Frost Like Ashes - Tophet
After showing much potential with their first EP, Pure as the Blood Covered Snow, Frost Like Ashes is finally back with their first full length, Tophet. This album was delayed endless times and then there was the sad news of the passing of their record label's owner. After all the delays though, Frost Like Ashes has came out on the other end with this great "new" release.
Right from the start you see the great cover of the stave church and you immediately think black metal. Then you open up the booklet and see the scary band members all dolled up in their corpse paint and your thoughts again turn to black metal. However, this band is more of a mixture of black and death metal instead of just pure black. If you remember the old band Possession, you'll start to get a great idea of how this band sounds. Also mix in some Cradle of Filth, Old Man's Child, and maybe some King Diamond and you're getting even closer. Compared to their previous EP, this new disc blows it away. The band is even more extreme, the production is better, and they've written some much better songs.
The opening song "A Terrible Visitation" sets the stage for the madness to come. With it's sweet intro of a voice saying, "I've seen the future...and you die!" Then comes the double bass, the blasting, the blistering guitars, the keyboards, and the insane vocals. Azahel's vocals switches between about 10 different extreme styles within a given song, and sometimes multiple times within the same line! He goes from black metal shrieking, to death growling, to some sickening super shrill vocals, and a few spoken vocals here and there....kinda like Possession used to do, but without the clean '80's hair metal vocals. The next track "Desecrator" starts slow with haunting keys before some squealing/piercing guitars ala Vengeance Rising come in mixed with some heavy crunchy guitars. The lyrics are what make this song extreme though. The band is definitely bold for their faith in Christ, but the lyrics are still very harsh and will probably upset some. Anyways, the lyrics of the song are - "The Crucifix immersed in piss/The holy virgin smeared in excrement/the body of Christ in disembowelment/the words of Christ mocked and twisted/The Son of God called a bastard/the Word of God torn to pieces/The House of God desecrated/When all is told/when all is said and done/I'd hate to be you!" All I can say is DANG! No mincing of words there. (Although I will have to disagree with calling the virgin Mary, "holy").
Keeping with a lot of the keyboard intro themes, "Nightfall's Cold Kiss" starts out with a haunting keyboard intro and howling winds. The pace slows a little here, but the guitars are much more brutal and the keys overall take on a creepier feel than in previous songs. That is one complaint I have about the band...at least on the first part of the album. The keyboards sound a little too "happy" and treblely, and it kinda ruins the darkness portrayed by the rest of the song. The second half of the album really doesn't have this problem though and so it's not a big issue. While I'm at it, another issue I have is that the drum sound at times can get a little thin on this disc. This may just have to do with the speed the band is playing at, but it's still noticeable. At other times it sounds really good though.
Track five is a song that showed up on their EP, "A Cruel Verse." Still present is the sick intro (albeit slightly altered), and the song itself is better than the original in my opinion. After a eerie instrumental called "Crucifixion", the band heads into the best three songs on the album...."Execution By Fire", "Shattered Gods", and "Lord of Darkness". These songs are wickedly heavy, dark, and much more consistent than the earlier songs. Not that any of them are bad, but these are stronger in my opinion. I kinda see this album in three parts...the first three tracks, the second three tracks, and the final three tracks. Each part gets progressively better. There is a bonus track at the end...about 10 minutes after the final regular track. It's the Christmas song that they did on the Brutal Christmas compilation a few years back, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence/O Come O Come Emmanuel". However, this is definitely a demo version as the production sucks compared to the original.
Overall, this is a much improved Frost Like Ashes. And I, for one, can't wait to hear more from this band. It's great to hear some American bands tearing it up like this band does. If you like your music (and your lyrics) extreme and in your face, this is definitely a band that you should check out.
Review By: Matt Morrow
Label: PsychoAcoustix Records
Total Songs: 10
Total Time: 62:50
Tracklisting: 1. A Terrible Visitation, 2. Desecrator, 3. Of Spirit and Power, 4. Nightfall's Cold Kiss, 5. A Cruel Verse, 6. Crucifixion, 7. Execution By Fire, 8. Shattered Gods, 9. Lord of Darkness, 10. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence/O Come O Come Emmanuel.
Best Songs: Tracks 7, 8, & 9.
Band Lineup: Azahel - Vocals, Sebat - Guitars, Ruach - Bass, Qoheleth - Keys, Adonijah - Drums/Keys.
Band Website: http://www.frostlikeashes.com or http://www.myspace.com/frostlikeashes
After numerous problems with various labels, Frost Like Ashes was finally able to release this CD in January independently. The album is an assault on the bastions of satan and his legions and holds nothing back repeatedly knocking him down for the count and then curb stomping him for good measure.
The CD opens with "A Terrible Visitation" with some seriously skull crushing double kick drums and lightning quick guitar work before the high pitched black metal style vocals come into play. I'm not a fan of the high pitched vocals and they bring to mind Cradle of Filth although Azahel is much better in the singing department. The standout track of this album is "Of Spirit and Power". This song is just insanely fast in the vein of Marduk (thanks Olof!) and Crimson Moonlight and includes some deep death metal growls which I wish they would've used more of although I do enjoy the alternating use of the deep vocals and high pitched vocals. Musically this track is just a treat. The guitars and bass just fire on all cylinders and the drums just bash away and add on top of that some great keyboard usage and this song can stand with the best black metal bands Christian or secular.
"Nightfall's Cold Kiss" slows the pace down a bit alternating between fast and slow. A surprising, yet astonishingly excellent guitar solo hits just before the 4 minute mark showing some classic metal influences. "A Cruel Verse" is definitely that with the harshest lyrics I have seen yet from a Christian band. Like the aforementioned Marduk, Frost Like Ashes also sings about spiritual warfare, but unlike Marduk they give the glory and victory to God. The band has no qualms about describing quite graphically what will happen if you don't give your heart to Jesus they probably will offend some people with their lyrics, but FLA is directed towards a very lost and hopeless group of people that few Christians could ever hope of reaching. "Lord of Darkness" is another favorite song. It's quite similar to the rest of the CD - very fast with alternating styles of vocals - and is also very similar to "Execution by Fire". There's just something about this track that stands out that I can't quite place. I think its the very melodic and catchy chorus that I can't help singing along too. After this track is an annoying 10 minutes of silence before a VERY rough version of a song that I cannot place comes roaring through the speakers. Parts of it aren't too bad although I think it was a tad unnecessary.
This CD was definitely one that grew on me.
It's not that I didn't enjoy it the first couple of listens its just after every listen I enjoyed it more and more. So if you enjoy intense black metal and can stomach the lyrics then I would definitely recommend this CD. Frost Like Ashes has quite a bit in common with Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, and Marduk as well as Christian black metal group Crimson
Moonlight and I can also spot a few similarities with Stronghold as well. This group is FAR from a copy band though so don't be mistaken. So go and grab a copy of this CD since they definitely deserve your support. It can be picked up at basically any online store although its probably cheapest on their website.
Review By: Joel Hemmerling
Label: Independent, January 2006
Total Songs: 10
Total Time: 62:55
Tracklisting: 1. A Terrible Visitation, 2. Desecrator, 3. Of Spirit and Power, 4. Nightfall's Cold Kiss, 5. A Cruel Verse, 6. Crucifixion, 7. Execution by Fire, 8. Shattered Gods, 9. Lord of Darkness, 10. Untitled (Bonus Track).
Best Songs: Tracks 3, 7, and 9
Band Lineup: Adonijah - Drums, Azahel - Vocals, Sebat - Guitars, Ruach - Bass, Qoheleth - Keyboards
Band Website: http://www.frostlikeashes.com