Review Summary: Atmospheric black metal minus the stupid.
Frontier are the latest in a vast sea of largely American black metal bands that incorporate copious amounts of atmosphere and some post-rock influences, and their little 2010 demo is the latest in a series of untitled demos by said bands. Typically, said demos and EPs will consist of excessive 10-minute-plus untitled songs that, while having undeniable appeal, grow enormously tedious after a few listens. However, Frontier have forsook this arguably pretension-riddled path for a much more straightforward, traditional approach to American atmospheric black metal.
First, the demo has four tracks which clock in at a total of 23 minutes, with the individual songs ranging from five to seven minutes in length. Allah be praised, they also have chosen to go the route of titling their songs instead of giving them such inventive names as Untitled
. So at very first glance it seems that this could be the closest thing to bullcrap-free post-black metal you're ever going to get. But you probably have always been told not to judge a book by its cover, right? This could still easily be just as boring and pretentious as every other Skagos lookalike out there, albeit with a more concise approach.
Fortunately for the average black metal fan, what you see here is exactly
what you get. The songs rely on repetition just as much as every other black metal act out there, but this repetition is never in the form of drone-influenced ambient passages or stupid nature sampling. Frontier never descend into the cold and dark realms of mind-numbing atmosphere, always preferring to keep their post-rock and atmospheric influences as an accent to the music rather than as its focal point. For Frontier are truly traditionalists: their music is, in the end, about the skills and creative abilities of the individual members and of the band as a whole. Every member does his job admirably: the bass is an audible and integral part of the band's music, the guitars and their scorching tremolo riffs are simultaneously heavy and beautiful, the vocals (which, in typical post-black metal fashion, are pushed back in the mix) are evil enough for black metal but melodic enough to avoid disrupting the music's atmosphere, and the drums (probably the single most impressive aspect of Frontier's music) are fast and unrelenting.
The true staying power of this demo lies in the ability of the band to make every aspect of their music and songwriting perfectly meld together to create come of the most cohesive Cascadian-style (Frontier hail from Massachusetts) black metal in existence. The perfectly executed riffs are never overpowered by the drums, which never overpower the bass, which is just as integral to the music as are the vocals... You probably get the picture: Frontier functions as an organism rather than as a collective of individual musicians. Most importantly, their use of atmosphere as an accent rather than as the demo's musical focus is nothing short of brilliant. Frontier have crafted one of the most impressive black metal debuts of 2010, and could easily be at the forefront of the USBM scene if they continue on the path they're on with their next effort.