Even though passion is what fuels young bands to drive forward in composing music, ambition is what can lift up some projects from pleasant to the ear to fantastic. EVERFROST is one of these bands. I got to know the band due to their show at The Circus, where I got acquainted with their music for the first time.
EVERFROST was founded in 2014 by Benji Connelly. Their debut “Blue Eyed Emotion” definitely showed the potential of the young songwriter but needed still some finetuning and maturing. Its follow-up “Winterider” is now ready for a release on 6 September 2019 through Rockshot Records. The question now is whether the sophomore release can live up to the high expectations and whether mistakes from the past have been repeated.T
The Everfrost Universe
One clear thing that EVERFROST has been doing, is creating an entire universe set in… Well, you guessed it right, the town of Everfrost. Everfrost seems to be this mystical, wintry place where strange things happen, and where its inhabitants are stuck in. The story centers around happenings of the main characters Tibbie and Casey-Rose. If you would like to learn more about the story behind the first album, Amy W. of Musicalypse dove deep into the lore of Everfrost and wrote an interesting article about it – I couldn’t have done it better myself.
Winterider: The Story
“Winterider” is set a couple of years from “Blue Eyed Emotions”. The band has been releasing cryptic hints about what has happened meanwhile in the town of Everfrost. Taking into count that you perhaps want to explore the story by yourself by listening to the album, and reading the manga accompanying the release, we will explain our interpretation of the lyrics of the album below, with a spoiler-alert. If you don’t want to hear our perspective on the story yet, click here to skip to the review.
The track talks about Everfrost being pestered by a never-ending winter, causing chaos in the town. The inhabitants of Everfrost believe the endless winter is caused by an angry spirit, and residents have made offerings in hopes the spirit can rid the area of endless winter that has been continuing to rage. A couple of years have passed since the story of “Blue Eyed Emotion” and Tibbie and Casey-Rose have found some new friends in the couple Timjami and Chihiro and the motherly Maggie. In my eyes the track tells about the friends wanting to skip town, to find a better place for the sake of their survival.
2. JUHANNUS IN JANUARY
In “Juhannus In January” the plans of leaving town have become more concrete, as the five friends now have graduated from school, experiencing the tragic deaths of Joakim and Asta who have passed away in the town’s chaos, leaving Tibbie in grief. The friends seek shelter in a lakeside cottage to escape the endless winter destroying their town, an unknown place hidden away from the rest of the world. It feels like the friends make the decision based on believing that staying in Everfrost will be their death.
3. CHAINLACE ANGEL
“Chainlace Angel” tells the story of Chihiro‘s over-protective father, who pays a visit to the cottage, threatening to take her away. He knows that the world is ending, and it feels like he almost is disgusted by the fact that Chihiro left him behind to die. The song tells his side of the story and his relationship with Chihiro after she fell in love with Timjami.
Following the confrontation with Chihiro‘s father, we dive into the mind of Timjami, who thinks about what has happened in the last couple of months. The group is confronted by the first sighting of a mysterious creature, perhaps the same one that has been pestering the town of Everfrost and causing the endless winter. The song feels like Timjami is pressuring himself, to be the hero of the story, fighting off any challenge for his love for Chihiro and his friends.
5. COLD NIGHT REMEDY
A month has passed at the lakeside cottage site and temperatures continue to plummet. “Cold Night Remedy,” tells about the sauna traditions, helping the friends to survive the cold outside. In the sauna, the group of friends can leave their fears behind, and heal their tragedies.
6. ABOVE THE TREELINE
“Above The Treeline,” tells the story of Tibbie’s grief over his adoptive parents Joakim and Asta, who died in the town’s chaos. The song tells about his loneliness being left behind as an orphan, his grief, and the memories he has of them that will always stay with him, the song is written from Casey-Rose’s perspective.
7. BRANDY AND ANTIFREEZE
Supplies are running low at the cottage, soon it will be time to escape from Everfrost for good. Luckily the cottage has a great amount of alcohol to not only lighten the mood but make the friends forget about the time and tragedies they have endured together, that’s what “Brandy and Antifreeze” is about.
9. DARKWOODS DRAIN BACKWATERS
The group is seen at a small lake walking together, when suddenly out of nowhere the creature appears again and scares the five friends. Can the group escape from the nightmare of the monster and survive?
10. A WHISPER IN A FROZEN TALE
The group continues to run away from the monster, seemingly frightened by its appearance. In the lyrics, it becomes clear that the curse from “Blue Eyed Emotion” has caught upon them, they start questioning if it’s really even that cold. The group of friends stumble upon dead bodies in the snow and recognize themselves, they start realizing that they have been dead all along. This kind of changes the meaning of everything that has happened, it seems like the group of friends never made it to the cottage, and instead died along the way. Everything that has happened since has been the trial before death. The story leaves us here, questions the events that just happened, and already a lot of other questions arise. I’m curious to hear on your take on what happened to the friends? Leave a comment!
I have never reviewed a story this extensively, but the story and the music behind it are so interconnected, that it felt like an important decision. Now that that’s out of the way… Let’s focus on the music now.
“Winterider” opens with an energetic keyboard melody that is soon accompanied by heavy guitar riffs, and while progressing shows off a groovy bass line. Immediately we’re confronted with a couple of elements that make this wintry metal EVERFROST‘s specialty: catchy melodies, a magic atmosphere created by the keyboards, energetic drumming and a new addition to the band: the powerful vocals of Mikael Salo.
Going deeper into the story, the album continues with “Juhannus in January”, instantly the vocal harmonies used in the song remind me of the trademark of Hansi Kürsch of BLIND GUARDIAN, and definitely add more depth into the choruses. The C-part, including a segment reminding of Scatman, is one of my favorite parts of the whole album, after which the song progresses beautifully up until the end.
“Chainlace Angel” is a track where singer Mikael Salo is shining, showing almost everything that there is to his voice. From verses inspired by Michael Jackson to powerful vocals in the choruses accompanied by beautiful harmonies.
“Actraiser” is a good example of the uplifting spirit of EVERFROST tracks, in vast contrast with their lyrical contents and the themes of escapism, the songs make me feel all warm and tingly inside, just by creating these magical atmospheres. “Actraiser” is a heroic epic song, with good energy with an underlying melancholic tone.
“Cold Night Remedy” was already released before the album came out as a single, but the band redid the song for the album. A little while ago we featured it as a single on our magazine, and we’re still impressed by its power. I think the intro to that song, is still by far one of my favorite moments really showing Benji Connelly‘s skills as a songwriter. The magic atmosphere that he creates with music, reminds me of what Tuomas Holopainen does with NIGHTWISH and shows that there is still hope for the power metal genre with new acts like EVERFROST.
Now, those of you who read my reviews can tell that I’m not a bit fan of ballads, “Above the Treeline”, however, is a good example of what you should do to make me feel excited by a ballad. It doesn’t have the enormous cheesiness that ballads often encompass. If you haven’t read the story, the ballad deals about grief, and really touches upon the subject nicely. The song features a brilliant guitar solo by Asim Searah from acts like DAMNATION PLAN and WINTERSUN. Truthfully, I’m perhaps not the best person pointing out which solo was done by who, but I have to say that his style is very distinct and differs very much from guitarist Markus Laito, who overall has done an incredible job in the entire album.
It’s very hard to pick a favorite on this album, but those of you who like to listen to party songs, the song that will make you go insane on this album is “Brandy And Antifreeze”, and it definitely has a warm place in my heart. The added harpsichords layers, the pounding energy of the bridge, the uplifting chorus and the little whoopie sound after, I love every little detail in this song.
“Die Young” is a cover of the famous KESHA classic, and really adds a little bit more depth to the already existing song. Yes, true. The KESHA song definitely is one of my guilty pleasures, but EVERFROST does something incredible with the song, they make it theirs, already clear from the beginning by adding the music box-styled intro to the song.
Imagine being in a race, and you mistakenly think that the starting pistol already has shot a blank to mark the point of the beginning of the competition. That’s what “Darkwoods Drain Backwaters” feels like. The beginning of the song, made me actually wonder if the band had chosen to add a filler song between all these outstanding tracks. It’s not that the intro to the song isn’t good, but it just creates an entirely different impression from what you would think the song would progress in. Around 52 seconds, you’re taken by complete surprise, and the real shot marks the real beginning of the game. This perhaps is one of the fastest, and complex tracks on the album and the most impressive thing are the pounding drums with insane blast beasts, it amazes me how drummer Jope Salminen‘s hands didn’t just plainly fall off in the process of recording this song. Insert some jingle bells in the process, and you’ve got an outstanding song.
The album ends off with “A Whisper in a Frozen Tale”, a 15-minute epic, perhaps the most ambitious track the band has ever written. The whole song feels like a creative journey immersing you in the universe of Everfrost, not one minute is boring, and you keep focus throughout the whole track, eventually leaving you with an immense hunger for more.
Now, going back to the beginning I asked myself two questions. Can the band live up to the high expectations we had, and have they solved the issues of the debut album’s production?
In “Blue Eyed Emotions” I already fell in love with the way Benji Connelly writes songs, and perhaps he is one of my contemporary favorite young composers. Like I mentioned, he has the same amount of talent as Tuomas Holopainen, and if he continues working on it with the same ambition and passion, I’m sure this project will develop into something huge.
“Winterider” is not only written fantastically, but it also shows the talent of skilled musicians, great vocal delivery by Mikael Salo, often groovy bass lines by Allan C Hassanen (and Atso Kukkavuori who also has contributed to the bass lines on this album), pounding drum sections along with outrageous blast beats by Jope Salminen, outstanding guitar work by Markus Laito, and great choirs adding depth to the songs.
The story that is being told through the accompanying manga and the lyrics leaves room open for interpretation and mostly likely will stir up some conversation among fans.
The production of the album lets everyone shine equally and overall, makes it feel more like a story, and an album that you have to listen from a to z, rather than listening to a track here and one there. The coals are sometimes a bit buried within the wall of vocal harmonies (especially during the choruses). This, however, fits with the atmosphere of the album as a whole and contributes to the whole aspect of storytelling and reminds of bands like BLIND GUARDIAN and QUEEN. I can’t really seem to come up with any complaints I have with this album, other than that I would have enjoyed even more songs. This makes me think that this is an album that you either love or hate. If you like symphonic power metal, then this album is a must-get for 2019!
For Fans Of
The band has some clear influences in their music, in conclusion, fans of old SONATA ARCTICA, CHILDREN OF BODOM, ENSIFERUM, WINTERSUN, TURMION KÄTILÖT, BLIND GUARDIAN and symphonic power metal in general, will definitely find elements they will enjoy in “Winterider”.
- Juhannus In January
- Chainlace Angel
- Cold Night Remedy
- Above The Treeline
- Brandy & Antifreeze
- Die Young (Kesha cover)
- Darkwoods Drain Waters
- Whisper In A Frozen Tale
Mikael Salo – Lead Vocals
Markus Laito – Lead Guitar, Vocals
Benji Connelly – Keyboards
Jope ‘James’ Salminen – Drums
Allan C. Hasanen – Bass