Snaer – Frozen Alchemy Review

Ah, Maine. Where you can freeze to death, but like, next to the ocean, while Jessica Fletcher solves murder, Steven King writes, and lobsters run amok. Truth be told, those are the only three things I knew about the rocky northeastern state, but a quick Google search also yields lots of forestland, blueberries, honeybees, Burt’s Bees, and two vice presidents. It’s a part of New England that gets little exposure except for “that really cold place up there,” so what better locale of frigid isolation and the unknown to get some quality black metal? Will Snaer bring honor to their homeland, or will their debut Frozen Alchemy be dashed to the rocky shores?

From Pittsfield, Maine, Snaer is a quartet founded in 2015, having released a 2019 EP entitled Do It Yourself, a title that conveys their aesthetic and work ethic. Featuring a thrash- and doom-infused style that feels icy and brutal in equal measure, debut full-length Frozen Alchemy effectively balances mystical and punishing. Raw spiraling riffs conveyed through Viking metal-esque chord progressions, blackened rasps, complex percussion, and a nice progressive edge all greet the ears with frigid bite. Frozen Alchemy is a smorgasbord of Snaer‘s assets at their rawest, and while some of it lands, much doesn’t, ultimately resulting in a very middling debut with a hell of a lot of promise.

Snaer really likes Bathory, as evident by album-ending cover of “The Return of Darkness and Evil.” This influence takes other forms in its thrashy, Viking, and occult flavors, with tracks like “Black Stain” and “Rise of the Sea Ghouls,” featuring manic riffs dominating the palette. It’s a bit of a misdirect, as its proggy back-half more notably takes the cake. “Endless Suffering” features a folky feel akin with fellow Maine-landers Falls of Rauros in a contemplative plucking intro, as well as a dynamic build that concludes with a climactic solo and tremolo duet. The title track and “March to the Ovens” capitalize upon doom influence, as raw riffs revel in the weight, while the mostly instrumental “Snaer Song” features a complexity that takes its time to develop over the five-minute runtime. With its balanced guitar tone, Frozen Alchemy is competent in its blackened thrash as well as its doom, and the drum performance adds a layer of frantic complexity.

While Snaer‘s strength lies in its progressive leanings in Frozen Alchemy‘s second act, its thrash influence unfortunately falls flat quickly due to excessive repetition of a single riff. While “Black Stain” and “Rise of the Sea Ghouls” are solid at first listen thanks to their Bathory Viking metal influence, repetition makes their 3-4 minute runtime feel awkwardly protracted. Easily the worst track here, however, is “Black Bear Mauling,” which features an awkward bear mauling audio sample that recalls Torsofuck‘s “Raped by Elephants,” followed by the most limp performances on the disc. Transitions are also not Snaer‘s strong suit, being a young band, and even solid passages lose their staying power when they abruptly shift gears into another. Furthermore, while the better songs benefit from longer runtimes, excessive repetition pushes it to the border of uncomfortable: the title track’s random drum solo goes on for too long, “Snaer Song” features some overdone passages, and the closing passage in “March to the Ovens” features a tremolo that simply overstays its welcome. The thirty-six-second intro is absolutely useless, and the Bathory cover, while solid, does nothing for the overall feel of the album. Plus, they really like Bathory and little else.

If Snaer had gone with tracks five through eight, Frozen Alchemy would easily be a 3.0 – these tracks are thrashy, doomy, and progressive while staying true to a blackened palette. However, the thrash-dominated Bathory worship is frankly too one-dimensional to stick, no thanks to its abrupt passage transitions. This makes this debut a mixed and ridiculously scattershot bag. There’s a ton of promise oozing from these Maine-landers; as a group this young, a first full-length will see them fiddling with different styles. Just like Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers, Snaer‘s Frozen Alchemy has a kernel of proggy excellence and distinction amid a torrent of Bathory-lovin’ ideas, and it will just take time to unearth.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released |
Releases Worldwide: March 12th, 2021

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