Frost cover

Artist: Frost*

Album Title: Falling Satellites

Label: InsideOut Music

Date Of Release: 27 May 2016

I’m a late convert to the Frost* cause, but better late than never as the old saying goes. Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing Lonely Robot, the debut album under that moniker from John Mitchell, he of Arena and It Bites fame as well as Frost*. It also featured Frost*’s Jem Godfrey in a guest roll in places on what is a glorious record, my number 13 of 2015 and a firm favourite still.

Given the clientele involved in that excellent album, I had to go and re-visit Frost* properly. I had bought their two albums a few years ago during a difficult time of my life following the passing of my younger brother. The only music I could face listening to was neo-prog for some reason and so I bought anything and everything connected even loosely with this genre. Frost* was one of those purchases but given my mental state and the amount of records I bought in an effort to bring me a little musical comfort, I was never able to give them the attention that they deserved. Fast forward a few years and Lonely Robot quickly changed this. Soon, both ‘Milliontown’ (2004) and ‘Experiments In Mass Appeal’ (2008) became more regularly acquainted with my stereo.

It is fortuitous timing because here we are a year later with a brand new Frost* album, their first in around eight years since the release of the aforementioned ‘Experiments…’

To begin with, on a first cursory listen, I wasn’t sure about ‘Falling Satellites’. It is such a varied and unusual album in many ways that I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. However, like many great albums, a little perseverance was the key to unlocking the charms of this rather impressive release.

It is no surprise that the music on this album is imbued with a genuine pop sheen and, on occasions dare I say it, a commercial edge. For those not in the know, Frost* mastermind Jem Godfrey has arguably had more success in his music career as a pop music songwriter, working with the likes of Take That’s Gary Barlow and writing ditties for Holly Valance, Atomic Kitten and Shane Ward amongst others. So, when tracks like ‘Towerblock’ feature electronic beats and sound effects that wouldn’t sound out of place on a mainstream radio station for the younger generation, it’s not a complete surprise. Neither is ‘Closer To The Sun’ with its electronic beat and ambient pop-meets-prog serenity. As it develops, it actually reminds me a little of ‘Distant Satellites’ by Anathema in terms of feel and construction.

Nevertheless, the backbone of ‘Falling Satellites’ is most definitely progressive rock, albeit smothered in layer upon layer of Godfrey’s unique synths and keys. And this is a very good thing indeed. Anyone familiar with Frost*’s previous work will immediately recognise the daring sounds and textures employed on this album. Godfrey is a master at creating depth and a richness that simply cannot be ignored and which makes the compositions sound huge, almost cinematic in places and dripping in majestic drama. From the subtle to the bombastic, it’s all covered here.

Credit: unknown

Credit: unknown

As always, the guitar work of John Mitchell is a delight. Crystal clear lead solos, crisp riffs and emotional phrasings are all present and correct as you’d expect from such a seasoned pro with the six-string instrument. He isn’t too bad as the lead vocalist either, following the departure of Dec Burke.

Speaking of emotion, one thing I wasn’t expecting from ‘Falling Satellites’ was the sheer amount of poignant and sensitive material that it delivers. The opening introductory piece is a dark, foreboding and dramatic piece that is in the running for being one of my favourite pieces of music from 2016 so far. It may only be 90 seconds long but the combination of stirring synths and ethereal, almost pleading vocals sends shivers up and down my spine.

The aforementioned ‘Towerblock’ is, aside from the random electronics, another moving composition. The opening bleak and sombre tones are built on as the track develops, culminating in a big intense melody, a barely-controlled explosion of sounds and gritty melancholy lyrics that also hint at hope and determination. Then there’s ‘Lights Out’ which, featuring some wonderfully tender female vocals and quiet minimalist music underneath is a compelling, goosebump-inducing listen.

‘Hypoventilate’ creates another majestic, cinematic soundscape, whilst closer ‘Last Day’ is primarily a piano and vocal piece that is again rather emotive, rounding out the record impressively.

If, however, you’re after some excellently-crafted progressive rock on top of all this, you’re in luck. ‘Numbers’ is a great up-tempo track with strong melodies, great vocals and it powers along, led by a driving rhythm section. The ludicrously clear and strong production lends the drums of Craig Blundell a really sharp punch and the intricate and dextrous bass work courtesy of Nathan King is allowed to shine rather than end up lost in a muddy mix.

‘Heartstrings’ is an absolutely belting song that showcases Frost* at their very best. The chorus is huge, the musicianship is out of the very top drawer and the track effortlessly ebbs and flows with a serene grace one moment and all-out power the next, all wrapped up with an honesty and sincerity that allows the listener to buy into the music one hundred per cent. Mind you, if I’m being completely honest, I think ‘Signs’ might be even better. I love the It Bites-esque opening which explodes into a huge chorus that sinks its hooks in nice and deep to go along with yet more equally deep lyrics.

For my money, I’d have to say that ‘Falling Satellites’ could just be Frost*’s best album to date. It has a little of just about everything that I want in my progressive rock; it’s well-written, excellently performed and is just a little bit odd and quirky too. In a year that has delivered plenty of quality already and threatens to continue the trend to the year end, ‘Falling Satellites’ has really caught my attention and thoroughly deserves to be in contention for a spot in my end of year ‘best of’ list.

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25


If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld


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