Melodic folk metallers Frosttide crossed my path back in 2013 with their debut full-length. Now a mere two years later, the Finns are back tipping tables and generally upsetting the orderly offices we have here at AMG central. Blood Oath, although being the band’s follow-up, takes one of the leftovers from Awakening and expands the lyrics outwards, creating a prequel or brother album that leads up to the arrogance and greed portrayed by the protagonist of the earlier release. Seeing that I enjoyed the fine line Frosttide walked between melody and aggression and their hints to bands like Wintersun, Ensiferum and Shade Empire, I snapped at the chance to review Blood Oath and while it does indeed feel like a part of its predecessor while holding some new and interesting melodic death influences, it suffers some setbacks that have me returning to the bands earlier work.
On first glance at the track lineup and run-times, you’ll see that Frosttide are stuck in a rut. As with Awakening, Blood Oath kicks off with “The Prologue.” It’s a grand instrumental, all nice and atmospheric, with a certain understatedness, finishing with a hint of synth on the back-end. naturally, the title track follows on quite seamlessly and this is where things really get started. “Blood Oath” has a convincingly stubborn melody that speeds along hand-in-hand with the aggressively paced drumwork, it’s got the upbeat familiarity of Frosttides earlier work and influences too. Well-placed time shifts and changes keep the track interesting, the drums and guitars work together to create a fun percussive element making the track feel more grandiose and exciting, and just when your attention starts the wane, “Gates Of The Asylum” makes a drawn out entrance. It’s around this point that you start noticing that the vocals lack the intensity of Frosttides earlier release, and this is a disappointment. On Awakening Joni Snoro’s leading larger-than-life blackened rasp felt well placed with only Juho Patinen’s backing vocals coming across as a little smothered. In Blood Oath, in addition to Juho Patinen providing backing, Frosttide have added contributions by Lauri Myllylä. Unfortunately, instead of flaunting all this vocal talent, going bigger and bolder, they’ve pushed the entire vocal element back into near obscurity.
Musically each of the tracks are exciting and when it all comes together the blast beats are spot on, the guitar riffs are melodic, spiced with passion and the solos are a mixture of sweet and alluring, with tons of dramatic intensity. In addition, Frosttide makes good use of sudden and jolting shifts in atmosphere and tempo that aren’t out-of-place, but rather add to the melodrama of their tale. “Fate Redefined” stands out for having a heavier melodic death influence – more along the lines of say Parasite Inc. The galloping number packs some lively guitar work along with a memorable melodic backbone and what would be some of Joni’s best grows if they weren’t so damn suppressed. This aside, the track’s a hurried journey to what feels like a “raise your beer glass” moment of victory.
Towards the back-end of the album, “Foreshadow” takes the spot of their standard ballad-like interlude, holding the same sad undertone of Awakening’s “Dawn of Despair” or to some extent RoutaSielu‘s “Kehtolaulu.” It’s by no means essential, but it’s pretty. And finally the album closes with much of what you’ve come to expect from Frosttide. Both “New Reign” and “Winds Of Winter´s Call” come across as one song rather than the separate tracks they are.
Blood Oath ended up being a tougher nut to crack than I anticipated and I had a few head scratching moments wondering how to review it. Setting my fangirlism aside, I can safely say that Frosttide haven’t explicitly made changes to their core sound and what you want and expect from them they deliver. But the burden of crushed vocals and a tendency for lengthier tracks to feel over long lead to some disappointment setting in. Blood Oath is by no means a bad album, but it does feel like a step backwards from what Frosttide delivered previously.