Frozen Crown – Call of the North Review

In the early days of Frozen Crown, I was unsure exactly what they wanted to be. Hell, I’m not sure they knew the answer themselves. I described their formula as “awkward” in my review of The Fallen King back in 2018, and as much as I love that debut, its mashing together of Sonata Arctica, Wintersun, and Nightwish feels as charmingly disjointed today as it did five years ago. Its 2019 successor, Crowned in Frost, streamlined Frozen Crown’s formula, but 2021’s Winterbane further separating the band’s power metal and melodic death metal influences, confining the latter aesthetic primarily to isolated tracks. If Winterbane represented the band distancing their stylistic poles, Call of the North sees them smashing back together with atomic force. The resulting record is Frozen Crown’s most cohesive and energetic effort to date, and unquestionably their best.

Call of the North, on the merits of its melodic personality alone, sounds monumental. These ten tracks feel big despite not really being any longer than the average track length I’ve come to expect from Frozen Crown, packed with towering melodies and bombastic moments that comparable bands typically reserve for ten-plus minute epics. This expansive scope owes as much to the songwriting as it does to its hooks. These compositions excel at establishing a grand scale within a limited framework. “Fire in the Sky,” for instance, invents a diverting and clever bridge/secondary chorus hybrid, while “In a Moment” enchants with its regular rhythmic shifts and complex flourishes, making for a borderline progressive metal experience. Yet Frozen Crown impresses most of all by, for all their past inconsistencies, finally crafting a record with no weak links. Each song excels while possessing unique qualifiers, making for a filler-free record and an excellent value proposition.

Much of what hooks me so strongly with this record is its absolutely electric energy level. Frozen Crown has finally done away with the practice of devoting only select tracks towards fully emphasizing their Finnish melodeath influence, opting instead to distill it throughout the entirety of Call of the North. This results not in an even mix of power metal and melodic death metal, but rather an uncommonly aggressive power metal experience where the tempo is perpetually cranked. Some songs do lean a bit harder into melodeath territory (especially the Kalmah-minded riffs of “Legion”), but a handful retain a purely power metal aesthetic (“Until the End,” “Now or Never”) to help balance the experience. I have long felt that Frozen Crown operates best with the pedal welded to the metal, so it is no wonder that Call of the North is their strongest album, though I should note that the only mid-paced tracks (“Black Heart” and “One for All”) handily (footily?) stand toe-to-toe with the rest of the record.

If I have any sticking point with Call of the North, it’s that its production feels a bit muddy, its instruments melting together in a slight downgrade from the album-to-album improvements made following Frozen Crown’s debut. At the same time, I’ve grown fond of Frozen Crown’s signature engineering, with Andrea Fusini returning for a fourth time to ensure that Call of the North sounds in line with prior records. The performances are as sharp as ever – with music this fast and technically demanding, it sort of has to be – but I find singer Giada Etro deserving of special commendations this time around. I’ve long felt that she’s a solid fit for the band, but she brings an extra degree of power to her performances on this album, keeping up with Frozen Crown’s freshly amped adrenaline with seemingly minimal effort. I think the band recognizes this, as Call of the North completely nixes the sporadic harsh vocals of past records, allowing Etro a full-time spotlight (accompanied as always by welcome clean vocal support from guitarist Federico Mondelli).

Call of the North is the record I always wanted Frozen Crown to make, but never thought they actually would. I’m more than happy to be proven wrong. Their past efforts were highly enjoyable despite their shortcomings, but Call of the North feels set to become one of the best power metal albums of this year; no asterisks required. More than that, this record feels something akin to a fresh start for the band, a new foundation upon which to develop future endeavors while being a fantastic showing in its own right.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Avalon (Japan) | Scarlet Records Official | Bandcamp (Worldwide)
Releases Worldwide: JP: 2023.03.08 | WW: 03.10.2023

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