Simple solutions are underrated. Not everything needs to be thought through like Heidegger playing with words; for example, if you’re in a bad spot, the best course of action is to dust yourself off and start winning again. From Frank Sinatra to Body Count, the possibilities for musical accompaniment to future victories are endless, but the opportunity, whatever it may be, has to be seized and skillfully exploited. Many have complained about 2016’s selection of great music, and not without reason; it can seem a bit lacking. Germany’s Far Beyond, the one-man project of Eugen Dodenhoeft, decided to roll with the simplest solution of all to 2016’s musical woes: stop releasing music that isn’t great. With this, A Frozen Flame of Ice was born.
Far Beyond is ambiguously classified as “dark metal,” but to my ears A Frozen Flame of Ice is melodic black metal to its core. We’re not talking about subtly melodic stuff here either; no, think Insomnium, Edge of Sanity, Dissection to a small degree, Vintersorg’s later stuff, and even some Wintersun and you’re on the right track.
Comprising over fifty minutes of music, each of the six tracks here is truly special in its own right. Music has always held a special place in philosophy, from great thinkers like Plato to great works like the Holy Bible, and from incisive and clever oversimplifiers like Nietzsche to the overrated buffoonery of Theodor Adorno, and for good reason: it speaks to the heart and, for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, the mind as well. Far Beyond elates both head and heart on A Frozen Flame of Ice, and a track like “The Song Remains the Same” (no, it’s not a Led Zeppelin cover) is but one example. It’s structured excellently, and each of its fantastic parts combines to form something greater as a whole. Taken a la carte, each element of this song would be a highlight on anyone’s record but, taken properly together, the entire piece becomes a highlight of the year. The harmonies between Dodenhoeft’s multi-tracked clean vocals, the emotive but not sappy or limp-wristed guitar lines, the expert placement of growling and heavier riffs, and the shockingly good drum programming all sound meticulously composed yet wholly natural. This, like every other track here, is simply an exercise in songwriting excellence.
As I don’t have a ton of space, it seems necessary to point out that, like trying to describe something the listener “had to be there” for, Far Beyond’s success here comes with repeated gut-punches, elation, and an air of triumph that never goes away on subsequent listens. Sure, the sounds here often evoke sorrow (it is “dark metal” after all), but behind that sorrow lies hope, power, and perseverance. This sounds like an ode to life, raising a glass to its trials and tribulations along with its victories and successes. A Frozen Flame of Ice is a powerful, moving, and brilliantly written record, and certainly not one to be missed.
Tracks to Check Out: “Evernight – Part I,” “Evernight – Part II”