Album Title: Day And Age
Label: InsideOut Music
Date of Release: 14 May 2021
I’m very late to the party with this album, but that might have something to do with the fact that I wasn’t going to review it initially. I was really not that enamoured with the band’s 2020 EP ‘The Others’, so I didn’t review that and was therefore reticent to give the new album, ‘Day And Age’ a listen. Having been a casual fan since the beginning and the debut album, ‘Milliontown’, I probably shouldn’t have been so reluctant to dive in, especially as I rather liked their last full-length ‘Falling Satellites’ a few years ago. But with reviews coming out of my ears, I delayed in favour of other releases. It wasn’t until some trusted friends and acquaintances of mine started to sing its praises that I finally decided that I ought to take a listen. The fact that I am penning a review now should tell you all you need to know – yes, I like ‘Day And Age’.
The first thing that struck me on a first spin, was the relative darkness of the material. Frost* are renowned and loved for their ability to blend progressive rock music with unashamed pop sensibilities and a bright, modern edge. So to say that the music is dark may seem to be a far fetched notion for many. However, whilst there is an audible edge to some of the music itself, it is mainly within the lyrical content that ‘Day And Age’ is at its darkest. From the opening moments of the title track when we’re treated to a girls voice tell us to ‘enjoy yourselves…you scum’, to rampant acidity and cynicism elsewhere, it is clear that the trio are angry about things. We all know that extremes of mood can be catalysts for creativity, and that’s definitely true with ‘Day And Age’. I get the distinct impression that this thread that occurs throughout the album is a thinly-veiled swipe at those in ‘charge’, and the way in which the wider public is viewed and treated by these individuals, namely with contempt and derision.
Following the departure of drummer Craig Blundell in 2019, Frost* could have taken any of a number of paths. In the end, the remaining trio of John Mitchell (guitars, bass, vocals), Jem Godfrey (keyboards, railboard, vocals), and Nathan King (bass, keyboards, vocals) decided to carry on as a three-piece, inviting guest drummers to appear on their compositions. Three clearly is the magic number because three drummers were used on ‘Day And Age’, namely Kaz Rodriguez (Chaka Khan, Josh Groban), Darby Todd (The Darkness, Martin Barre) and Pat Mastelotto (Mister Mister, King Crimson).
It’s certainly noticeable that there is a great emphasis on the drumming on this record, regardless of the guest, whilst it is equally obvious early on that John Mitchell does not indulge at all in his favourite pastime, soloing. Yes, you read that right, there are literally none of those beautiful, mellifluous guitar solos on ‘Day And Age’. Instead, it’s Jem Godfrey and his keys that provide most of the elaborate, flamboyant sounds. That should be it as far as I’m concerned, the nail in the coffin. Why would I want to listen to a prog rock album with keyboard histrionics but no guitar solos? But oddly, it works. And the reason it works is because each song is blessed with quality across the board; excellent songwriting craft, superb instrumentalism, and obvious hunger and passion.
Speaking of the songwriting, I’m almost shocked by the strength of the melodies that liberally litter ‘Day And Age’. Many will cite ‘Milliontown’ or maybe ‘Experiments In Mass Appeal’ as their favourite by Frost*, but as far as I’m concerned, ‘Day And Age’ pushes them close. Actually I’m fairly certain, despite this being early days, that this might be their very best yet. I have taken to it immediately and I can’t stop listening, principally because it sounds amazing, and the hooks and melodies do some real damage to any resolve that I may have had.
I’m going to start my deeper analysis of the songs themselves with arguably the most controversial of the eight, ‘The Boy Who Stood Still’. It’s predominantly a spoken-word track, courtesy of Lucius Malfoy himself, Jason Isaacs about, predictably, a boy who stood still. On the one hand, the story is preposterous, but Isaacs’ narration is captivating, as is the largely electronic soundscape that envelops the words. The deeper meaning of the tale is more profound than it appears on the surface, whilst the chorus that interjects the words gets under the skin and is catchier than first thought. It means that what should be a song that I dislike, becomes one that I like as strongly as the rest, even when it threatens to descend into anarchy at the end with a flurry of strange sounds.
Then there’s ‘Island Life’ that’s a shorter song with a bright, breezy chorus juxtaposed with some of the most dark and angry lyrics on the album, sung from the perspective of the politicians to whom the band appear to be directing their ire. I love this dichotomy, but more than that, I love the song, as it sparkles with an effervescent quality that plants a great big smile on my face. It’s immediate successor on the other hand is of a similar length but has a completely different vibe. From the start, it displays a more oppressive and gloomier feel, but Mitchell’s voice really catches the ear alongside yet more powerful and gratifying melodies, led by swathes of synths from Godfrey.
I cannot find a single song that I dislike, even the more jagged and confrontational ‘Terrestrial’ that dials back slightly from the melodies in favour of bolder, weirder, and more challenging sounds.
The title track, the longest of the lot at over eleven minutes is an utter delight from start to finish. There’s a palpable urgency to the song at the same time as it creates some wonderfully hook-laden moments, including a chorus that becomes irresistible with repeated listens. There is an extended instrumental workout too, that features some great chugging guitar notes, superb drumming, an insistent pulsing bass, and swirling, textured soundscapes from Jem Godfrey. But nothing is surplus to requirements; it all fits together perfectly, resulting in a simply breath taking composition.
‘Kill The Orchestra’ is fascinating too, as it features some of the strongest contrasts on the album. Beginning with a light piano melody and breathy vocals, it later introduces arguably the heaviest guitar work to be heard, Mitchell apparently delighting in letting go with some meaty chords and riffs in lieu of his normal smooth leads. And then, after the storm, comes another wave of soothing calm to see us out, beautiful and soulful, including one or two gorgeous guitar notes that could, so easily, have developed further had the guys not had other ideas.
And finally, we have ‘Repeat To Fade’, an incredibly dark, poignant, and emotional conclusion to an already dark affair. The voices that emerge at various points deliver devastatingly simple and provocative lines to enhance the bold electronics and spinetingling crescendos of sound that serve as a chorus of huge proportions. Could this be my favourite track on ‘Day And Age’? Given the quality of music across the record, it’s a moot point and not overly important if truth be told. All you need to know is it’s the perfect ending to a near-perfect album.
What a revelation. Frost* have always been an admired entity as far as I was concerned, but never fully embraced and loved. I would strongly suggest that this has changed with the creation of ‘Day And Age’, because I do love this record. And it’s a love that has emerged in spite of the fact that, on paper, this shouldn’t be the kind of music to make me giddy and excited to such an extent. But, as I’ve said elsewhere in this review, everything is of the very highest order here: the musicianship, the song writing, the clarity of purpose, and a bucketload of memorable hooks, catchy choruses, and stunning melodies. This is pop-infused, synth-laden progressive rock of the very highest order and I’m thoroughly blown away.
The Score of Much Metal: 95%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: