If there are music genres that would not exist without a smooth and rhythmic groove, metal, funk, and prog are definitely among those. So when drummer Craig Blundell decided to leave the UK-based progressive group FROST* in 2019, the band came to a junction of sorts. Instead of hiring a new drummer right away, the band decided to carry on as a three-piece. Last year, acting as a prologue for their next album to come, FROST* released the “Others” EP, which was basically a collection of left-over tracks from the previous full-length, “Falling Satellites,” released in 2016. The EP featured drumming input from Blundell, so the release did not exactly prepare us for what was to come. On May 14th, 2021, FROST* will be releasing a new studio album titled “Day and Age” via InsideOut Music. The band’s creative workaround, regarding the issue with the vacant drumming slot, turns out to be to use three different drummers: Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (THE DARKNESS, Martin Barre), and Pat Mastelotto (MISTER MISTER, KING CRIMSON). The band’s founder, Jem Godfrey, states in the press release that this radical move energized the band and gave them a much broader palette of options in compositional terms, leading into some interesting new directions. Yes, it certainly did! Moreover, it did just that with nothing short of mighty backbeat. The new album is littered with the commanding beat of funk and hard-rock. It is the solid foundation upon which stands a beautifully crafted sonic cathedral of modern prog with the stained-glass windows reflecting the sparkling echoes of the 1980s new wave, mainstream pop, and riff-driven rock.
The finishing touches on the album were recorded in a converted coastguard tower, some 30 feet by the sea, next to a nuclear power station and a lighthouse, in the dismal mid-winter east-Sussex climate. Imagine the biting, wintery wind howling round the building, with the power station generating crackles in the audio now and then, and the huge beacon of light next door sweeping the impenetrable fog every 30 seconds. It sounds like a set for a horror movie. Now, imagine the band’s vocalist, John Mitchell, injecting a bit of ill-timed British humor by screaming into the microphone, ”Enjoy yourselves, you scum!” This funny little anecdote from the recording sessions might explain why the album kicks off with the voice of a youngish girl announcing, “Hello and welcome to the rest of your life. Before I begin this short journey, please, sit back, relax, and remember: enjoy yourselves, you scum!” It sets a somewhat dry-witted and bittersweet tone for the whole album. In the coda of the track, “Island Life,” this is further underlined by Morse code beeping out the letters: S-C-U-M. The Brits certainly have a knack for this particular art.
When it comes to music, “Day and Age” blends the spirited pop-sensibility of proggers such as Steven Wilson and the post-Gabriel-era GENESIS with the hard-driving riffs of punchier outfits such as PORCUPINE TREE and DEAD LETTER CIRCUS. Of course, the occasional flashback of Mitchell‘s solo project LONELY ROBOT cannot be avoided either. Apart from his signature vocal sound that resonates with a somewhat Peter Gabriel-esque aura, the haunting melancholy is a trait that these two bands have in common. It radiates in a highly evocative and cinematic manner and, in this respect, it certainly helps that you can hear the voice of Lucius Malfoy, for instance, conducting a narrative on the album track, ”The Boy Who Stood Still,” courtesy of the British actor, Jason Isaacs. In short, it would do justice to the album to file it under the label “epic prog.” It does not sound epic in the sense of the notorious 15-minute-plus songs typically associated with the old prog dinosaurs but rather in the sense of getting under your skin and making your arm hairs stand on end, like a good movie.
Closing things on just the right note, “Repeat to Fade” even features snippets sung by an operatic soprano. The libretto of this saga states, over and over again, in the song’s chorus, “there’s only one way out: repeat to fade.” Bearing all the hallmarks of a truly great album – on which melancholy prog takes off on a bit more mainstreamish but nonetheless highly exciting tangent – there really is only one way to listen to this fine offering: on repeat – until the multiverse of these eight new songs embrace this plane of reality completely, making it fade into oblivion.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Day and Age
- Waiting For the Lie
- The Boy Who Stood Still
- Island Life
- Kill the Orchestra
- Repeat to Fade
Jem Godfrey – keyboards, railboard, vocals
Nathan King – bass, keyboards, vocals
John Mitchell – guitars, bass, vocals
with guest musicians:
Kaz Rodriguez – drums
Darby Todd – drums
Pat Mastelotto – drums