North Dakotan melodic black/death and thrash metallers Frosthelm have finally unveiled their tremendously awesome debut, The Endless Winter and I thought I’d ask them a series of endless and rather frosty questions about it, to which Dakota Irwin (Guitars) was more than happy to oblige. I asked him about the early days, as well as his influences and favorite albums (to which he greatly detailed) as well as his thoughts on the process of full body transplants.
First of all, tell me a little about how you guys got together. What was the goal for Frosthelm when you started and do you think you’ve achieved it with The Endless Winter?
We started playing together in the summer of ‘09 from the putrid remains of a band that James and Bernard were in called Serviam. I was invited to play the guitar and it was immediately clear that a whole new direction and sound was on the dead horizon. The only goal we had was to play some shows and maybe record some tunes. We eventually did just that and then some. The only true achievement for me with The Endless Winter was just to get it finished. I’m always thinking about the future and I am ready to move on.
There are definitely a lot of influences from bands like Dissection and Skeletonwitch to be heard here, as well as many others. Tell me a little about the bands that helped to inspire you.
Dissection is a huge influence on me. The melodies, songwriting and talent of that band makes up exactly the kind of metal that I want to hear. I learned how to riff from bands like Slayer and Metallica and their early records taught me an appreciation for speed. I know the other guys are really into bands like Morbid Angel, Death, Immolation and Deathspell Omega just to name a few.
Now that we’ve covered influences, what are the top five records that you think would be most influential to Frosthelm and why? What makes each one significant to the band’s sound and your playing style in general?
Metallica’s Master of Puppets is the record that made me want to pick up an electric guitar in the first place. I had never heard anything like that before. I used to sit in my room all day with my tape player and my tab book and try to figure out how to make the sounds I was hearing. My favorite track is “Disposable Heroes.”
Hell Awaits by Slayer is another early influence on me. This album had all kinds of cool riffs and evil lyrics, and a bad ass cover. The dark sounding guitar harmonies are especially killer. My pick from this one would be “At Dawn They Sleep.”
Dissection’s The Somberlain is probably the biggest single influence on Frosthelm right now. As I mentioned before, the melodies and songwriting are fierce. The dynamic between all the different parts seem so perfect and well thought out. It inspires me to be the best song writer I can be. My pick is “Frozen.”
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, by Mayhem, is another personal of favorite of mine for the raw guitar sound and riffs. The melodies, to me, seem to invoke a darker, more sinister tone than a band like Dissection. I’m torn between “Pagan Fears” and “Buried by Time and Dust.”
Immortal’s Pure Holocaust is a headbanger from beginning to end and is a great blend of melody, darkness, and raw power. The songs are all right to the point and the chord choices and double kick tone really stand out to me. My favorite song on this record is “The Sun No Longer Rises.”
How long did it take to write and record The Endless Winter? Where did you record it and what was it like being in the studio for the first time? Are there any things on the album that you feel needed more work?
Initially the first demos were done in ‘11 and we were already playing some of the material that would make up The Endless Winter before we even released our first EP, The Northwinds Rend Flesh, in ‘12. We actually recorded all of the drum and guitar parts in June of ‘13, but I was unsatisfied with the quality of the recording and of the songs themselves. So we scrapped it. I then took some time to rewrite eight of the nine tracks that made it onto The Endless Winter. Some of the original demos sound nothing like what ended up on the record. Being in the studio for me was a blur. We had a once in a lifetime opportunity and we did our best to utilize our time wisely. After we ironed out a few minor setbacks on the first day, everything rolled pretty smoothly. Eric and Alec over at Clear Lake Recording Studios in LA and Robert at Mekoche in Bismark were total rad dudes and made us feel very comfortable. We learned a lot about the recording process and got a decent education. I think the record speaks for itself and gets the point across. However, I firmly believe there is always room for improvement; you just have to learn when enough is enough.
Lyrically there are several different topics on the record, and to some they might seem to erect a storyline of sorts. But is there anything on the album that you’d consider really personal, just disguised under a sort of veil? Also, what inspires your lyrics?
In the past, we intertwined fantasy-based lyrics with metaphors hinting at reality. This time around, a lot of it can be taken for face value. I would write a song and then explain what it was about, and the lyrics would be written to it. Sometimes the words would inspire the music. All the lyrics are very personal, and are a direct result of some of the experiences we’ve had over the last two years. Some of the topics include personal darkness, disgust, loss, mistrust, and anger – all set to the tone of a cold and unforgiving North Dakota winter.
Now that the record has released, are you going to go on tour for it, or just play a couple of shows? If so, where can we see you guys live?
We have a tour coming up in May to promote The Endless Winter. You can check out facebook.com/frosthelm for the details.
What do you guys do when you’re not playing music? What kind of hobbies do you have and what would you recommend to readers?
The usual nerdy shit like video games, movies and comic books. I also like to hunt and fish. There is a book series by Harry Turtledove called Worldwar that I would recommend, especially for the reader that’s looking for something a bit different. It’s an alternative history about a full-scale alien invasion during World War II.
I just read an article about full-body transplants. I know this is a little weird, but what are your thoughts on it? I mean, being able to have brain removed and put into a younger, healthier body sounds interesting, except for the fact that you’ll have a bunch of old brains in new bodies and that’s going to be awkward.
It sounds very interesting. Personally, I wouldn’t want another body. I’m pretty comfortable with mine. I guess this would also open the door to some kind of immortality, which I have no interest in. If one lives forever, than why live at all?
Let’s talk about the awesome album art. Who designed the cover for this piece? It looks like some sort of frozen Lovecraftian monstrosity.
The cover was drawn by Raymond Swanland, who is an incredibly talented artist. We had the idea for a living blizzard, and he took that idea and totally blew us away.
Finally, where did you come up with the name Frosthelm?
A roll of the 12 sided dice.
Thanks for making an ABSOLUTELY KILLER record and I hope to hear more from you guys soon. Also thanks for answering my questions.