I’ll begin today’s review reiterating something I’ve said many times before: I’m an Album Guy. I don’t like singles, I don’t like skipping tracks, I don’t like Pandora. This is also why I don’t enjoy listening to songs dropped (or leaked) before an album’s release date. It can be misleading and it can excite/discourage me for/from buying that album. For instance, Tool‘s “Fear Inoculum” is a great song.1 But it’s nothing without “Pneuma” succeeding it. And “Pneuma” is nothing without “Fear Inoculum” before it and “Litanie contre la Peur” behind it. And so on. It’s like listening to King Diamond‘s “Arrival” without “A Mansion in Darkness.” Stupid. On the other end of the spectrum, 1349‘s “Dødskamp” is a decent single. But hammock it between “Striding the Chasm” and “Tunnel of Set X”/”Stand Tall in Fire” and it stands out like a sore thumb.2 That’s why, for what seems like an eternity now, I’ve avoided Rimfrost‘s pre-album release of Expedition: Darkness‘ “Bloodnight” and “Dawnbreaker.” Yes, because I’m an album guy. And because I know Rimfrost better than they know themselves. “Dawnbreaker” without “Sam-Hain” feels as empty as “Bloodnight” without “Natten.” Take one, you take them all.
As you all know, I had high praise for Rimfrost‘s 2016 self-titled release. Not only was it one of the best-sounding records that year, but it also found a place as my #2 pick of 2016. Though every one of the band’s records is a pleasure to listen to, Rimfrost is the result of years of honing one’s sound to achieve near-perfection. It is, without a doubt, the high-water mark of the band’s career. It’s I, it’s Bathory, and it’s Immortal at their best. It’s big, it’s full, and it’s goddamn epic. There’re incredible riffs, blazing solos, melodic passages, and so many memorable moments. Which spells doom for Expedition: Darkness. How can one ever top their pinnacle release? The answer is: most can’t. But Rimfrost did.
And it all begins with “Rising of a Black Dawn,” a small key and acoustic guitar introductory piece that builds up the right amount of suspense before handing off to its successor. “Damned Jaws” takes its gentle tones and ignites them, metallicizing every melodic beat. Though “Damned Jaws” has been out for a while, you will never know it’s true power without “Rising of the Black Dawn.” It, like “Bloodnight,” has killer riffs made for banging the head in an Immortal kind of way. With the melodic character still lingering from the opener, “Damned Jaws” serves up a ripping, old-school gallop, an acoustic interlude, and a building climax. With a heavy dose of Abbath vocal arrangements, “Bloodnight” keeps the crushing melodics coming. Crashing and chugging like a hellish locomotive up a steep incline, “Bloodnight” reaches the top and explodes.
Like Rimfrost, Expedition: Darkness has an icy blanket of melody over all their songs. But few on this new release are to the lengthy, drawn-out limits of “Frostlaid Skies” and “As the Silver Curtain Closes.” “Dawnbreaker” has all the qualities of Rimfrost‘s epic pieces but does it in a six-minute runtime. With an attitude akin to songs like Dissection‘s “Xeper-i-Set” and “Dark Mother Divine,” “Dawnbreaker” conforms to every mountain and valley it encounters. And it encounters a lot—driving, headbangable riffs; calming, melodic interludes; and heartfelt, acoustic transitions. The title track and closer, “At the Blessing of the Damned,” also share these epic qualities. The former is a never-ending beast. The moment you feel a lull or repetitiveness in the action, another huge riff appears—building this song to a mighty finale. If you’ve heard Rimfrost, the closer is what you’d expect from the band. Although, like the rest of the album, it has some surprises. The biggest being an almost Viking-like choir that comes out of nowhere, elevating the track to heights the band has never achieved.
In and around it all, you’ve got perfectly-timed Halloween classics, “Sam-Hain” and “Voorhees,” and the powerful, yet moody, “Natten.” The first two are plain fun. “Sam-Hain” toys with old-school riffage and more Reinkaos vibes, while “Voorhees” is heavily stacked, with plenty of ascensions and decensions to match its dark melodies. “Natten,” on the other hand, feels like a B-side piece from Rimfrost. It has a lot of depth and a surprising amount of beauty. And, without its simplistic approach, the album wouldn’t be as rounded as it is.
Now for the cherry on top: like Rimfrost, this is one of the best sounding albums of the year. Every instrument is accounted for and Hravn’s vocals and solo work are as prominent here—if not more so—then they were on Rimfrost. The dynamics are so alive that you can almost climb in and walk around inside the music. And there’s no filler. It doesn’t matter which song I play, I’m content and enjoy it from beginning to end. This makes it a touch better than its predecessor and easier to put on repeat. Not only has Expedition: Darkness shot to the top of my year-end list, but it also made history in the Grier scoring bracket.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ferocious Records
Websites: rimfrost1.bandcamp.com | rimfrostofficial.com | facebook.com/rimfrostofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 18th, 2019