Approaching a review for a new Frost* album is incredibly daunting. These are the guys that released what I consider a modern prog classic in “Milliontown”, an album that may possibly have changed progressive music for the new generation. This is the band that we have been waiting to hear from for so long now: It’s been eight years since their last album! This is the band that became a progressive giant in just one album. So, what can be said about their new album “Falling Satellites”?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: This album should not be compared with “Milliontown”, or even “Experiments in Mass Appeal”. All three albums are very different in approach, though “Falling Satellites” does seem to fall somewhere between the other two. This new album will also never be lauded as much as the debut, and that’s perfectly fine. “Falling Satellites”, a quite different album, stands on its own with a deliberate attempt to reinvent prog once again.
The old line-up is halfway back, as Jem Godfrey (keys, vocals) and John Mitchell (guitars, vocals) are back and honestly sound better than ever. Newcomers Nathan King (bass) and Craig Blundell (drums) complete the band this time, forming what might be the best line-up of the three albums. Honestly, these guys have been working together since 2010, so the line-up isn’t exactly new.
Let’s talk about the album before we go into the performances. “Falling Satellites” is Frost*’s most pop-influenced album, without a doubt. Tackling the heavy concept of the astounding impossibility of our existence and the resulting lessons that should be learned, the album addresses life with upbeat music that get progressively more serene with each track. So, if you are looking for some sort of retro prog or maybe a heavier sound, they went in exactly the opposite direction. Unswayed by the modern trends in progressive rock, Frost* have released an album that celebrates the missing progressive pop subgenre with sounds ranging from subtle to sweeping to dubstep. Yes, dubstep (more on that in a bit). This is an album that might shock the prog snob in all of us, as it presents us with razor sharp vocal hooks, upbeat melodies, and some songs that might not be progressive at all. Yet, it also offers incredibly technical grooves, layers and layers of gorgeous sounds, progressive structures, and, of course, some of the best soloing you will ever hear on any album.
The album has a little bit for everyone. Bookended by an ethereal intro and outro, the album truly begins with “Numbers”, a song that could have been on “Experiments”, which means it’s fast-paced and catchy as hell. Other similar songs are “Lights Out” (a pop song through and through), and the incredible track “Heartstrings”. Other songs lean towards “Milliontown”, such as the big build of “Signs”, the subtle “Closer to the Sun”, or the complex labyrinth of “Nice Day for It”. The album seems a bit all over the place at first, but comes together when you realize that the last six songs on the album are a suite called “Sunlight”. In fact, you’ll hear the basic melodies of “Heartstrings” reoccur in “Nice Day for It”. Once you understand the structure of the album, it really starts to makes sense, especially as the last half of the album surges and then hits a cooldown for the last two tracks.
Perhaps my favorite track on the album, however, is “Towerblock”. I like it so much that I want to devote a paragraph to it. This track has achieved what bands likes Muse could not do: They have incorporated dubstep into a progressive album seamlessly. “Towerblock” is a song of explosive vocals, winding instrumentals, and a dubstep section that feels right at home. I especially love the way Jem’s keyboards break forward from the last dubstep beat. “Falling Satellites” is full of sublime moments like that.
I guess it’s time to talk about the performances now. Jem and John are obviously the focus here. Jem’s keys are inimitable, winding and streaming with a consciousness of their own. Every time his keys sweep in, my heart races just a little more quickly, and his mastery of new instruments like The Chapman Railboard (played horizontally) is all the more impressive. John, too, is at the top of his game. After Lonely Robot’s offering last year, I was more excited to hear him play again, and he does not disappoint. His guitar solos strike that emotionally perfect first note that few guitarists can achieve. Nathan and Craig, however, may be the unsung heroes of the album. Nathan’s bass is exceedingly important here, establishing the grooves around which the keys and guitars orbit. Craig, a proven talent on the drums, lays down deceptively simple beats that you will find yourself trying to follow, but then you’ll realize that they are way more complicated than you thought.
That kind of subtle complexity is a huge part of “Falling Satellites”. Some will hear this album and proclaim it as a pop. They’d be wrong, of course. Yes, there is pop influence here that is undeniable (and I love it), but there is also an underlying technicality here that will blow your mind if you give it a chance, especially the second half. In many ways, Frost* has once again redefined what we understand to be progressive music, and they’ve done it with gusto and pomp and a smile on their faces.