After thawing out this frosty package that had arrived from some arctic plateau (actuallyMoscow) three discs tumbled out all by Frozen Ocean. I was not sure what to expect from this cold and wet sounding artist but noted that one logo said it was designed by Horth so I guessed I has some sort of dark ambient release as I associate his name with Karna who I recently covered. Well I was both right and wrong as it turned out. Frozen Ocean is the work of Vaarwel who handles all instrumentation and vocals. I had thought that these albums were probably his complete output and expected to really only cover the most recent but looking into things discovered that all three of these were released in 2011 on different labels along with one other album, an EP and a split with Divinum Opus Sedare Dolorem. The good thing about these is that they are all different so I did not have a task in ploughing through loads of material that all sounded the same but three albums all with their own distinct personalities. The reviews handle them in chronological order.
Vestigial Existence (Deleting Soul Records)
The cold, stark grey cover and track titles here give you a feeling of what to expect musically as they exude an air of depressiveness. A ghostly fog bound air perpetuates as we ebb into ‘In Derelict’ etched on a canvas of quiet and atmospheric tones in the distance. Things open up with ‘Winter – Aelean Being’ as a guitar cuts in and we build up into some melodic and moribund sounding blackened doom with wild cadaverous yells from the vocal department. Bridging gaps and stating that this should go down well with people into Xasthur, Forgotten Tomb, Silencer etc gives you a rough indication but this is very much a sound in its own right. Melody even if it is of a dismal flow is at the forefront here. ‘Mute Walls’ has a very odd one too and it is augmented by what sounds to me as some sort of woodwind or pipe instrumentation alongside the guitar clamours. Whatever it is it gives the music an ethnic and medieval flavour to it. Electronic effects are the next unexpected part on ‘Lurker’ and you never know quite where the music is going to take you next and combined with the wretched vocal shrieks this is another slightly unorthodox approach. The jaunty bounce is gone back into a fugue of neo classicist strains for ‘Steps Above The Silence’ an emotional wrist slitter with grief stricken vocal roars and moribund musicianship. Add to this some clean vocal chants and it is another number with plenty going on in it. Everything gels and holds together neatly and other instruments are added at times and leave you wondering just what they are, it could be a mandolin on ‘Human Magnet’ and some strings as well, at least you know exactly where you are when the full throated voice roars in. Dreamily leaving us with ‘Pyrewards’ this proves an intriguing introduction into Frozen Ocean but it gave little indication of what was to come next.
Oneiric In Geocentricism (Nihil Art Records)
Here we have one of the most colourful covers seen since Anathema classic ‘A Natural Disaster.’ It’s a complete contrast from the other two albums here as it is musically. We have six tracks which run at 67 minutes and are dark ambient with no vocals. This is mood music, and it totally immerses you in its world if you are willing to allow it to. The track titles are as thought provoking and descriptive as your imagination allows and if you are on the same wavelength (this is not for all) you should be able to tune into it and hit the required frequency. The lulling and soothing strains of ‘The Striding Watchtower’ does not so much build as ebb and flow. There are distinct far away crashes in the background, something is there but is it getting closer and is it something you need to be concerned about? It is left to soothing synth waves to fill the rest of this ten minute canvas. Patterns change as we reach ‘A Chink In Coelosphere’ it is louder and closer now. Things pulsate ethereally in an astral fashion one imagines a radar dish looking for signs of life in space as is portrayed on the back sleeve of the disc. Is anything out there? Yes, this is the first encounter perhaps as the transmission is finally being received. There are voices in this message perhaps but they are not possible to decipher or even conceive, this is alien, or maybe the sound of angels? It is beautiful and sinister, it is everywhere and nowhere.
Unlike its famous namesake don’t expect ‘Levitation’ to suddenly fly in as a huge anthem. This is more likely to have you levitating as astral projection especially if you have by now entered that transient realm bridging sleep and wakefulness. There is not a huge change although it is again a bit quieter than before, just relax and go with the flow. There is a noise you can just about make out in the background, it sounds like the distant cry of a bird, it could be some higher form of speech. It gets beneath the skin and you cannot ignore it. Things liven up considerably by the fifth segment ‘Brooks Run To The Comet Lake’ nudging you out of your slumber a bit. The ambience is louder and if you have turned the speakers up they should be reverberating a bit as the bass atonal parts are reached. There is an almost neo-classical feel to things here too and there is a somewhat sorrowful feel to things here. Finally we are at the ‘Fog Delivery Hub’ a place which oozes intrigue from the title. There is a clanking of machinery here, no doubt the hub. It may have been abandoned but nobody remembered to turn it off (or nobody had time) who knows what mysteries are to be uncovered here. This could be the sound to accompany some urban exploring; it could be the sound of a long lost civilisation, perhaps on another world. That is down to how you interpret things, there are probably no right or wrong answers but it sounds like this machinery will never wind down. Of course the CD has to finish so it does for the listener.
Likegyldig Raseri (Suffering Jesus Productions)
We are back to the black for this album but not in the same way as Vestigial Existence. This is a short album weighing in at just under the 30 minute mark and quite a bit of it is instrumental. Things are divided into 13 tracks all listed by the album name in parts and as we get into the second, which starts the album properly after a mournful intro its direction is clearer. Riffs are repetitive and bouncy, this is dirty sounding Nosrke Svart Punk for want of a better term. It has a sheen to it but is nicely overridden by a thick coating of crust and it is the sort of sound that deserves getting drunk to and lurching around. As the vocals kick in on the third part this has the blackness prevailing again and they are as wretched and retching as we heard previously but go equally as well with the solid monotone riffs and unchanging drum attack battering. This almost has a Finnish kind of sound to it. Things are not complex in the slightest but then again that is part of the appeal. After mucking about with online translators I see the title of the album is Norwegian and translates to ‘Indifferent Rage’, yep that makes some sense, the rage is obvious and the indifference is in the nonchalant ‘fuck you attitude this is played in. Tracks do change pace going from ponderous and doom laden to fierce and feral with the strumming guitar attack biting in hard. This is no one dimensional listen despite its overall rawness of the delivery. None of the individual tracks last over the 3 minute mark so this kicks you up the arse, gets what it intends across and fucks off. It’s not the most enjoyable of the three discs but then again it is no doubt not meant to be and it shows yet another side of this multi-faceted artist
So an interesting dip into things all round here and it is very unlikely that this is the last I will be hearing fromFrozenOcean(indeed I certainly hope not) as his website hints at plenty more to come. Also Frozen Ocean have kindly made available all these albums along with others to listen to at the Soundcloud link below. Go check it all out.