Frost is a new project on the Inside Out label, led by Jem Godfrey who is the main songwriter, keyboardist, vocalist, and producer. Godfrey is actually a successful pop music producer, but his heart has always been in the progressive rock genre. So he decided to put together his own band, enlisting amazing musicians: John Mitchell from Kino and Arena on guitars and vocals, John Jowitt on bass and Andy Edwards on drums, both of IQ fame.
Needless to say, Frost is quite different from the musicians' bands, as Godfrey's vision was obviously to marry the hallmarks of progressive rock with modern recording and production techniques. There is plenty of studio trickery happening on these songs, ranging from electronic elements to slightly industrial beats, to processed vocals and clever mixing. Although Frost will no doubt appeal to most, if not all, neo-prog fans, the music presented on Milliontown is arguably heavier and more experimental than most releases in this genre. The production being excellent and guitar tones blending seamlessly with Godfrey's oft-times virtuosic keyboard performance culminates in breath-taking moments, as on the instrumental opening piece "Hyperventilate". Slow yet effective keyboard notes kick the song off mixing with the slowly building guitar riffs that are noticeably more complex than what Mitchell has played on his own bands' records. The brief technical wizardy blows your mind away before returning to a solemn solo piano and back to heavy, almost grinding guitar sweeps that rise and rock up until the five-minute mark. From here on, a vague folk motif is inserted before the song is wrapped up with swift acoustic guitars contrasting a solid rhythmic bottom and thick soundscapes. It is an incredible way to start the album.
Fans of IQ will be utterly pleased to hear the duo shining like they've never shined before. The songwriting is very rhyythm-friendly to say the least, as Godfrey has given both Edwards and Jowitt enough room to take the lead and grace the songs with their rhythmic and technical abilities. It is Jowitt's dynamic bass sound that drives the otherwise modern-sounding, dark number "No Me No You", a song defined by great vocal harmonies and sudden tempo shifts. Likewise, "The Other Me" features a funky bass line around which the rest of the instrumentation is centred, often delving into catchy melodies with big choruses, very heavy breaks, and unusually experimental electronics that move from crackling noises to static bleeps, recalling OSI on their Free album. Speaking of these industrial sounds, there is more to hear on the shorter cut "Snowman" where Godfrey's piano melodies are combined with quiter acoustic guitars and lots of reverb-induced sound effects.
The last two songs are also the longest ones. "Black Light Machine" will immediately strike a chord with the 70's prog lovers in that it offers everything they may be looking for. Beautiful keyboards, poppy vocals, great guitar work, gorgeous symphonic moments, and so on. What's best about this track is the fantastic build-up to Mitchell's guitar solo, both emotionally charged and wonderfully recorded. Again, Jowitt's bass is central to the success of this track not to mention to dazzling drum work by Edwards (man, he should record more stuff like this!). The number closes with a distinct Floydian psychedelia and humourous wah guitars by Mitchell, as if he cut it really loose in the studio and just couldn't stop at the very end. With all that said, the sixth song, at over 26 minutes, is the climax of the album. It slowly unfolds with minimalistic keyboard work, introducing a strong lyrical theme. With the arrival of crunchy guitars and excellent drumming, we are in a killer instrumental break where we can also hear chanting-like female vocals distantly echoing in the back. The song is made up of several movements, and boasts lots of passages with bells, subtle electronica textures, birds humming, whispered vocals, and so much more. It also takes on a somewhat cinematic vibe, recalling The Flower Kings' Adam & Eve (think any song with Daniel Gildenlow singing) and touching on both folky and modern soundscapes. The ending of the song is particularly impressive, given the elegiac guitars and keyboards layered on top of the marching rhythms.
Bottom line, Milliontown could be the best debut of the year. It's a must-have for fans of neo-prog who can also handle modern production and experimental compositions.
No Me No You
The Other Me
Black Light Machine