Having been completely blown away by ‘Milliontown’, the debut Frost* album back in 2006 - a vibrant beacon of all that was fresh, exciting and genre-enlivening, in a sea of predictable, unchallenging “prog-by-numbers” Meshuggah-lites and Steven Wilson-wannabees – Messrs. Godfrey et al, had injected a much-needed spark of new life into all that was progalicious. And not forgetting the humour… oh yes, the cackling and crying with laughter at the regular Frost*Reports posted online during the writing of second album, ‘Experiments in Mass Appeal’. A welcome retort to a historically serious genre.
But, as time progressed, everything gradually went quiet. Transmissions from Planet Frost diminished to a mere whisper of occasional tantalising titbits, and news of members’ extra-curricular activities (It Bites, Lonely Robot and being part of Joe Satriani’s touring band to name but a few), before finally, Frost* was no more. And with that, us faithful Frost*ies, sailing on the good ship Godfrey, were left rudderless and drifting… and off I drifted into the land of neo-classical and electronic twiddlings of all that was non-prog, ne’er to return again… Until, the rainy summer of 2015, when Frost* flickered back to life, with news of a new album… and my god has it been worth the wait!
One of the joys of Frost*’s output over the years has always been the instantaneous nature of which the songwriting draws you in, and continues to do so with each listen, and ‘First Day’ doesn’t fail in that respect. A slowly morphing, multi-layered, reverberating keys-led chord sequence, crescendo-ing with classic Frost* multiple harmonies, before diminishing and allowing space, before pounding straight into ‘Numbers’; a track that exemplifies the first-class production that accompanies every Frost* release.
Part of Frost*’s seemingly faultless formula through the years has not only been in the songwriting itself (let’s not forget that founding member, keyboard-conjurer and part-vocalist, Jem Godfrey, is an Ivor Novello award winning songwriter… for an X-Factor winner..), but also the vastly apparent musical skill of all Godfrey, Mitchel, King and Blundell combined– indeed virtuosos, but within the confines of this album, not for the sake of it, as so much prog falls into the trap of. Trust me, when I say that there are no time changes for the sake of time changes, or an uncountable number of notes and different musical scales on ‘Falling Satellites’, and that makes this ex-serious progger, very, very happy indeed.
‘Signs’ is a perfect example of this, with a beautiful gently-running part-arpeggiated bassline at the start, morphing into subtle elements of light and shade and a totally groovy, but so simple, distorted guitar riff from Mr Mitchell, underpinned by some poundingly powerful drumming from Mr Blundell. I defy anyone not to ‘chicken-head’ to this. And then there’s the big element of why Frost*stand over and above most unambitious prog. They sound fresh and of the moment. All of which is partly helped by extremely well-programmed keys. Take ‘Towerblock’, for instance, a track which, after building with the sound of smashing glass, launches into something part-dubstep, part-Aphex Twin, before reverting back to the main melody. Genius, smile-growing stuff!
No Frost* album would be complete without not only the combined lush vocal harmonies of Mitchell and Godfrey, but also Godfrey’s distinct vocal shifts between an impassioned raspy-rawness, to this unique warm, liquid honey-like sound that exudes from the middle of where you least expect it, like the finest of cake fillings (or biscuit filling - it’s a Frost* fan thing…). Truly a balm for the soul. The finished version of ‘Heartstrings’, which I first heard in its infancy, back at Christmas 2012, at the Frost*Bites London Scala gig, is certainly one of the stand-out tracks, and perhaps the ‘Hyperventilate’ of ‘Falling Satellites’, the theme of which is mirrored in ‘Nice Day for It’ and is the complete antithesis of penultimate track it leads into, ‘Hypoventilate’, which is an ethereally-soaring two-minute delight.
“The air is warming up again; the summer sounds like old friends; I feel the sunlight through the trees….” so ends the album, contemplatively, before fading into the sounds of distant birdsong. Simply beautiful. And there brings to mind the overriding thought that there is an overwhelming ambience of positively exuding from this album, like a Frost* re-born. Like there has been a wealth of life-experiences that have been absorbed and processed, and morphed into this stunning musical form that is ‘Falling Satellites’. Perfection in the finest of sonic forms.
Review by Hannah Sylvester
27th May 2016
1) First Day
5) Lights Out
7) Closer to the Sun
8) The Raging Against the Dying of the Light Blues in 7/8; 9) Nice Day For It...
11) Last Day
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...there is an overwhelming ambience of positively exuding from this album, like a Frost* re-born. Like there has been a wealth of life-experiences that have been absorbed and processed, and morphed into this stunning musical form that is ‘Falling Satellites’."