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Frost Like Ashes - Tophet (9,5/10) - USA - 2005

Genre: Black Metal / Death Metal
Label: PsychoAcoustix
Playing time: 48:38
Band homepage: Frost Like Ashes

Tracklist:

  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
Frost Like Ashes - Tophet

FROST LIKE ASHES are an anomaly, a riddle wrapped in a mystery that lends itself to confounded attempts at rationalizing the seemingly endless contradictions that define their message and their sound. Much like their fore-fathers in CRIMSON MOONLIGHT and CRADLE OF FILTH, they seem to take pride in inviting people to question their sanity by presenting something that is otherwise Black Metal but with a Christian message in the case of the former, and defiling the rules of the genre they would otherwise fall under by meshing elements considered foreign to the established template. Their riffs have a large amount of Thrash tendencies; the vocals are toneless yet imply a large degree of variance by timbre alteration that is at odds with the near monotone shrieks I’ve encountered in the genre, and the anti-Satanism/Paganism lyrical content is enough to make the dogmatic Black Metal elite call for the shepherd to be murdered a few more times.

 

Among the other offenses that this band has committed against the genre that it would otherwise fall under is being too technically proficient at their instruments, something that really manifests itself in the guitar riffs. “Nightfall’s Cold Kiss” has the largest collection of varying riffs and feel changes I’ve ever heard out of a band falling under this sub-genre; picture early CRADLE OF FILTH with more emphasis on the guitar rather than the keys. “A Terrible Visitation” switches between sounding like a Death Metal and a Black Metal song, shifting from muddy blast beat sections to some tighter breakdown sections with rhythmically intricate guitar ideas.  “Of Spirit and Power” has an opening riff that would make the likes of SLAYER proud, and has a slower Thrash/Groove riff at around the 2:30 mark that screams vintage MEGADETH. Basically about half of the songs on here could be labeled as ‘Black’ Thrash, which could also be attributed to a lot of the pre-90s bands that are credited with pioneering the genre.

 

Other songs on here seem to play more into the atmospheric side of the coin and tout some murky yet strangely beautiful sounds. “Desecrator” has a rather simple keyboard line for the first two minutes that could be qualified as drone/ambience music, but has some violent guitar noise in the background. Once the song fully kicks in, we get a technical guitar display that challenges a lot of established shred outfits and then about one minute of crazy noise. The closing song, “Lord of Darkness”, starts off with a creepy piano line that wouldn’t be far off to something heard on KING DIAMOND’s 90s albums, what follows is probably the most technical display of riff variation heard on the album, ending the album on an extremely high note.

 

Before I get to my recommendation I just have to take a moment to comment on Azahel’s vocals, which surprisingly have accomplished what few vocalists of his persuasion have not been able to, agree with my ears. As a general rule I tend to be turned off to vocalists who scream their vocal chords out every single time they utter a word, mostly because it loses its effect. Where he succeeds is that he switches between the various toneless vocal styles regularly, often, yet in a manner befitting the music. When I hear his garbled chants I picture a maddened ghost, sporting a pale and contorted face and a priest’s collar, dismembering demons with his bare hands. A good summation of this is that last shrieked word at the beginning of “A Cruel Verse”, which is best heard at a moderate volume so that you don’t have your ear drums blasted into your cerebral cortex.

 

Ironically this music’s real flaw is that it will have a hard time finding an audience of any significance. I can think of very few Christians who would touch this band with a 20 ft. pole, perhaps underscoring the hypocrisy and general tendencies of the church of late to model itself after the Pharisees that Jesus spoke out against. Likewise, most Black Metal fans would cringe at the thought of listening to anything that would hold Christianity in a positive light, let alone something that pretty much articulates the same aggression towards Satanism that most fans of this genre have towards Christians. Perhaps this is a band that doesn’t know its own audience; maybe they’ve truly lived up to the Black Metal ideal and limited their audience to its ultimate conclusion, or perhaps instead exposed a commonality between arrogant bible thumpers and parochial atheists, who’s to say. All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed this album, this music kicks ass from start to finish, and I can’t be bothered with anyone who would give me some socio-political reason to think otherwise. If you have an open mind, give this band a listen, you won’t be sorry.  

(Online August 18, 2008)

Jonathan Smith



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