REVIEW: Frozen Factory – Of Pearls & Perils

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At a glance, you might be tempted to think that bands such as PINK FLOYD, IRON MAIDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, and DEPECHE MODE have nothing in common, maybe except for the fact that all of them are spectacularly good at their signature craft. However, the Helsinki-based alternative-rock outfit, FROZEN FACTORY, claims this “big four” to have been their biggest influences when crafting their sophomore studio album, “Of Pearls & Perils,” released independently in September 2022. For one thing, I was relieved to find out they weren’t lying when making such an obnoxious claim and, as an added bonus, their broad-ranging palette of alternative sounds stretches even further. The album was, in fact, written and partly recorded before their previous release, the 2021 EP, “First Liquidation,” following the band’s 2020 debut, “Planted Feet.” In their own words, the EP “simply felt like a necessary bridge” – and judging by the outcome, the extra amount of tender love and care really did some good to “Of Pearls & Perils.”

These alt.rockers don’t waste much time – the opening track, “Murder in the Depths” takes a good, wrenching grip on your heart in about a minute and a half. British-born vocalist Stephen Baker has a strong and highly evocative voice and it obviously helps the band plunge into such cinematic depths. The song kicks off with a woman’s voice saying in French, “Il n’y a que les imbéciles qui ne changent pas d’avis,” translating to English as, “Only a fool would never change their mind.” It is a line that has been attributed to Sir Richard Branson, who probably just rephrased an old proverb from the Bible. Cinematic snippets such as this, clichéd as they might be, certainly layer the music with a sense of “something bigger” – and ”big” is exactly the adjective that fits the widescreen feel of the song. The atmospheric touch on this track, as well as on the album as a whole, is strongly reminiscent of another haunting Finnish alt.rock outfit, THE CHANT. Needless to say, by way of making the first impression, this sort of emotional gut punch is exactly the right way to go about it.

Atmospheric “deep pop” is definitely one of this band’s fortés, shining through on songs such as “Equalise Power,” which comes off as a cross between U2‘s stadium-pop anthems from the 1980s and more recent atmospheric rockers, such as the haunting Finnish bunch, SPIRITRAISER. Now, wouldn’t that be something if, say, FROZEN FACTORY and SPIRITRAISER shared the stage one day?! I get a feeling that these two bands are soulmates of sorts; not only did their latest albums impress me right off the bat, these both outings have a nasty habit of giving me goosebumps on repeated listens, time and time again. Some people have the audacity to say that the best music has been written decades ago; to them, I would highly recommend either listening to this album or “getting rekt,” as the gamer parlance puts it.

Okay, then: the PINK FLOYD influence is pretty obvious and while there aren’t that many synth textures, the strong vocal melodies have a distinct DEPECHE MODE vibe about them, not to mention the emotional themes of the lyrics, ranging from dystopian visions of inequality and oppression to toxic masculinity, the afterlife, and the climate crisis – humanity’s inner struggles, in a nutshell. What really tickled my ears upon first listening was the peculiar mix of IRON MAIDEN guitar riffs and groovy pop on “Loud, Lazy, Late.” Who would have thought that it would work so fine? Then, the ALICE IN CHAINS vibe is even more in-your-face on “The Depths of Hell,” which is a straight-up grunge song about our personal demons. What keeps the song from turning into a mere pastiche is the way the vocal delivery doesn’t even try to emulate Layne Staley and the band has wisely refrained from resorting to the use of AIC-like vocal harmonies. Still, I would rather have the band sticking to the atmospheric stuff. “Of Pearls & Perils” is a concept album, so this grunge number fits the narrative, I guess, but the emotional power is no match for those tracks of the more atmospheric sort. Then again, when FROZEN FACTORY gears up on the introspective and plaintive side of things, the execution is simply world-class.

As a typical 1990s kid, I grew up to appreciate this sort of crossover attitude, oozing from those lovely albums by bands such as LIVING COLOR and WALTARI. This Finnish bunch is maybe a tad less metal-oriented in its conduct but, to my delight, they throw in a little bit of everything in that true 1990s fashion without turning into an eccentric circus sideshow. The songcraft is just as sublime as that of those pedigree acts they cite as their influences – a fact that should prompt all fans of moody and melodic crossover rock and metal to check them out ASAP.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Murder in the Depths
  2. Host With the Most
  3. Solar Windfalls
  4. Equalise Power
  5. The Depths of Hell
  6. Loud, Lazy, Late
  7. Pie in the Sky
  8. Absolute in Vanity
  9. We’re Gonna Die
  10. Never is a Theory
  11. Of Pearls & Perils
  12. Deceit Upon the Decks

Lineup

Stephen Baker – vocals

Tomi Hassinen – bass, keyboards, backing vocals

Mici Ehnqvist – lead guitars

Johnny Koivumäki – rhythm guitars

Marianne Heikkinen – drums

Label

Independent

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