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When Myth and History Merged into Mystery is Frost Giant‘s debut EP, and what an ambivalent record this is. The band lists itself as viking metal and hardcore, two genres that couldn’t seem to be further apart. And this is definitely one selling point of the album, with the band presenting a fusion of two genres that have never occurred before.
The album kicks off with My Life For Yours, with a nice melodic power metal touch but the melodic death metal influences become pretty evident as the vocals of Matt Frost comes in, along with the harmonised lead guitars and the riffing style of the triple axe attack. But the band soon goes into full on folk/power metal mode with the chorus, complete with clean and layered vocals, giving a slight operatic feel, with the melody even bringing to mind a certain Gamma Ray song, only done with a heavier folk metal emphasis. The guitarists also show off their neo-classical influences on speedy solos.
The slight hardcore influences that the band has put into the music has undoubtedly given the band a sound unlike any folk metal that I have heard before. Unfortunately there are moments where these tended to end up sounding awkward. While I have nothing in particular against the hardcore genre, there are also instances where the hardcore influence tend to end up sounding like some pop punk instead, especially songs like A Common Son and the bouncy cover of Adele‘s Someone Like You, sounding like it could come off one of those Punk Goes… compilations. Another thing that bugged me slightly as well was the production on the album, at times sounding overly sterile, especially the drums on the intro of My Life for Yours.
That said though, When Myth and History Merged into Mystery is still one hell of a catchy record, especially on the melodic segments on the album sounding like power metal with folk influences. The soothing clean vocal qualities of Matt Frost makes the listening experience all the more pleasing, though I would have liked the release more with the reduction of the -core elements.
I should start by saying that I am not a fan of chorus rich power metal. Now that we have that out of the way, Frost Giant, a band from Pennsylvania have found themselves a niche in the folk/power metal scene. Their sound is something that I have never heard before, incorporating several styles together such as hardcore punk, power metal, folk, and a touch of melodic death metal. The production is very decent for an independent band. Everything has its place and doesn't get lost in the mix, even when there are several voices doing harmonies at the same time as two guitars, bass and of the drums. If they produced this album in a home studio, kudos to them, they are on the right track to getting a professional sound.
I think the main focus of the music is in the vocals. They have several vocalists at once in many parts, doing catchy clean choruses. The harmonies they use are quite nice, don't sound out of place with the music and aren't too overwhelming which seems to be a common mistake for many bands. The guttural vocals are hardcore style, sort of clean guttural shouts, with lots of tonal variation and good placement in the rhythms. The guitars create a nice melodic environment, and have some decent punch to them giving the album a good meaty tone where it needs it. They do end up sounding muddy in some parts and get a bit lost in the mix. The bass is right there all the time, although I think the tone is a bit flat and could use some more tweaking to make it sound heavier. I like how the guitars and bass come together in harmonies in several moments, most notably in parts like minute 1:00 of Heathen's Lament. The drums are programmed, but not real obviously. Some of the cymbals sound a bit funny when they are used in succession. The overall sound of the drum kit is not bad, but I think the kick drum is lacking attack. It gets a bit lost in the mix and loses definition in fast parts.
'When Myth and History Merged Into Mystery' is an album that is definitely worth checking out, even if you aren't a fan of the genre, because Frost Giant is making good music and obviously putting a lot a effort into their production. The overall sound is clean but heavy, catchy but not poppy, and pleasantly vigorous. I would like to hear material from Frost Giant in the future, as they seem to have found their sound and are well on their way to becoming a force to be reckoned with.
P.S. I failed to mention that the album name is clever :)
Frost Giant put together an interesting and unique blend of styles that were prominent in the early-mid 2000s yet somehow weren't beaten to death hard enough to prevent a band from coming up with a good blend of them. Any comparisons that follow come with the caveat that it's not just a lame clone of those bands as so many are, rather I'm using them for reference in a positive way.
The style is a mix of the melodic hardcore side of early metalcore - simple and catchy guitar parts, energetic songs with fast d-beats, and shouted vocals mixed with gang vocals, except rather than hardcore gang vocals, there are harmonized sung choruses that utilize the rhythmic and melodic styles commonly found in European folk music that gets mixed with metal. Thankfully, there are no gimmicks to the folk side, no bagpipes, accordions, or costumed dancers, just some nice harmonized vocal parts. There don't need to be any gimmicks, because there are actually guitar riffs.
The vocals take the lead most of the time, but the guitars lead more towards being an active supporting cast that can take the lead at times, like on Fates Warning's early stuff, rather than being stagnant boring chugging that could occasionally burst into a harmonized lead, like Ensiferum or one of the dozens of forgettable bands that all produce the same crap. Enough complaining about that stuff, if Frost Giant produced crappy folk metal that sounded like Ensiferum, this review would look like my recent review of their fellow Pennsylvanian's Lör with words like "disjointed" replaced with "stagnant". Frost Giant are none of those, except Pennsylvanian.
The vocals are a bit inconsistent - the variety is welcome in that it prevents the music from being stagnant and makes up a lot of the character of the band. They vary from huge, sung choruses that sound like a band of vikings all singing while playing, to a smoothed-out hardcore shout like Ray from Full Blown Chaos, but less percussive. FG and FBC both have fat, bald, bearded hardcore shouters with lots of tattoos fronting the bands, and both of them are pretty damn good so it's a valid comparison even if this guy is much more dynamic. The vocals also sound a bit spoken at times, specifically in the introduction to one song where a nice harmony isn't emphasized and over-pronounced like many great vocalists take the liberty to do.
The style isn't easy to pigeonhole, but it's possible to describe via a series of references to bands that you have probably heard of. The folk influence seems to primarily come from how it appears in metal, and it is almost exclusively heard in the vocal arrangements - harmonies and rhythms. The music is a mix of melodic death/power metal - think of Children of Bodom circa "Follow the Reaper", with less lead guitar work like the earlier stuff and none of the boring chugging/groove stuff that became prominent later. The hardcore essence is something like the melodic hardcore style of AFI in 1999 but happy instead of gloomy, but really not like the band before or after that. The upbeat and powerful style also reminds me of the DC hardcore band Battery. The feeling that folk metal choruses are replacing gang shouts in old school hardcore describes it pretty well, and that is awesome.
The production is clean, the vocals are sharp and precise, but don't feel excessively polished. The guitar tone has bite, and it fits in the mix quite well. The drums sound mechanical, at times the cymbals stand out and I'm pretty sure it's a drum machine, although the band apparently has a real drummer. Regardless of that, at times it sounds like some of the drums are recorded with microphones that have the dynamic range of a light switch. They don't stand out too much, and other than a few moments, they're solid.
There's a cover of a contemporary pop song, but I'm not going to go into much detail because I just wrote a bunch of words talking about how this band is different from Children of Bodom. It sounds like heavily produced pop punk played by an extreme flower metal band, the band does little to adapt it to their style, and the singer finally finds something that he doesn't do well. Since I'm pretending this doesn't exist, this EP is awesome all around.
Frost Giant put together a surprisingly strong blend of styles that have otherwise been worn out in recent memory. Creative arrangements and writing highlight a very good band and a versatile vocalist, perhaps exemplified by how they polish some old school metalcore and replace gang shouts with folk metal vocal harmonies and breakdowns with melodic death/power metal. Perhaps the length of the EP format serves them well, because the four songs offer enough variety to be refreshing, but not enough to be wandering or misdirected. Highly recommended if you enjoyed listening to music between 2000 and 2005.