FROSTWORK : LORE OF WINTER – EALDSPELL
By Ellen Simpson on April 9th 2012
My view of Frostwork’s initial demo, “The Rites of Winter – The First Storm”, which spewed forth ice from speakers in 2008, was that with this solo project, Dagon had created a tantalising mixture of raw, classic black metal and authentic atmosphere, and that I would be thoroughly gratified by a more polished version of greater duration. Being that the purpose of British black metallers is, as we all know, to keep me contented, three years down the line I have precisely that. That “Lore of Winter – Ealdspell” builds on the promise of “The Rites of Winter” is icicle-clear, but it’s also true that it outstrips its predecessor on a number of fronts.
The album moves enticingly between three varying but coherent ‘sections’; a rather folky but sombre invocation of winter feeling, over which Raven presides as spirit animal, leading into a furious, lethal blizzard of death and despair at the centre of the piece, then out again, stepping more lightly in the paw-tracks of Wolf. The fact that I can (hopefully) share in and interpret this atmospheric journey is largely due to the pervasiveness of the mood set by the album’s opening, “The Winter Raven”. An evocative, dreamy, poignant interplay of thoughtful, clean guitar shapes, deep, calm chorals, bone-chilling, seasonal sound effects and a growling whisper, this track pushes the mind down bitter but beautiful paths. The continuation of a clean, ritualistic vocal layer onto the much harsher, spikier “On White Carrion Wings” seals the deal; the listener is invited to become lost in dark dream-spaces.
Of course, I’d feel short-changed if said listener wasn’t then shredded into little, bloody bits by a maelstrom of raw, bleak, arctic black metal hell, and being a rather obliging goatlord, Dagon provides in the form of “Frozen Veins Shed No Blood” and “Essence of Darkest Winter”. The guitar shapes on these two assaults are classic and instantly memorable (particularly that which gives “Frozen Veins” its bite), evoking black metal’s Nordic forefathers without falling into straight emulation; the song structures are carefully considered, the pacing bass is menacing and forceful, the throaty, grim vocal is strong and assured. The guitar tone here is fearsomely sharp; coupled with the insistence of the percussive programming it might be the death of some, but for me… outrageously raw is sublimely beautiful, in an inspired but hideous kind of a way.
As mentioned, “Lore of Winter” is thoughtfully structured, but concluding with “This Woman Wolf Skin Clad” works on more than one level. This is an exceptional composition, which builds and builds with patience, elegance and a huge, glacial weight of black metal atmosphere; I can’t finish a review without mentioning how much of a jaw-dropping stand-out it was for me. Shame I’ve burned through too much space to mention a wealth of other things; the lovely, bold, narrative acoustic guitar of “Cast From His Wings” (co-written with Heathen Deity colleague Azrael), the incredible additions of samples to “When Raven Claws the Sky” and “The She Wolf”, the English black metal heritage that runs through much of the guitar work, my sheer joy that atmospheric or ambient black metal can be created that’s a totally different kettle of fish to old Vikernes and his clones… but I can tell no more. You’ll have to wait until this album finds a rightful home, and trip down its coldly phantasmic paths for yourself.
By Ellen Simpson on April 12th, 2008
The Rites of Winter – The First Storm
Frostwork began under the cloak of anonymity, which was fairly cool and mysterious, until the general public started to ponder the matter, and, as founder Dagon puts it, “seemed to have opted for Dani Filth”. He describes this as “puzzling”, whereas I would be temped call it “a nightmare and an insult rolled into one”. Actually it is puzzling, because Dagon can force his voice into the sorts of uncanny and inhuman places that Britain’s metal midget hasn’t even dreamed of for the past decade. So… clean your ears out, Myspace listeners, and grow an imagination.
“The Rites of Winter” is the first outing for Frostwork, as indicated by the secondary title,”The First Storm”. Dagon’s other primary project is Heathen Deity, a rude and raw black metal act with bundles of religious hatred and plenty of inspirations from the ‘first wave’. I can understand why he wanted to separate the two in people’s minds; there isn’t a shadow of a doubt that Frostwork is black metal to its soulless core, all buzz-saw guitars, howling and growling, but at the same time the five songs on offer here present a different approach, and quite a different aura, to Dagon’s other work.
“Into the Woods” opens this demo with the sound of thunder and rain, underscored by deep, cold, acoustic guitar, and while this arrangement does not last, it hints at the more ambient approach- where ambient means that the feeling of the sound is more important than individual note structures- that is being taken here. I wouldn’t want to suggest that this is gentle and sparse, or electronic in nature- far from it. “The Rites of Winter” is noisy, and in places distractingly messy, but at the same time it means to summon a feeling as well as to present black metal songs, involving all the coldness of winter, and grimness of ice.
“Storm” is my favourite track, beginning low and clean, with a thoughtful male choir sound, before introducing the buzzing, distorted guitar as a balanced co-partner in the mix. I think this song best encapsulates the feel of the demo as a whole, and perhaps what Dagon is trying to achieve. The other tracks also contain interesting ideas, especially the epic-sounding closer, “Eyes of the Forest”. I’ve already mentioned the howling, screeching vocal performance, which suits the grim sound very well, but there are some pleasing moments in the drum department too. This catches the attention as a demo; a more fully-developed and cleanly produced album-length release would be a very welcome addition to my collection.
SEA OF TRANQUILITY WEBZINE
By Denis Brunelle on March 4th, 2009
The Rites of Winter – The First Storm
Rumors have been circulating on the web about Frost Work, and speculations were numerous as to who was behind this mysterious project. The music was already on MySpace before the identity of the solitary UK composer was revealed.
Well, the man who founded Heathen Deity in 1999 is the man to look for. Dagon took the recovery time following an accident to create music that would reflect his feelings about that kvlt season known as winter. The result: a five tracks demo of freezing and ghostly atmospheric Black Metal. The Rites of Winteris a pretty addictive album, and the demo sound fits perfectly with the coldness of the subject matter. I would not want this music to sound overproduced, thus breaking the spooky ambience. There are samplings reappearing on every track such as wolves and thunder, as well as frequent use of rain and stormy winds. The frosty tonalities of distorted tremolo picking are everywhere on the frozen scenery to accompany the sick rasps of Dagon. The pace remains moderate throughout the demo, while some calmer / hauntingly atmospheric moments are present on a few songs like: “The Storm” and “Eyes of the Forest”. The compositions show similarities without being redundant, and even if they are rather simple in structure, they are far from boring.
Five good atmospheric Black Metal tracks, making you look forward to a full freezing/ ghostly release in a near future.