Now, you may already know that concept albums are my thing from back in the Musicalypse days, so after we did our Unleashed feature with EVERFROST in 2019 for their debut album, “Blue Eyed Emotion,” I knew that I’d have to catch up with these guys a second time when their next album was out. As such, I called up the band’s creator, Benji Connelly, once more to learn all the details. Since “Winterider“ has been out for 2 years as of today, it seemed like the best time to unleash its story for you!
“Winterider” had always been planned to be the sequel to the events from “Blue Eyed Emotion,” taking place a few years after those events. The band wanted to expand on what had been done in “Blue Eyed Emotion” by adding manga comic pages into the physical album package; however, this time there needed to be a more cohesive story that would fit within half of a regular 24-page digipak CD booklet, while simultaneously mirroring the songs. This was done by putting the characters in one location where they would deal with extreme conditions, and then base the songs around the characters themselves. This, in turn, inspired the album’s main themes of fighting through hardship, dealing with insecurities, and personal growth. The band had also decided early on that this album would be heavily winter-themed and show a darker, colder side of the town of Everfrost.
As was teased by the Everfrost newspaper articles released by the band prior to release (above), since the events of “Blue Eyed Emotion,” the town of Everfrost has been locked in a strange eternal winter. Food supplies have gotten low and people are getting scared and feral, resorting to desperate measures like cannibalism. Walking the streets is dangerous both because of the cold and because the other townsfolk are no longer safe to be around.
Tibbie Andersson: a returning character from “Blue Eyed Emotion,” Tibbie spent his childhood in a coma after getting hit in the head with a shoe. By the time of “Winterider,” he has graduated high school with a group of friends, but his parents have died under suspicious conditions during the endless winter
Casey-Rose Marshall: a returning character from “Blue Eyed Emotion,” Casey-Rose had been a shy girl who didn’t have friends because of her oppressive and jealous brother. Nowadays, she is Tibbie’s best friend (though she is also in love with him) and closest confidant
Timjami Varis: a rather foolish young Chūnibyō (a person with “eighth grade syndrome”), who believes he is strong and has superpowers that he can use to protect both his friends and girlfriend, Chihiro
Chihiro “Chihi” Tachibana: a sweet, geeky girl who is dating Timjami and completely believes in him and his imagined powers; she has an oppressively overprotective father who hates Timjami
Maggie Manson: the mother of the group, she met the others after failing to complete her last year of high school multiple times; she has a drinking problem that she hides from the others
The title track also acts as the intro to the album, naturally updating the listener on the time jump and explaining that the town of Everfrost is not doing well. Winter has come but never turned into spring, yet the characters are trying to be positive, even denying reality so they can still have fun.
This song is also largely used to introduce some of the themes of the album, such as the second verse, naively implying that getting over insecurities is simple.
2. “Juhannus in January”
The characters’ have made up their minds to get out of town and go to their mökki [cabin/cottage] where there is always a stash of food and where they will be safe from the other townsfolk. This is the song that also hints at how Asta and Joakim have been found dead and have potentially been cannibalized. Maggie immediately shows her protective motherliness, concerned over whether it’s wise to leave, but Timjami’s naivety also shows through as he insists that he can handle anything.
The name is a reference to how, in Finland, it is common for the big cities to be empty during midsummer, or juhannus. In the story, it feels like midsummer, except for the endless cold and the fact that there are probably bodies hidden beneath the snow, making the parallel considerably more ominous.
The inspiration for the cannibalism came from the Nazino tragedy, where people were forcibly deported to the Soviet island of Nazino with almost none of their basic needs met, resulting in an astounding number of deaths due to illness and murder for the sake of cannibalism, among other reasons.
SPOILERS: “JiJ” is also a significant track because it is the final track in which the characters are still alive, as in the reality of the story, they never make it to their cottage and die in the cold during the trip. The story within the cottage takes place in a limbo space where the souls of the friends work to overcome their greatest hang-ups and find peace together.
3. “Chainlace Angel”
As has been mentioned, Chihiro’s father is overprotective to a… creepy degree, with a particular loathing for her boyfriend, Timjami. He is completely unable to let her go, sabotaging her relationship whenever possible, like on this occasion, where he comes to try and take her away from the cabin and her friends. Representing Chihiro’s story, the song is about her finding the strength to say no and reject him. It is worth mentioning that Timjami does step in to defend her in his foolish, pompous way – seeing the beauty of her underneath all of the scars her father has left on her (emotional or otherwise) – but he is easily pushed aside, powerless, and it is not until Maggie steps in with a gun that he leaves. The reality of the situation begins to hit him.
This song is particularly well-known for the line “something wasn’t right! / back at home that coming night / in the violating candlelight.” Connelly stated that the line was used specifically because it is so evocative – the violation could be of a personal or social nature, of her individuality and rights as an adult, or it could refer to an even potentially scarier type of abuse. It is left up to the listener to interpret.
Having seen, during “Chainlace Angel” how truly powerless and delusional he is, Timjami has started to reach his limits and understand the seriousness of the situation, especially when, during an intimate moment with Chihi, they start to see the monster outside the window when an unnatural chill sets in. The song shares hints about how Timjami did not always have so much self esteem, especially in his lonely youth, and that this insecurity is coming back. He becomes more self-deprecating as he realizes that he’s a rather psychologically undeveloped person, who has just been overwhelmed with the enthusiasm that comes with having friends and a girlfriend for the first time, and wanting to keep them safe so that he never loses them. However, it is resolved by his friends (portrayed by Maggie in the manga) assuring him that he doesn’t need to be strong for them all, because they will all be strong for each other, as a group.
The manga here is notable for the contrast between the heavily anime/manga-styled romance scene and the other panels, which are far more ominous, showing the monster for the first time. The monster itself, and its first appearance, was inspired by the “Pikkuruiset vieraat” episode of Muumilaakson Tarinoita [Tales from Moomin Valley], where the infamous Mörkö visits the family.
5. “Cold Night Remedy”
This is, officially, the sauna theme. If you look into the history of the Finnish sauna, it’s a very spiritual place, a place of calming and cleansing, a place even to give birth.
In the song, the characters are shown here having a moment of respite. Chihiro and Timjami have, essentially, faced and overcome their hang-ups and are now at peace and relaxed. However, Casey-Rose’s face can’t be seen and Maggie looks clearly concerned because Tibbie looks like he’s about to lose it.
Fun fact: his smile was actually a frown that was turned upside-down for this image!
6. “Above the Treeline”
This is one of the more straightforward songs on the surface, if you’ve noted that Asta and Joakim had died. It was established that, as Tibbie was bullied for being underdeveloped because of his coma, he was very attached to his adoptive parents. Here, we finally see how devastated he his by their loss. However, while the surface story is about Tibbie’s grief, it is also about Casey-Rose confessing her love for him and promising to always be there for him, one way or another. Here, he finds that he is not alone and has people who love him and are there for him, no matter what, and that he is not really without family.
7. “Brandy and Antifreeze”
Finally, we reach Maggie’s song. Maggie’s main features so far have been her motherliness, always looking out for and watching over the younger ones and in many ways keeping a distance, never being fully one of them. Especially with alcohol as a coping mechanism, she hasn’t even been able to drink with her friends… until now. Here, in this moment, the metaphorical ice (and perhaps some literal ice too) is broken and Maggie is finally able to just let go and be silly and stupid and have fun like one of them and not act so grown-up. However, the climax is approaching, as the manga shows that supplies are running low and they can’t stay where they are forever.
Shout-out here to the Sonic the Hedgehog reference: “so take your last chance / you gotta go fast”!
8. “Die Young”
This is the legendary cover song that fit the scene. Finally, the kids have passed their trials and are ready to move on, knowing that they will need to continue onwards and get out of Everfrost if they want to survive. This song represents the last hurrah, where they accept that life is short and they need to have fun where and when they can.
Some of the lyrics in this song were changed, mainly because Kesha‘s party-pop style isn’t entirely in-keeping with EVERFROST‘s theme, and it added a nice bit of flavor to include some scene-specific lyrics to integrate it into the cottage setting a bit more.
9. “Darkwoods Drain Backwaters”
The penultimate track is also the main climax of the story. Here, the characters abandon their cottage and flee into the woods. However, they don’t get very far as the monster immediately catches up with them and they are forced to flee back towards Everfrost once more. During this flight, they come across their own frozen bodies in the snow and come to realize that they have been dead for some time and this monster – something akin to a preta – that has been haunting Everfrost alongside the winter, has been trying to harvest their souls.
In the aforementioned Everfrost news articles, it was teased that the people of Everfrost think they are cursed by this creature and are leaving offerings for the hungry one outside of town, in the hopes that they will appease it and leave, lifting the winter. This creates controversy during the food shortage, as some argue that it is wasteful. However, they aren’t exactly correct. When Casey-Rose and the others rescued Tibbie’s soul from the tower at the end of “Blue Eyed Emotion,” the tower’s feeding process was disrupted, thus changing the environment, as well as the spiritual climate in the surrounding area. This allows a creature like the preta to exist to hunt for souls of the dead, as an angel of death, so the tower can satisfy its hunger.
10. “A Whisper in a Frozen Tale”
Still in my opinion one of the world’s most unsung metal epics, “A Whisper in a Frozen Tale” doesn’t necessary add to the story’s progression, but adds a more philosophical reflection on the album as a conclusion. As most of the story is related to coming-of-age tales for the characters as individuals and as friends, the song dedicates a lot of its ponderings to the way young people are treated: they must stay young (“I’ll tell you when you’re older” -type treatment) and in the dark about many things, while adults are denied the right to certain emotions, like crying, because they are no longer children, and the paradoxes found within. It nicely reflects modern times now, where many people reaching young adulthood find that what they have learned so far hasn’t in any way prepared them for the hardships of adult life. Towards the end, the song also speaks about death and the acceptance of its inevitability, as well as encourages listeners to live while you can as there is truly only one life.
Of note, there’s a line in the “Melanchorale” section: “There’s a star in the sky who’s calling your name and he wants you to make a change”; this is a reference to Michael Jackson and his song “Man in the Mirror.” The song is about looking at oneself in the mirror and making a change for the better, thus making the world a better place. This is essentially what the characters have done in their limbo phase at the cottage, preparing them to move on. When their souls are harvested and sent onwards, this ends the curse and winter along with it.
So, indeed, we’ve learned a lot. Yet I still find myself with a lot of questions. It seems Tibbie is 100% dead now, but did the monster also catch Casey-Rose and Chihiro? Who is the Winterider and what is happening on the cover? We also haven’t learned much about the three tier terror, except that when it loses a soul, it unleashes curses on the surrounding areas. How and why? If all of the main characters are maybe dead… what the hell is going to happen next? Also, HOW COULD YOU KILL THEM ALL SO SOON!? WE JUST GOT TO KNOW THEM! That’s some George R.R. Martin shit right there. Well, the only other thing that I learned and can share is that there are plenty of ideas in the works for EVERFROST III and I daresay, I’m excited. With a refreshed lineup, things are surely only going to get better!
Written by Bear W. & Benji Connelly
Art by AD Souto (cover) & Ren (manga)