Frozen Dawn – The Decline of the Enlightened Gods Review

As someone allergic to major keys, I find a natural home with metal, which tends to focus on the minor, or indeed, dissonance. We’ve all heard non-metal-listeners in our lives pontificate about how angry metal sounds. We all also know that it can bring happiness no matter how nasty it seems on the surface. Allow me to introduce you to some extreme metal out to prove this with a vengeance. Spain’s Frozen Dawn make their Transcending Obscurity debut with LP number four, a slice of melodic black metal fizzing with rambunctious energy. Polished and fresh, yet still retaining an air of the dark, occult past. It’s like Dissection on an ecstasy trip, or Uada after a few pints. But don’t let that give the impression that this is messy; quite the opposite, Frozen Dawn pull it off with slick ease, if a little long-windedly.

Of course, The Decline of the Enlightened Gods is by no means the first black metal album to induce wild grins with its tremolo-driven, hyperactive shenanigans. The band themselves even nod to an influence in their brilliant cover of Necrophobic’s “Blinded by Light, Enlightened by Darkness.” Somehow, they make it even catchier. But with vim and vigor comparatively absent in their previous outings, Frozen Dawn infuse their spidery melodies and rabid rhythms with an unfiltered joy that makes what is on paper ‘only’ melodic black metal sparkle with adventure. In my recent Inherits the Void review, I suggested that those not enamoured of melodic black metal would find nothing to change their mind. While this is largely true here, the sheer tenacity on display could make this an excellent entry point. Its ardour is simply infectious; and so much fun you’ll be smashing that play button again once it’s over.

The key strength of The Decline…, as I’ve alluded to, is how enjoyable it is to hear. This comes largely from its dynamism. One way Frozen Dawn achieve this is their use of rhythm. Far from a continuous torrent of blastbeats, these songs bounce (“Mystic Fires of Dark Allegiance,” “Cosmic Black Chaos,” title track)1; gallop (“Spellbound,” “Wanderer of Times”); march (“Black Reign Awaits”); and do pretty much everything in between. Arjan van der Wijst’s drumming, and the flourishes and fills inserted at perfect intervals to change or keep up the momentum are thus worth singling out for praise. But the rhythmic craftiness extends beyond the kit. The band conspire together in brilliant fake-outs (“Wanderer…”) that precipitate a turn in tempo, and a new, earworm hook. The riffs themselves also often form, if not the backbone, the muscular tissue for some particularly spirited metres (“Spellbound,””Frozen Kings,” “Wanderer”) and dramatic stop-start moments (“Oath of Forgotten Past”).

The music is additionally dynamic, and thoroughly entertaining, because of its melodies—funnily enough for melodic black metal. They’re not only catchy (“Frozen Kings,” “Oath…,” “Wanderer…”), they’re artful. Re-imaginings of classic black metal tremolos in descending/ascending scales make your stomach flip (“Mystic Fires…,” “Spellbound,” “Black Reign Awaits”) Heavy metal-flavored tremolo solos (“Oath…,” “Cosmic Black Chaos”) inject triumphant joy with crooning, squealing guitar. At the risk of over-egging things a little, Frozen Dawn’s approach feels like a revitalization of the subgenre, and I’m here for it. There’s enough of the good old frosty malevolence in these lurching refrains to keep it grounded and trve, but there’s also a vein of beauty and technicality running brightly all the way through. If I were looking for something to criticize, it would be the inclusion of classical guitar instrumental “The Fall of Aeons” that bridges the original tracks and the closing Necrophobic cover. It’s nice but feels a little odd amidst its faster, rowdier peers.

2023 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for black metal, and The Decline…is one more example. With its unbridled energy and old-school-but-new-school take, it’s easy to love. And love it I do, as anyone with an appetite for the blackened and bombastic is sure to also.

Rating: Great
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2023

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  1. To be honest, they all do, these are just highlights
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