Review Summary: A wink at the past
Of all the original Finnish death metal bands to make it to a full length, Tenebrae was among the crème de la crème of the unluckiest. Both records had an impressive trail of angular, groovy tapes leading up to them, but something went wrong in the studio each time. Dysanchelium had all the life sucked out of it by the production while Hypnotech escalated the problem further with some questionable song rearrangement, making the tracks sound like chipmunk versions of their demo takes. While the band's mastermind went on to participate in numerous outfits in the following years, his characteristic oddball side was largely downplayed since Tenebrae's dissolution. It only stirred up after an extended period of dormancy with the release of the promising if uneven Halladrol EP.
Iron Frost, the man's newest project, is a continued reconciliation with the old weirdness set in an ambiguous biker metal landscape. The chunky, disjointed Tenebrae leanings are joined by a good sprinkling of Sabbath-style doom and some unabashed death 'n' roll grooves. The end result is a catchy collection of songs that rewards you for paying attention to the peculiar details, such as mid-riff jumps from retro grooves to off-key low register power chords. Usually these weirdness blips are pretty subdued, only manifesting in a quick sequence of uneasy interval choices. However, the title track revels in them, and if you took out the southern metal rolling triplet sections in favour of something more in line with the majestic 4/4 + 9/8 main riff this thing would effortlessly slot into Dysanchelium. By contrast, "Steel Horse" is nearly devoid of any abnormalities, but is the EP's earworm due to the sheer effectiveness of the grooves and the recurring minimalistic melodic hook. "Down With The Sun" falls somewhere between the two, but makes for a solid opener due to its evolving, steam-gaining structure that culminates in an Ozzy-like faux-chorus.
All in all, the EP is a solid listen. The band sounds alive, everybody's having a good time, the resulting songs are catchy yet rewarding. It's nice to hear glimpses of the old Tenebrae spark buried in this new setting. Here's to hoping Iron Frost doesn't follow too closely in Halladrol's footsteps at this point and releases more material, further tapping into their strengths.