Frostbite - Etching ObscurityI have to admit that I picked up Frostbite‘s Etching Obscurity for the cheesy band name and the “progressive black metal” tagline. Expecting a pretentious ambient/avant garde black metal album to laugh circles around, I instead found Etching Obscurity well worth my time. Frostbite‘s debut is a product synthesized from acoustic guitars, lush melodies, memorable choruses, tight instrumentation, calculated time changes, and a variety of blackened rasps and death-like barks. These Canadians bring a decent amount of originality to the fold, making it difficult to pin down the group’s major influences and genre. One thing is for sure, the “progressive black ‘n’ roll” description surfacing on the interwebz is not it. Frostbite taps into melodic death, melodic black, and progressive metal with great success, setting a decently high bar for February.

Frostbite opens Etching Obscurity beautifully with the moody instrumental “Ascending the Void.” Its atmosphere is captivating and its purpose is unmistakable; building, from ground-up, a foundation capable of withstanding the weight of the other ten tracks. These soothing clean guitars transition into “Sigil Seal” before being replaced with Krystal Koffin’s harsh voice and some melodic black metal riffage. Around the 3:00 mark the band introduces the kind of variation inherent on the rest of the album. The guitars charge ahead with a Symbolic/The Sound of Perseverance-inspired riff; each six-stringer inhabiting separate headphone channels—much like Solace of Requiem‘s Casting Ruin. With the guitars driving the rhythm, the bass and drums move to the front row with Koffin’s deathy growls, delivering catchiness and aggressiveness fitting to the album’s character.

“Through the Grave,” “Soul Devourer,” and “The Pest” borrow the formula of “Sigil Seal,” but escalate the flavor with a shit load of progressive spice. For the most part, the resulting epicness is a success (“Through the Grave” and “Soul Devourer”) but other times it feels forced (“The Pest”). “The Pest” is a decent song but the spacey interlude and stop-and-start sections disrupt the flow of its Woods of Ypres atmosphere. “Through the Grave,” however, does its damnedest to secure the title of “Most Epic Song” on the album and, for the most part, it achieves it. The transitions from acoustic cleans to distorted melodies are memorable, and the painstakingly precise guitar leads click together like tongue-and-groove floorboards. “Soul Devourer” achieves a similar “epic” quality reminiscent of Vreid‘s Milorg. This tracks does a near-perfect job of incorporating all the best Frostbite elements: melody, groove, head-bangable riffs, and one of the best vocal performances of the album—just behind the perfectly intertwined clean vocals and harsh barks of the cello-laden “Shining.”

Frostbite 2016
My biggest complaint with Etching Obscurity is probably an obvious one. Within a given song, the band explores every nook and cranny of their progressive style and, while individual tracks work, the album’s organization weakens the overall effectiveness. From opener “Ascending the Void” to “Soul Devourer,” the flow is decent. However, “Forgotten Path” turns out to be the platter’s trouble-maker. Not only is “Forgotten Path” the weakest song, but single-handedly disrupts the conclusion of the album. The transition between “Forgotten Path” and the perfectly soothing closer, “Erased from Existence,” is so awkward that it prematurely rushes the album to the finish line and inevitably saps the life out of the concluding instrumental. While this awkwardness doesn’t cripple Etching Obscurity, it would have been better if it had closed with “Soul Devourer.”

Production-wise, the brickwalling on Etching Obscurity is kept to manageable levels, allowing the vocals and instrumentation to become equals. The mix is well-balanced and the performances are top-notch—the latter being essential for this band’s success. Overall, Frostbite have found themselves on Dr. Grier‘s radar and, if it wasn’t for some of the flaws toward the end of the album, Etching Obscurity would have easily scored a 4.0. Nevertheless, this is truly a very good album and worth the journey.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Tmina 

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  • TminusEight

    Great write-up. Will check this out. Cheers

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thanks very much. It’s a pretty cool album.

  • El_Cuervo

    I really like the songs available for this. Looking forward to it.

  • Diego Molero

    This is really good, so far I’m liking it a lot, will check the whole thing later. Nice review Doc!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    I hear a lot of Iron Maiden here, too. Nice guitarwork.

  • Isn’t this cover from a tool album?

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Right???

    • Krzystov

      what album?

    • Luke_22

      It does look very Alex Grey influenced.

      • Pascual Villaseca

        LSD influence on it :P

    • sir_c

      Lateralus. I see what you mean.

  • Wilhelm

    Digging this way too much.

  • Blueberry Balls

    Lordy, this is hitting my spot.

  • You wot m8?

    It seems like progressive black metal is either very good, or very bad, with no sliding scale in between. On one hand, you’ve got the likes of this and Code’s Augur Nox, and on the other hand you have… Well… Pretty much everything else. I’d love to see more bands get into the Prog/Black (or is it blackened prog?), since it has so much potential as a sub-sub-genre, and yet had few (good) takers.

    • You can add a few more bands to that list surely. Progressive black metal includes Enslaved and they are by no means bad. Another band to check out is Vyrion. Their album Geo was one of the best albums of 2014 and was progressive (although possibly not quite as much as Frostbite and Enslaved)

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Code is pretty damn good. A touch different than Frostbite but still solid stuff.

      • You wot m8?

        Augur Nox is pretty much the best thing ever. Shame about it’s absolutely horrific production.

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          Yeah, it’s a fucking shame. At least the music is worth a damn.

  • UishidoX

    thanks a lot for this review! got surprised by this, started streaming without big expectations but I really like it!

  • Arikael

    this sounds like exactly my thing

  • Dethjesta

    I’m liking this – February is shaping up to be a really good month (and it’s barely started).

  • Asral

    I don’t normally like most black metal, but the embedded song sounds surprisingly awesome.

    Will definitely check out the rest of it later.

  • I like this a lot. It is yet again proof that the only black metal I don’t like is pure black metal, probably making me the untrvest fan or whatever.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Vhat???? That’s ok.

  • GREEN MIST BLINDS

    Shame about that cover

  • Luke_22

    This sounds pretty damn cool. Thanks for the heads-up and great review. Need to check this out in full.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thank you, sir. It’s good stuff.

  • Erik

    Man the guitar work on this album is superb! This has been my go-to-album for over a week now.

  • Blueberry Balls

    sniff..

    • Turdburgler

      ^This. Smells. Sniff. Mmmmmm.

    • Krystal Koffin

      I hope it smells like flowers.