What’re your thoughts on post-black metal? If you’re like me, you’re probably not crazy about the genre. But like all types of metal, metalcore included, there’s a wealth of treasures to be found if you’re willing to dig through several layers of topsoil to find them. Frostreich are one such treasure. Earlier this year, all the way back in February I believe, I was skimming through some black metal Facebook pages and saw the album art for their third album, Join the Wind. I checked it out, and was greeted by one of the year’s best releases – an impressive accomplishment, considering Frostreich is a one-man operation.
One of the things I love about Frostreich is how structurally different they are from most post-black bands.While they’re still masters at conjuring enrapturing atmospheres, their music is much more active than your typical Alcest or Deafhaven clone. The album kicks off with a delightfully 90s sounding black metal guitar tone: tinny, buzzing, and comfortingly familiar. After a couple seconds, they shake things up by introducing a decidedly cleaner guitar tone alongside it. I find that this is a very good representation of the album as a whole: a healthy balance of old and new. There’s lots of modern ideas on display here, but just as many nods to the classics of yesteryear as well.
It’s a joy to listen to the band’s guitar theatrics, as they switch from riffs to tremolos with such grace and ease that I can’t help but feel impressed and maybe even a little jealous. It’s quit clear that Wynthar knows what he’s doing when it comes to his axework. He’s obviously studied The Big Book of Norwegian Riffs, but he’s brought more than enough of his own personality to the music as well, and it’s a very charming mix. “The Ever Giver” features ascending riffs that move further and further up the fretboard as the song reaches its conclusion, which involves the final riff giving way to the beeping of a dialysis machine, and it’s one of the most effective pieces of music I’ve heard all year. On the album’s title track, we’re even introduced to some gorgeous clean guitar playing, and it makes for an album highlight.
But the real showstopper comes in the form of the mid-album instrumental, “Spirit of the Lake.” It’s a mostly-ambient track that’s as soulful and beautiful as it is hauntingly serene. Halfway through, the guitar and bass pick back up to turn the track into one of my favourite instrumentals of all time. You simply feel every note, and while your head will certainly be banging, you might just find yourself a little misty-eyed at the same time.
Vocally, Wynthar is a monster. He howls, barks and screams like the best of them, and even breaks out his clean singing voice from time to time. He’s a big part of the pathos that runs through the music, and he has the gravitas needed to make this kind of emotional music work. He’s got some great pipes on him, and he sure as hell knows how to use em.
At 35 minutes, this album is best friends with the replay button. It’s easy to get lost in, even easier to enjoy, and an extremely cathartic experience. Three albums into his career, Wynthar has become one of my “must-watch” musicians, as everything he’s ever touched has been pure gold. Sometimes, low-profile releases miss out on year-end lists because they were released so early in the year, and are unjustly forgotten. Not Frostreich. Join the Wind has been on my mind since I first heard it, and it’ll take some serious world-ending paradigm shifts to bump it off my list. It’s a masterclass in how to create engaging post black metal without sacrificing atmospherics, and it’s a damn good addition to anyone’s collection of blackened gems.
You can find Join the Wind on Frostreich’s Bandcamp page.