The year is just beginning, and already I’m convinced that we’ve been given one of the most genuinely joyful thrill rides we’re going to receive in 2018. Charging in full battle regalia straight from the bowels of Philadelphia are Frost Giant with their upcoming album, The Harlot Star. On this record, Frost Giant have deftly blended aspects of hardcore, punk, folk metal and more into their richly seasoned power metal foundation.
Album opener and title track “The Harlot Star” is a graceful overture teeming with warmth from its lush, reverbed overtones and languidly strummed acoustic guitar chords. A pulsing melody hints at the emotional urgency that awaits in the album’s later tracks. Soon, a jarring excursion around the toms triggers the album’s next stage with the opening barrage of “Forgive Me Not”. A few seconds of this song is all one needs to digest what Frost Giant are all about — pummeling drums, fist-clenching riffs and full-throated harmonies. Though it’s one of the album’s more melodeath-flavored tracks, “Forgive Me Not” still contains all the key elements that make this Frost Giant album such a fun and unique experience.
A signature aspect of Frost Giant’s music are the multilayered vocal arrangements, which make clever and frequent use of a stunning array of techniques and styles. There are at least three distinct screams and growls regularly used, along with gang vocals lifted straight from the sing-along choruses of old-school hardcore. Male and female clean vocals round out the arsenal, the elements of which are often found layered in a series of ever-changing arrangements.
Guest vocalist Volpe Vetrano (Infernal Opera) is a standout addition to the record, her graceful majesty elevating the songs on which she is featured. Look to penultimate track “Monuments to Nothing” for one of her most extensive performances on the album. Lead vocalist Matti Frost’s adeptness with both clean and harsh vocals is also consistently impressive. With multiple harsh tones at his disposal, Frost displays a practiced versatility that raises him over the legions of one-trick-pony counterparts in other bands who often and regrettably prefer to pick a single style and stick with it.
Though Frost Giant are superficially a power metal band, to label them as such and then walk away is to do a heavy disservice to the tangible emotional weight borne by The Harlot Star. The nimble acoustic guitar hinted at in earlier moments makes its return with the third track “Apostasis,” taking center stage with readily apparent dexterity. These passages feel like extensions of the songs around them, truly integrated into the record as opposed to existing conspicuously as transparent filler. The first six tracks follow an intro-song pattern repeated three times over, but it’s hard to describe the extent to which these interludes are as essential to the album’s flow as the “main” songs.
“An Exile in Storm” is a gorgeously harmonized a cappella dirge with subtle finger snaps to mark the time, alongside traces of birdcalls for added flair. The noble sailor’s shanty reaches its peak, only to transition abruptly into…jubilant kazoos. This juxtaposition, more than anything else, highlights the artful balance maintained by Frost Giant across The Harlot Star. For every moment dripping with gravitas and splendor, there is a corresponding moment of unrestrained glee.
Frost Giant advertise themselves primarily as a folk metal band, and “Prisoner of the Past” sees them at their folkiest. Dual guitars wail over tireless drums and throbbing bass as the song hurtles from one movement to the next. Its ending holds one of the album’s most triumphant vocal moments as well, with multiple clean harmonies soaring over a robust growl. For a window into Frost Giant’s hardcore leanings, look no further than “Of Clarity and Regret,” which incorporates not one but two massive breakdowns.
The Harlot Star is mature and multifaceted, one of those records that require multiple listens in order to unveil the full splendor of its gifts, but whose gifts are worth the time invested.