October 5, 2015

Review "Those Of The Cursed Light" in Metal Archives (english)

Frozen Dawn hail from Spain. Those of the Cursed Light is their sophomore album, and it just proves once again, that there are many southern-European bands making great extreme metal. First of all, when I read the album's title, I couldn't help to think of Marduk's second album (their sophomore too!) named Those of the Unlight, for obvious resemblances. Thus, I started somehow to associate Frozen Dawn's album with Sweden. Then, there was the cover. For those of you who have been into extreme metal for a few years, just a glance at the cover art of this album should be enough to tell you a thing or two about it. It is a digital artwork made by Gragoth from Luciferium War Graphics, but the elements present, the style, the colors used... everything is really redolent of some of Kristian Wåhlin's, aka Necrolord, works (it is for me at least). Necrolord is the author of black metal classic covers for bands like Dissection, Necrophobic and Sacramentum (Sweden again) among many others. Back to this album cover, the evil tower looming among sharp pinnacles over a misty forest, looks alike the one seen on the cover of In the Nightside Eclipse, (it's also akin to Barad-dûr/Lugbúrz from the Lord of the Rings movies). The hooded eerie figures walking towards a half-ruined structure of gargoyles, arches and stairs, remind to The Secrets of the Black Arts front cover. All that stuff, added to the emphasis on icy blue hues, screams Necrolord really high. That's not a bad thing by the way, as Those of the Cursed Light's artwork is awesome. So, did I get the album's vibe right, and this is one of those times when you can judge an album by it's cover?. I'd say so, because what we have here, is a very solid frosty melodic death/black metal hybrid (leaning toward the black side of things), with huge influences from the Swedish death/black metal bands from the 90's. So not that much Marduk, in the end, but a lot of Sweden though. I've always enjoyed the Swedish death/black metal breed; so having a band in my own city (Madrid) which plays that style, and does it with such conviction and quality feels pretty good.

If you are familiar with the Swedish death/black metal scene, you know what to expect from this album. Swirling, varying cold melodies, ferocious riffing onslaughts and blast beats, groovy and heavy mid paced chords, and an icy, malign and wintry atmosphere. Frozen Dawn has all that, but it's not a cheap pastiche of the legendary Swedish bands. Certainly, the band dwells in a similar musical ground, and has many influences from those bands, but it's not a copy. The most prominent influences that I noticed could be Necrophobic, in the fast and evil riffing found in most of the songs, and also, Dissection's sense for melody, and taste for opening the songs with moody and eerie clean plucking. Dissection's traits can be also spotted in the groovier and slower chords of certain moments of the album. I must say it again, we are talking about influences here, not about plagiarism.

In my opinion, Frozen Dawn excels in particular at two things: the first are the creative, memorable, captivating and dynamic melodies, which are they keystone of this recording thanks to all their meandering motifs and variations. Melodies like the main lead of "Blackened March" will surely get stuck in your head. The melodies come along the whole album mostly in two ways. The first way is in the form of great, lengthy icy guitar leads. The second way is the use of varied, compact, shrill and swirling chilling tremolos that engulf you like a blizzard. Those two ways to create melodies interweave many times all through the album in a very crafted manner, causing a great effect. Concerning the melodic aspects of Those of the Cursed Light, I must point out as well a nice bunch of amazing and intense guitar solos scattered throughout the album. The second aspect of Frozen Dawn that should be remarked is the songwriting, which is really good, with lots of tempo changes and the use of varied resources. Most of the tracks are fairly long and surpass the five minute mark, but thanks to the great songwriting, they don't get dull or monotonous. While you are listening to this album, you won't feel the need to skip any song, as every track is good and entertaining and they don't sound all alike; even though the style is the same. Another distinctive aspect of this band is the inclusion of classic heavy metal influences, as it can be noticed in the galloping riffs of the title track and of "Under Thy Throne", and in some of the solos too (like in the previously mentioned "Blackened March"). The bass is pretty audible, with it's thick tone that complements the shrill tremolos very nicely. In many slower sections, the bass plays a more prominent and distinctive role, providing a dark, dense and vibrating basis to the guitar's melodic plucking. The vocals are a strong point too. Grinder does a remarkable performance, matching the lyrical concept suitably with his cold, harsh, eerie and unsettling voice. The bass player Davinia, contributes with some backing vocals that are even rougher than the main ones. Finally, the drumming is really tight, with lots of intense blast beats and carefully executed fills, as well as many slower rhythms that add a rich and welcome variation to the music.

The production is pretty neat, and the mix is finely balanced -no garage-recorded black metal sound to be found in here-. I think that this kind of production befits the band's melodic approach quite well, as it enables you to pay attention to the multiple, tiny details within each song. The lyrical content is also interesting. As the band debut, this is sort of a concept album about an imaginary world conceived by the band's vocalist and guitarist Grinder, called Winterland, (yeah, the name is not very creative, I know, but bear with me). Winterland is, of course, a wintry, stormy, turbulent, dark and freezing world, ruled by powerful nature gods, who play a really important role in Winterland's fate and in Those of the Cursed Light's lyrical story. It's not that original, I agree, but it's still cool and interesting, and somehow refreshing among all the "hail Satan! death to christians!" usual fare found in so many black metal acts.

As I said before, all the songs have something to like, and are very well written. I would like to mention "Eternal Frost", because it stands out as the slowest song of the lot. It's a very effective, atmospheric and brooding track, full of sinister cold leads and malevolent vocals. The final track "Kalte Seele" also caught my attention, with its martial pacing at the beginning, its German lyrics plus the ferocious and vicious backing vocals; a good choice to close the album after the solemn "Eternal Frost" that I've just commented. I want to point out as well the dark majesty of "The Triumph of God Frost " and its imposing chorus, that summons the God of frost and ice. The fast charges and frequent tempo changes of the first two tracks, and the awesome, escalating finale of the title track, deserve your attention too. Additionally, you can't miss the enthralling melodic motifs and flourishes of "Circles of Frostbitten Ice". I think you get the idea: just listen to the whole thing, its worth it.

Even though these frost-covered icy paths have been trodden before, especially in Sweden during the mid and late 90's, that fact doesn't imply that this album is without value or originality; far from that. In fact, it is a very solid, well planned, well written and highly varied and detailed record. From the eye-popping cover art to the last notes of "Kalte Seele", this album is very good. Don't pass by this band just because they are not Scandinavian or German. It is my opinion that along with Thulcandra's works, Those of the Cursed Light stands out as one of the best releases in this particular style of melodic death/black metal in the last few years; so give it a try. If albums like Storm of the Light's Bane (Dissection), Darkside (Necrophobic), Far Away from the Sun (Sacramentum), Vittra (Naglfar), Enter the Moonlight Gate (Lord Belial) or Welcome My Last Chapter (Vinterland) are treasured items in your collection, Those of the Cursed Light should make a more than welcome addition. If you dig any of the mentioned bands, also check two other good Spanish bands: Ouija and Spellcraft, and Germany's Thulcandra as well.