same way as well, leaving you craving some additional orchestration to the maddening riffs and melodic segments until the half way point ushers in some commanding Hardcore once again before diving back into empowering leads once. The big difference ends up the solid guitar solo just past three minutes in and the faster closing. “Beneath Dead Horizons” offers a little more of the sinister, even hazy second wave approach to the genre, only to crumble about half way through to Hardcore grooves that, this time, end up short-lived. Thankfully, later songs don’t seem to follow this formula.

“Hell Between Us” starts off on the faster side, but about a minute-and-a-half in, things come to a halt. What follows is an icy, well paced slam that is as oddly empowering as it is spirit crushing due the more momentum it gradually picks up. “Endless Winter” has the traditional second wave Black Metal grooves at work, bring in grand riffs and passages about half way through (a welcome change from the expected Hardcore shift), all with a bit of frostbite at work. There’s also a hint of Heavy Metal in the guitars reminiscent of “The Ritual” by King Diamond. And then there’s “The Dragon”, which is just catchy as hell in more of a minimalistic way. Instead of fury and hostility, this one relies entirely on mood, and Frosthelm do a fantastic job of establishing a dark and brooding landscape all around on this one.

For a debut outing, The Endless Winter is a good album, but far from without fault. Until the pattern is broken on “Endless Winter”, much of this release seems to stick with the same formula of harsh Black Metal until half way in, cut to Hardcore grooves, end on more Black Metal. Outside that gripe and the irritating sound of the cymbals that there’s really no reason for whatsoever, the final product is littered with solid, enthusiastic performances, not to mention stand out atmospheres. Surprisingly, its when the band holds back, like on “The Dragon”, that you’ll happen on the more impressive audio landscapes that can play on your emotions a little more than you might have come to expect. In the end, The Endless Winter is good for what it is, and one still worth checking out for the right price, but, overall, could have been something far better.


01. Glacial Eon – 2:07
02. Storm of Teeth – 4:16
03. Forlorn Tides – 3:54
04. Tomb of Sordid Ruin – 3:42
05. Beneath Dead Horizons – 3:15
06. Endless Winter – 4:27
07. Hell Between Us – 4:05
08. The Dragon – 4:27
09. Silent and dark, the everlasting – 4:21
Initial Pressing Score: 6.5/10

Frosthelm
Frosthelm


Digital review copy of this release provided by Alkemy Brothers Records
via Clawhammer PR.