Bugger me Beelzebub, what's happened here then? Having recently reviewed THE FROST on a four way split, I have had to double check that this was the same band. I've been out mountain biking all day and I'm shagged, it very much sounds like THE FROST have been over exerting themselves too.
Essentially this CD is two EPs nailed together, “Between Ice And Fire” in THE FROST's case and “Illucescit Mortis Jusu” for BLACK FIRE. To be brutally honest, I'm left a little underwhelmed, with THE FROST being the main culprit. Their contribution, previously alluded to, was well worth lending your ears to with its slippery progress across frozen lands, here though the music just sounds tired. The ingredients are present for another minor triumph, the composition is sturdy enough but the conviction is absent, occasionally the band finds some wind so that sections of the title track begin to smoulder but elsewhere such vigour is absent.
One of the main aspects as to why THE FROST sound like they're ready for sleepy time is the guitar, there's no problem with sounding thin and trebley but being left that far back in the mix it becomes aural wallpaper, when a lazy bass carries the candle you just know that it's gone horribly wrong. It's all something of a shame because with (a lot) more bollocks this EP would have been a more toothed beastie capable of leaving its mark. Even the drums lack oomph, business-like they may be but they sound like bash by numbers and any impact is negligible, unfortunately the same criticism has to be levelled at the vocals, yes they are snarly and fit type but there is no passion to them at all. It almost sounds like THE FROST were obligated to record this material and that they have just gone through the motions. Stay with that last thought.
BLACK FIRE are an altogether more spirited animal, much rawer in sound but nonetheless more committed, they don't fire up the night but they do dig a pit to fill with filth. Thankfully the guitars are up front and gritty, falling well into the Norwegian mould, they alternate between the mid paced and a perky gallop brimming with snotty punk attitude, nothing new then but heartfelt and that's what's needed. Maintaining a simple formula, BLACK FIRE's back to basics ensures that there is little to trip them, there are quibbles though, the cymbals sound generated whilst the drums themselves are fine in their primitive poundings, some of the tracks are too long for the monotony to remain effective but by and large there's little to get too hacked off about.
BLACK FIRE are able to send sparks flying though, especially when they focus a song into a shorter length, “Infinite Night (Which's Desire)” (I know,) cascades icy riffs at a helter skelter pace, caveman drumming beats the sense out of you and the vocals' croaked snarl will have you nailing boards to your door. The bass is in there somewhere but mostly becomes part of the ambience apart from a brief jangly respite where it makes a more positive acquaintance with you. “Nocturnal Lust” benefits similarly, starting off as a slow burner, it soon catches alight and billows black smoke and fiery ashes, this is the stuff. The longer tracks have their moments but lack the directness of their shorter cousins.
BLACK FIRE rescue this split from being an exercise in indifference, THE FROST have let themselves down, they have proved themselves capable of better, to experience them in a more positive light, check out the contribution with VALDUR and MASSEMORD. BLACK FIRE just need to develop their craft and add some of there own identity, then they could say they're smokin'.
(Online June 13, 2008)