As I received this promo back in 2015, it had gotten dumped because there was no way at that point that I could review any more 2015 releases. These things happen, but due to his work being on a Groupees bundle, Russian multi-instrumentalist and project mastermind Vaarwel asked me to try to dig it out from the dump and review it. (He also requested Wormed, so that is featured this week as well.) So I have done that, and might I say, it’s a good thing that I did. The artist’s first release with Apocalyptic Witchcraft, this physical only release seems to combine his love of traditional melodic black metal with that of his more electronic and keyboard influenced work. But let’s be honest, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Let’s take a trip through each of these four pieces, starting with the opener, “No Blizzard.” We’re greeted by familiar tremolos, which certainly verge on the icy and feel worthy of the name Frozen Ocean. Vaarwel’s gruff vocal approach comes in, sounding closer to death metal than black metal, but it fits the tone of the music perfectly and brings about a sense of sorrow that is even greater accentuated by the keyboard generated icicles. I like that it enters a jaunty little electronic section, which I found awesome. The next track, “Once Aglow” jumps right into sorrow, where I often find my muse in Torii. I’m reminded of Agalloch or Woods Of Ypres in the piece, which really seems to pile on the despair and makes me smile with glee. The vocal approach is still quite gruff, but it fits so well with the music here that I’m quite satisfied. There’s a certain sadness here that the listener can feel and will appreciate. That being said, there’s a great deal of black metal spirit here as well. It’s not funerary black metal in the howls and nonsense, but it feels a bit more matured and natural. I can sense the depression, it doesn’t feel like a joke.
Then we have “Det Siste Snofallet” which is an instrumental, but such a powerful piece that vocals were forming in my head just listening to it. As I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time, that just happens sometimes. I guess it’s easy to say that the piece spoke to me. It definitely pays a sort of tribute to the Norwegian scene, with a nearly mantric tremolo that I can’t get out of my head and have a million things to bellow forth as I listen. I’ve listened to this piece at least three times so far and it’s definitely my favorite on a short disc with so many strong numbers. I only find myself a bit confused as to why there weren’t any vocals, especially when they’d have had such a presence here. After that impressive piece, we have the finale in the album’s title track. Carrying on much of the same feel as the rest of the disc, it’s great to hear some vocal element fronting the tremolos again. Vaarwel knows his way around a melody, as is not only demonstrated by the composition (these are excellent) but also the vocal flow. Once again, this feels more like a funereal sort of death metal with black metal influence, but I’ll most certainly allow that, just as much as I’ll allow the laser lights that pop in so unexpectedly. If anyone can make a form of extreme metal that you can actually dance to a little bit, it’s this guy.
The record could be a bit longer I feel, but I’m most certainly not upset with it. It feels like a good appetizer for what will be an even larger offering next time around. If you’re a fan of depressingly melodic stuff that you can sometimes dance to, please give this one a listen. Frozen Ocean is a real trailblazer in the scene, trying out new things that most people would never think to do for some ridiculous reasons mostly harboring in the realm of elitism. It is 2016 and evolution needs to occur in heavy metal music, which is what acts like Frozen Ocean are certainly attempting with efforts like this one. Though it is just an EP, it is definitely worth a listen and I mean that. As I said, it inspired me and I didn’t even see that coming!
(4 Tracks, 24:00)