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A well kept secret out of Sweden - 88%

MacMoney, December 27th, 2010

Before Matthias IA Eklundh started out his own band Freak Kitchen, before he filled in on the guitarist/songwriter spot in the post-Mercyful Fate band Fate, there was Frozen Eyes. Due to a label-related ripoff, the band was only able to record one album and even that one was largely forgotten, once again because of problems with Bums Records. It is a shame because the band's self-titled album is an excellent slab of surprisingly varied metal.

Those familiar with IA Eklundh's later work will recognize some aspects of the album, but are in for a surprise as well. While it does have some songs that are very much straddling the line between 80s metal and rock, there are also a handful of flat out speed metal numbers and even a few thrash riffs make an appearance. Frozen Eyes, Icebound and The Club are these speedier songs, featuring some rather fancy and even aggressive playing from Eklundh. The guitar sound isn't the best for the fastest thrash riffs, but the band manages to sound extremely frantic when they want to and there's a real feel of intensity when they go at it. Eklundh is known for the short leads and little fills that he uses to spice up his playing, even the riffs used for regular sections. Bassist Leif Larsson plays well together with him, with his Geezer-styled wanderings around when Eklundh is sticking to the riff yet always returning to the rhythm when the guitar is about to leave for a little extraneous fill. Another thing that spices up the three speed metal songs is the melancholy that permeates them. It is not always present - notably in the two and a half minute thrash-interlude in the finisher, The Club - but brings a very interesting flair to the songs.

The more traditional and rockish songs, Lipstick Boogie and Lorraine Cocaine, sound a lot more like what Eklundh became known for afterwards. They feature his kind of satirical lyrics as well as the style that balances between metal and contemporary rock. Lorraine Cocaine has a very groovy, bluesy riff that really keeps one's head nodding and Lipstick Boogie has its own, more 80s rock-styled catchiness to it, but both songs end up rather pedestrian in comparison to the other material. The choruses contain awkward vocal lines, there are extended solo sections in addition to the intricate guitar melodies in the choruses and they just aren't that distinct.

Where Frozen Eyes really shines is the epic style that they showcase on two songs, The Dolls of Suc(k)cess (IA Eklundh's distinct style of humor) and The Winter's Gate. The former is pretty much just built on verse-bridge-chorus, yet with the way these parts are constructed the riffs are never played the same way by the guitar or the bass. There's always something new to hear, even after numerous listens. A little twiddle that Eklundh adds or Larsson going on a little journey on a higher string or a sudden shift in note for a couple of bars and then right back. While Sjöberg varies his beats a lot, the tempo doesn't change yet there's a clear tension and power that just keeps building when the song advances. Every time the song reaches the chorus, there's a release of enormous proportions. It is almost doomy in a way: The band must've been listening to Candlemass. The Winter's Gate is a more varied song with its influences. A lot of tempo changes, a much larger speed metal influence, more Walls of Jericho as well as Maninnya Blade. It doesn't quite reach the majestic proportions of The Dolls of Suc(k)cess, but it doesn't lose by much.

Like all classic traditional bands, Frozen Eyes also have a vocalist with a distinct voice. Aulis Hultin's vocals might take some getting used to for unaccustomed ears. His voice is rather wide, going from a semi-rough rock sound to a semi-operatic sound, but never really reaching either and at times even sounds like he is just speaking on the microphone. An odd choice for the band, but it does work in their context. It's not like their sound is the most orthodox or traditional anyway. Especially Eklundh's guitaring is extremely distinctive. It is just too bad that the band got shafted and never got to write a follow-up. Eklundh's work with Freak Kitchen just doesn't really compare.