The DFW natives make their case for an unending winter in their first LP.
Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):
Without ever being formerly introduced by way of a full-length release, most bands never see the light of day. Scene oversaturation is a common misstep of a flourishing community. It's a tragic paradox that the more choices audiences are subjected to for enjoying their favorite music, the less exposure many groups will receive. There is a top-down effect of local groups having their spotlight swallowed entirely by the summit the musical pyramid; bombastic groups, with grandiose designs, and magniloquent messages.
That has never been the aim, nor the theme of FROZEN SOUL, from Fort Worth, Texas. A staple of the underground community for a couple years, these flag-bearing pioneers of Old-School Death Metal sound have taken both a grimly serious, and utterly parodical panorama of classic sound, and imbued it with a sense of chilly imagery, and a plethora of riffs that are not to be trifled with. It's the perfect formula for a breakout group that has to-date released only a single demo, and yet skyrocketed to meteoric fame. Their first LP is thematically on-par for the group, a vessel known as Crypt of Ice.
In such a fashion that seldom fits the genre's attitude, the title-track kicks off the album — brought out not by dense riffs — but an electronic surge that presses the volume pedal to the floor. Right out of the gate, it's clear that the Century Media influence has only hardened the resolve of this group to beat peoples' faces into the tundra. With all of the depth that was featured in their 2019 demo, Encased In Ice, the group's greatest strengths are, as is showcased in the first minute — their versatility, and their chemical consistency. Nowhere in this album will you find a stagnant riff or lick that has overstayed its welcome. On the contrary, from the get-go there are times where you're hearing new sounds from the group that arrive and depart before you've fully embraced their impact.
Arctic Stranglehold is the second stop, tracing a thin mid-range tremolo into the first verse, as abrupt and brief as the title-track, with no soft introduction to ready oneself for the onslaught. A quarter of the way through, the song breaks for a couple beats to push a pre-chorus that urges liquidity from the strings. Only briefly are listeners introduced to the mids that come gushing forth beneath a wall of chugging in the deep. At three minutes, a slower, more vicious breakdown takes the proverbial stranglehold on one's ears, the intensity per each pick being well isolated in post-production. It's clean, and still thematically as filthy as the day they arrived.
A classic track from the demo, Hand of Vengeance is brought back with a vengeance in a revised manner. A glacial piano medley plays in the intro of the song, a welcome addition to a song that any jaded fan of the group will immediately appreciate. This polished, more streamlined variance of the tune carries with it the same structure and sound signature that made the group the powerhouse they are today, but the elements that add to it are all amplification of the traits most people found appealing in the first place. Chorus rattling with the catchy and ominous vocals that sound like the gnashing of teeth into a solid slab, the melody breaks in with a rising hook, the words uttering boldly:
"You reek of fear, as the shade of death appears
In weakness you flee — the hand of vengeance nears!"
Merciless, another returning tune from the demo, receives a fresh coat of paint. Steeped in the same sludgy patterning that crafted their demo, Minimal words, maximum complexity of song structuring, and this song is no exception to the rule. Groovy, heavy stomping licks take the forefront for each new passage, whether it's the constant chug of a low guitar on the deepest bass, or a cascading hook that dances down like falling icicles shattering into oblivion — this groups knows precisely what makes for no-frills Death Metal with a purpose and they're monopolizing the formula.
As one song ends with a howling of a bitter wind, so starts another, and it's an icebreaker of nostalgia that comes cruising along.
Crawling in through the open door, the demo's title-track, another frigidly referenced killer known as Encased In Ice, takes hold of this cycle of victory laps, both figuratively and literally executing what is the filthiest example of raw gore-inspired macabre majesty available to the genre. Those familiar with this track will be absolutely stunned to learn that a pre-chorus verse that leads into a live look at a brutal murder was not simply a gimmick for the track's music video, but also a featured interlude that plays an important benchmark for the pacing of the song itself. It's stunts like these that — while noticeably absurd — build a brand for the group that can't be easily replaced or replicated. Fans will now come to look forward to the murder segment of the song, bringing a nostalgic, if not completely morbid sense of fascination surrounding the group's aesthetic.
There's a whole collection of new tracks behind this one, side-B tucking away the majority of the unheard material in a satisfyingly lengthy package that ensures the pacing is well kept. There's the fun, bounciness of the ‘four-on-the-floor’ rhythm from Beat To Dust, and an epic closer that slows to an agonizing, lurching, zombie-walk on Twist The Knife. It's the kind of simplicity that spells a bright future for a group as young as this one. There's no time for filler, there's little patience for shoehorning in some fanciful melodies on top in an effort to appeal to fans with fairer sensibilities, and there's no concessions made for the oftentimes primitive ambiance being put on display in this album. Needless to say, it's the gold standard of the Death Metal genre, for good reason.
Crypt of Ice is a wake-up call to the modern world of metal. It's what happens when a bunch of poor kids from North Texas grow up on the filthiest American riffs of the past three decades, take up the axes, the mic, and the sticks, and attempt to breed a perfect problem-child from that broodmare. FROZEN SOUL is a modern solution to an ancient problem: when innovation becomes tiresome and pointless, where do we turn?
There's so much promise behind this new flagship group. They're young, they're angry, and they're just itching to get back to a stage that has been left empty for a year. With this first LP under their belts, the only question left to ask is — Who would dare stand in their way?
Crypt of Ice melts faces on January 8th, courtesy of Century Media. Get yours HERE!