Review Summary: “I've seen the future... And you die”.
Frost Like Ashes is:
Azahel – vocals
Sebat – Guitar
Fire – Bass
Adonijah – drums
Qoheleth – Keyboard
Frost Like Ashes is a so called “Unblack Metal” band (though I find that gimmicky and misleading) from Kansas City, Missouri of all places. Mixing several different extreme metal styles into their brand of Black Metal; Frost Like Ashes has garnered a small, yet loyal following. After releasing their first EP “Pure As The Blood Covered Snow”, they moved directly into finishing the final product –and only LP to date- “Tophet”. From Death and Black Metal to Thrash, most any extreme metal fan will find something to enjoy in this seeming impenetrable album.
Tophet is a Hebrew word that became synonymous with hell, and as such “Tophet” commences with the barely intelligible utterance of “I've seen the future... And you die”. The lyrical subject matter deals apocalyptically with the war between Heaven and Hell (there is no Ronny James this time…). It’s not pretty. From war-torn landscapes, to the very depths of hell, Frost Like Ashes creates a swirling frenzy of blast beats and Black Metal shrieks. Azahel proves to be a versatile vocalist, utilizing his full range and switching between his extremes constantly. He usually settles into his upper-register shrieks, sounding like a demon railing against the very fabric of its existence. He also brings Death Metal into the mix frequently with a low growl/bark.
Even the aforementioned Thrash gets a showing here and there, most notably in Of Spirit and Power
, which incorporates a Thrashy riff about half way through; which brings us to their guitarist, Sebat. Another versatile musician, he doesn’t stray too far away from the tremolo-picked chords, but when he does, it is usually for a solo. His solos are very Thrash influenced, with speed emphasized above groove. Of course, some exceptions exist, such as the blazing solo located within a minute of the beginning of Lord of Darkness
and the ending to Shattered Gods,
where Sebat goes crazy up and down the fret board. The other guitarist –bass player Fire- is hardly worth noting. One would be hard pressed to find audible bass playing, and then even more hard pressed to find bass playing worth noting. Sadly however, that is the norm for most extreme metal genres. The other member of the rhythm section is thankfully better. Much better. He blasts through songs with heavily triggered double bass and speedy blast-beats. The best word I can use to describe the sounds produced by Adonijah’s kit is nasty. His drumming is always prevalent in the mix, sounding quite like a drum machine at times. The last member of the band is Qoheleth, who provides the ambient keyboarding throughout “Tophet”. With the crazy vocals, guitar and drums, it comes as almost a shock when you catch snippets of synths and keyboards behind the madness. It is a greater shock when you find out that they’ve been there the whole time, adding an unseen dimension to the music. Perhaps his most notable performance comes in the almost interlude track Crucifixion,
where keyboards and synths open into one of the few subdued sections. It is actually a favorite because of the ambiance and emotion it portrays in only a few minutes.
All in all, “Tophet” is a rather intimidating experience, one of the farthest examples from accessibility I have seen. The vocals are grating and at times disgusting, the guitar buzzes in the background and shreds through solos, and the drums are almost overbearing with the amount of triggering and blast beats. For those willing to give it time, however, there is another dimension. The cold bleakness of “Tophet” gives way to ambiance and groove, and where only darkness and despair existed previously, now so too does light. For me, it evolved from a tale of death and destruction into a message of hope. If you are a fan of extreme metal, but not of “Christian Metal”, check this out, you have nothing to lose but bandwidth. If you are
a fan of both extreme metal and “Christian Metal”, then this release is a must-have for you.
A Cruel Verse
Lord of Darkness
Of Spirit and Power
“The howling winds bring comfort to my weary soul
And I close my eyes and welcome home