Artist: Frozen Dawn
Album Title: The Decline Of The Enlightened Gods
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Date of Release: 10 February 2023
There’s something in the water in 2023 where black metal is concerned. It’s mid-February and already I have waxed lyrical about the new …And Oceans record, ‘As In Gardens, So In Tombs’, as well as the debut release by Høstsol, ‘Länge Leve Döden’. Both, admittedly, quite different in their approach, they are cracking releases within the black metal genre. You can now add a third to that list, in the form of ‘The Decline Of The Enlightened Gods’, the latest full-length from Frozen Dawn.
Knowing nothing about this outfit previously, Frozen Dawn came to my attention around the turn of the year when I received the promo invitation from Transcending Obscurity, one of my new favourite labels for all things death, black, and extreme. Hailing from Spain and in existence since around 2006, this is the trio’s fourth album but first release for their new stable. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Grinder, drummer Arjan van der Wijst and bassist Antonio Mansilla, theirs is a style of black metal that’s fast, frenetic, frosty but also a surprising amount of fun. All the ‘F’s! This might seem to be a somewhat incongruous description, but that’s how I would label it.
The music is undoubtedly heavy and extreme with the ubiquitous blasts and tremolo riffing, but it is also laced with a fair amount of groove, melody, and some classic heavy metal trappings too. Some might name drop the likes of Dissection, and that’s not entirely without merit as there’s a blackened death vibe to much of the material. But with solos aplenty and a sense of playfulness that exudes through the aggression, there is plenty to provide Frozen Dawn with an identity of their own.
I might suggest that the production feels a little harsh, trebly, and slightly hollow-sounding, but then a pristine sound has never been top of the list of important factors where black metal is concerned. And so this personal preference will not adversely affect the clamour that this record is likely to create with the genre afficionados. If I’m honest, too, it doesn’t hamper my overall enjoyment much either.
Initially, I was concerned that the music on ‘The Decline Of The Enlightened Gods’ might be a tad run-of-the-mill, and possibly the victim of my listening to …And Oceans at the same time. Happily, though, these thoughts ended up being short-lived, as the music started to work its charms with me.
Opening salvo ‘Mystic Fires of Dark Allegiance’ sets the tone for the rest of the album with a theatrical, atmospheric, and sinister intro that’s then blasted into a thousand pieces by a scything staccato riff, thunderous double-pedal drumming and savage vocals. But then in comes a slightly slower, thrash-infused riff complete with wailing leads and a touch of groove into the bargain. The melodies that emerge are minor chord mana, whilst the brief respite allows yet more dark atmosphere to take hold, the sound of thunder ripping through the momentary suffocating calm.
From here on in, you are under no illusion about what you can expect. And, while that’s true, there’s enough subtle variety across the ten tracks to keep things interesting and compelling. For starters, there are tracks like ‘Spellbound’ that skip along at a frantic pace, all blastbeats and ice cold, dissonant riffs, or tumultuous, swirling entities such as ‘Black Reign Awaits’ that start off at lightning speed, only to slow ominously, but with skill, culminating in an almost discordant lead guitar solo atop a mid-tempo stomp.
Without doubt, though, I find most enjoyment with Frozen Dawn’s music when the melody and groove play a greater role, as evidenced by the likes of ‘Frozen Kings’. The intro is melodic and dramatic, but also groovy as hell. There’s a swagger to the track as it unfolds; yes, there’s uncompromising drumming and pace aplenty, but the central melody is hook-laden and delicious in the extreme, as is the wailing, equally melodic lead guitar solo. I’d go so far as to say that this is a black metal anthem, in the vein of the likes of ‘Night’s Blood’ or ‘As Dead Angels Lie’ from Dissection’s ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’.
Mind you, ‘Wanderer Of Times’ is no slouch either. It might not be quite as catchy as it’s immediate predecessor, but it isn’t far off. And anyway, what it brings with it instead is more of a sense of the epic, as it rips along at a decent, heart pumping pace, with the lead guitar lines dominating, transforming what would otherwise be just a frenetic affair, into something more scintillating and rewarding. It might also contain one of the biggest earworms of the album as I have discovered late at night on an occasion or two.
The other slight criticism would be how the album ends. The ninth track is, in the tradition of this kind of music, a gentle acoustic composition and it would be a more than fitting end to an album that tears a hole in your eardrums for the most part. However, the record actually ends with a cover of Necrophobic’s ‘Blinded By Light, Enlightened By Darkness’. It’s a great song and an equally good version by the Frozen Dawn trio, but I don’t think it is necessary if I’m being totally honest. I have always preferred original material, and given how strong theirs is here, I don’t think a cover is either necessary or wise.
However, setting the small gripes to one side, the fact remains that ‘The Decline of The Enlightened Gods’ is a cracking album, full of high octane, quality blackened death metal with heart and soul, albeit with an evil, wizened, black hue to both of them. Having never crossed paths with Frozen Dawn, I now find myself impressed and a little smitten by them. If you are also unfamiliar, make sure you take steps to rectify this as soon as (in)humanly possible.
The Score of Much Metal: 84%