Last year NoiseArt Records graced my greedy hands with Survival of the Fittest, the debut release by Italian band Krampus. With two well received EPs already floating about, I was excited to hear their brand of modern folk metal. By the end of the year the album had worn a considerable groove in my playlist, so much so it eventually ended up on Madam X’s Top 10(ish) of 2012. Until now, 2013 has felt a little lean in terms of folk metal, outside of Månegarm‘s (Legions of the North) blackened folk offering, nothing’s jumped out at me – Finnish melodic folk metallers Frosttide are doing their damnedest to change that.
Frosttide‘s first EP (Dawn of Frost) hit the shelves back in 2010 and while it’s a worthy listen, the beautiful melodies failed to hide that it was the product of a fledgling band. Their second EP release (Our Journey) hit around the tail end of 2012 and showcased a more professional edge — one of a band that removed the training wheels and grown considerably. And now in 2013 we have Frosttide’s debut full-length Awakening… a fitting title for a band awakening to a whole new chapter in their journey [Is this an infomercial? — Steel Druhm].
To kick things off, Awakening is a concept album that tells of a group of warriors embarking on a journey to rescue a remote village from enemy invasion. The tracks transport you into the minds of these warriors, exposing you to their excitement at the start of the battle and similarly their crushing defeat as the battle ends. The tale begins with a lengthy instrumental “Winter’s Call.” The track feels like it needs a spot in a huge cinematic production like The Lord of the Rings or maybe The Hobbit. It’s a brilliantly constructed, swelling tune that feels as though it has a bit of Shade Empire grandeur trapped inside it. It’s lengthy, but doesn’t overstay its welcome, escalating seamlessly into the title track. “Awakening” introduces you to the harsh reality of the journey and you have a strong sense throughout Awakening that were Wintersun and Ensiferum to unite, Frosttide could well be the by-product of that union. “Dawn of Despair”, “Siege” and “Ruins of Defeat” mark the dark and dramatic turning point in the warrior’s mission, pummelling you with the cold, harsh reality of their defeat and things culminate well in “Unwritten (Engraved in the Stars)”.
“Quest for Glory” and “Siege” showcase Joni Snoro’s roaring, stronger-than-ever, blackened rasp that sometimes brings to mind the all powerful Nergal. Joni has a vocal style that I don’t tire of hearing and it perfectly leads Juho Patinen’s screamy and coldly delivered backing vocals. Outside of his vocal duties, Joni’s guitar work reminds me a lot of Jari’s work with Wintersun. Frosttide‘s guitar riffs don’t quite hit the mark on the technicality and speed of Wintersun, but hell, for a band that for all intents and purposes lacks Jari’s experience, Joni and Juho are doing a fine job! Melody is the name of the game with Frosttide, from the guitars through to the well placed, subtle, delicate keyboard interludes (delivered by Felipe Munoz), all are well placed and provide perfect contrast to Joonas Nislin’s precise, bruising battery. “Quest for Glory,” “No Turning Back,” and “Ruins of Defeat” carry you along on earwormyness [Oh my, another word to add to my 'banned' list! - AMG] and I’ll be damned if you aren’t trying to gouge their melodiousness out of your grey matter after only a few listens.
There isn’t a lot to complain about with Awakening, but Frosttide don’t have a style that exactly sets them apart from what’s already out there. They make no use of traditional instrumentation and their guitar work fails to reach the breathtaking level of Wintersun, but in terms of a good, melodic musical journey Frosttide deliver. The production of the album is modern and plays up the instrumentation well. At times I felt Juho’s backing vocals were a little pulled back in the mix, but not unpleasantly so, Joni is after all the star of the show.
Frosttide have me intrigued and impressed with their debut release. Taking note of the growth and increased maturity between their 2010 release and what they have on offer with Awakening, I’m already fired up to see what direction they take next.