Maybe it’s global warming at play but things seem to be heating up for Frost*. Over fifteen years, three albums and one EP into their career, the stars seem aligned for the band to deliver their best album yet in this day and age. Fronted by co-founders Jem Godfrey and John Mitchell, and supported by Nathan King (Level 42) on bass, the band currently does not have a dedicated drummer but continues their legacy of playing with some of the best percussionists in the business. For “Day and Age” they actually bring in three drummers including the legendary Pat Mastelotto but unlike King Crimson, all three do not play at the same time. Despite the ever-changing drumming personnel, the band have managed to deliver their most consistent and impressive release yet, an energetic but dark observation on the cold, patronizing attitudes of the powers that be.
The title track opens the album and for those of you who have heard the edited single already, just wait until you get your ears on the full 12-minute version. Surely one of the best compositions of the band thus far, “Day and Age” delivers a hooky chorus over a driving beat but it’s in the second half where the goosebumps occur. Session drummer extraordinaire Kaz Rodriguez has a field day over the band’s generously spacious groove resulting in a hypnotic and addictive landscape, punctuated by stabs of Mitchell’s guitar. The pace is relentless but we feel in no hurry to arrive at a destination, absorbed in the performance as we enjoy the ride. Almost disappointingly, the track actually comes to an end by fading out, when it ironically feels like it could continue for an entire album side.
Let’s address two key aspects of the album right now, both of which are at play in this opening title track:
1 – There are no solos. Plenty of blazing electronic sounds from Godfrey are ubiquitous as usual, but nary a run on the keys nor guitar-hero theatrics from Mitchell. This was a deliberate, self-inflicted challenge by the band and amazingly it ends up succeeding. Thus, during the song “Day and Age” there is even more room for nuanced layering and for the drummer to run wild.
2 – The ongoing narrative of “Enjoy yourself…”, etc… which introduces this song and appears throughout the album – often ingeniously so – might bewilder some listeners. Although this could be interpreted as a reassuring salutation, the intended meaning is more of a sneering, insincere platitude that those wielding power might ingenuously deliver. Hence, the second half of the phrase, “…you scum.” The accompanying animated video for the title track furthers this sense of dissonance in the act of being human while trying to live in a conflicted world, suggesting perhaps that ignorance is bliss.
Now that we have those points established, onto the next track and first single, “Terrestrial” which delivers a fantastic John Mitchell approach that would feel equally at home on a Kino album. The explosive drumming is delivered courtesy of Darby Todd. Perhaps a third aspect of this entire album should have been highlighted above as well: the drumming is off the hook and sonically massive throughout. Turns out it doesn’t really matter whether it’s Mastelotto, Todd or Rodriguez on the kit because they all absolutely kill it. However, we take a bit of a break from the percussive onslaught with the first half of “Waiting for the Lie”, a vulnerable Godfrey piece delivered mainly on the keys with orchestration. It’s a welcome change of pace, as is the next track…
“The Boy Who Disappeared” is delightfully unique, initially providing a thrilling sonic landscape set to a narrative story exquisitely delivered by Jason Isaacs. While one would think a spoken word piece might get old with repeated listenings, this track suffers no such fate, in some ways becoming a sleeper highlight of the album. The specter of 80s Rush and that era weighs heavily here, in the best sense of that influence. “Island Life” follows, King’s bass driving the pulse, leaning heavily on the “enjoy yourself” phrase, this time interwoven into the lyrics as if to say: just shut up and enjoy your apocalyptic ways in your island life. The irony continues when experiencing Frost* in concert, as the band uniform can sometimes incorporate colorful Hawaiian shirts. “Skywards” brings Mastelotto into the mix for a wonderfully pop Mr. Mister-tinged moment, whereas “Kill the Orchestra” allows Godfrey to take the spotlight again. Its nine-plus minutes touch on some earlier “Day and Age” themes in the latter half of the song and…wait…is that a lead guitar line from Mitchell we hear? Just a moment of Gilmour ambience, really, and only teasingly reminding us of this album’s agenda to refrain from any kind of noodling.
The album closes definitively with “Repeat to Fade”, finding Frost* at their most convincing vocally and instrumentally. Mastelotto is absolutely monstrous on this track as Godfrey’s unhinged cries of “Everything’s alright, you scum!” ring in the background. The cadence of a child’s spoken word “…never free” during a slight pause calls to mind Damian Anderson’s “…no clowns” during Yes’ “Circus of Heaven”, but that’s about the only moment of reprieve we have until static finally devours the driving beats. What a whopper of a closer. What a triumph of an album. Frost* has found their groove – albeit thanks to three different drummers – guaranteed to make their listeners enjoy theirselves. Repeat to fade.
Released by: Inside Out Music
Released on: May 14th, 2021
Genre: Progressive Rock
- Jem Godfrey / Keyboards, Railboard, vocals
- Nathan King / Bass, keyboards, vocals
- John Mitchell / Guitars, bass, vocals
With guest musicians:
- Kaz Rodriguez / Drums
- Darby Todd / Drums
- Pat Mastelotto / Drums
“Day and Age” Track-listing:
1. Day And Age 11:49
2. Terrestrial 5:13
3. Waiting For The Lie 4:31
4. The Boy Who Stood Still 7:33
5. Island Life 4:14
6. Skywards 4:13
7. Kill The Orchestra 9:27
8. Repeat To Fade 6:14
Frost* convincingly triumph with “Day and Age”, guaranteed to satisfy their longtime fans while providing a perfect entry point for the newcomer. Their layered arrangements pack a punch while stopping short of being overwhelming. Jem Godfrey, John Mitchell and Nathan King have found an ideal sonic balance which is propelled by three powerhouse guest drummers. Highly recommended.