This past week I was giving Frozen Crown’s The Fallen King my dozenth or so spin as I was handling a particularly annoying clean-up report at my other office job. Typically, when faced with such an irksome task, I like to listen to fast music of either the aggressive or uplifting variety; either emotional response triggered by the conflicting styles will do the trick to kick my ass into work-mode. This particular go-round with Frozen Crown struck me, as it handily enabled both responses. And really, I don’t feel like this record’s duality should work. It’s roughly two-thirds power metal and one-third melodeath, and the two genres don’t blend so much as they co-exist awkwardly alongside each other. Yet work it fucking does as a varied, high-speed platter of melodic metal, and despite a couple of slight misfires, it’s one of the most exciting power metal debuts I’ve heard in the past couple of years.
Frozen Crown’s promo sheet compares them to Sonata Arctica and Wintersun, which I suppose is accurate insofar as there’s notable influence from Finnish power metal and melodic death metal acts. But this would hardly be telling half the story; FC also notably borrows from the heavy power metal sound of Unleash the Archers (“Kings”), Swedish melodeath acts such as Amon Amarth (“I Am the Tyrant”) and Skyfire (“Queen of Blades”), and accessible modern metal a la Nightwish (“To Infinity,” “Across the Sea”). These influences rarely fuse into a cohesive whole as a likely symptom of severe debut-itis, but Frozen Crown is so damn good at everything they try that I never once cared about the lack of internal consistency. The fantastic vocal hooks and reliably solid melodeath riffs tie together and sell the overall package so successfully that it’s hard to think of any metal fan who wouldn’t find at least one thing to love about The Fallen King.
That being said, a couple of tracks act as speed bumps that’ll likely bar most listeners from loving The Fallen King front to back. “Chasing Lights” works as a nice, atmospheric and baroque influenced interlude for its first couple of minutes, but as it stretches on to a full five minutes in length, it becomes quickly evident that this is merely a glorified intro to the excellent “Queen of Blades” that’s actually thirty seconds longer than the track proper. “Across the Sea,” meanwhile, is notably inferior to the other instance of Nightwish-core, sporting pretty vocals yet possessing the bare minimum required for a metal composition from an instrumental standpoint. Don’t let these cuts dissuade you if you’re even slightly interested in the rest of what Frozen Crown has to offer, but just know that they may result in a pair of frequently skipped tracks.
These cuts notwithstanding, much of The Fallen King falls squarely in 4.0 territory. Of particular note is the incredible closing cut “Netherstorm,” a spot-on piece of exhilarating Ensiferum worship that’s better than pretty much anything that band has done since From Afar. Its immense power metal chorus also serves to exemplify the dual vocal talents of Giada Etro and Federico Mondelli (who also handles guitar and keyboard performances). It’s rare for a power metal band to have a strong vocalist, let alone one of each gender, with Etro impressing in particular. Call her a Brittney Slayes-lite – she quite often echoes Slayes’ timbre, especially on “Everwinter” – yet her range may very well be better equipped to handle FC‘s more Euro-power oriented material. Mondelli also serves as half of a separate pair, sharing guitar duties with Talia Bellazecca to craft complex lead work that makes 4:4 signatures sound downright proggy. It’s just a shame that their rhythm work is regularly obscured in the mix.
Not to be outdone by Swordjørn, the OG power metal poser of the AMG offices is still dedicated to the Way of the Weenie, and The Fallen King is particularly fine party platter that deserves to be heard by my fellow followers. Frozen Crown is a refreshingly novel power metal act, and one that, despite some borderline negligible growing pains, shows a huge amount of potential in mastering the styles of both power and melodic death metal. With a touch more polish, the world will be their oyster as they drown it in a vat of cheddar chowder. Get in on the ground floor and you may be spared the scalding.