Frost apparently started in 2004, by frontman Jem Godfrey (singer, songwriter and producer) his former works/collaborations includes pop stars Ronan Keating and Atomic Kitten (not a very good recommendation for this reviewer and I guess our readers), but he has always had a soft spot for progressive rock, therefore he joined forces with Urbane/Arena/Kino-guitarist and singer John Mitchell, IQ members John Jowitt & Andy Edwards, plus studio musician John Boyes. So this, their debut album (release date: 24 July) reached my mailbox 2 days ago. And it’s quite a mixed bag of tricks, from thundering power themes to smooth and delicious ballads.
“Hyperventilate” 1st track, starts out with a nice piano and (Asian type) flute, very nice, but the quietness is soon to be broken by a (b theme) with powerful guitars and breakneck time signatures, which eventually weaves in and out, a nice track with superb guitars and all-round fine musicianship.
“No Me No You” with an intro of multiple voices speaking, this song rolls into a tight-fisted tune not unlike a track from an Urbane album. Nice theme and fine vocals. Godfrey´s keyboard work is superb.
“Snowman” shortest track on the album (3:55) a brilliant ballad (in the Chroma Key vein)...great stuff, an ear hanger after several listenings.
“The Other Me” a driving tune with the main theme as tight as a Kings X power song, interesting production.
“Black Light Machine” Yet another fine theme, filled with excellent guitaring, including space-echo-soloing. With a build in (mid ways) relaxed theme before they all let loose and strut their stuff, superb track!
“Milliontown” title track, final track and the longest of the lot (26:35) ...with a superb slow build up, great vocals and nice piano work (again) then the towering full force of the band comes crashing in, great stuff. They even leave space for a brilliant mid theme, which in turn has powerful thematic twist and turns. This track holds all that you could ever wish for. Yep it’s all here: soothing vocals, fine keyboards, thundering drums, excellent guitars, superb bass runs and some quite brilliant arrangements and composing.
This great epic ends with Godfrey´s display of great piano. This track is my favorite track!
So, what’s the verdict? Well, at first listening I thought, “So, what else is new?” but after several listenings this album grew on me, and I must say that this band, when they find their musical genre (which way to turn?) For as earlier mentioned, it’s a mixed bag of styles. But once they steer clear through and find what they are looking for, in terms of prog style, count me in as a believer.
I think they can become one of the top progressive bands! Next album will tell! I for one, would love to hear them play this album live!
(All Album Reviews by Epilepticgibbon)
Classy, polished (perhaps too polished for some) UK prog from songwriter, musician and producer Jem Godfrey. In 2006 Godfrey became one of the most famous and controversial figures within prog rock circles. He’s shown himself in a short space of time to be a very opinionated and dynamic individual, and many of his outbursts and decisions have offended certain quarters of the prog community, but nevertheless many within that community have also come out and applauded the quality of this debut album by Frost*.
This is basically a vehicle for Godfrey’s prog songwriting ideas and the band consists (or at least it did on this debut album... I’m not sure what the current line-up is) of him (vocals & keyboards) and an all-star cast of British neo-proggers, including John Mitchell (guitars & vocals) of The Urbane, Kino, Arena and now It Bites, and John Jowitt (bass guitar) & Andy Edwards (drums) of IQ.
The controversy pretty much started as soon as some people heard the album and heard about Godfrey’s past – he’s better known to most people as a writer of mainstream pop songs for the likes of Atomic Kitten and Holly Valliance, and clearly he was very good at it, though apparently after five years of writing songs with three chords and lame lyrics he wanted to return to something a little more challenging. I say return because Godfrey had been a member of a neo-prog rock group called Freefall at one stage (no, I’d not heard of them either) and he saw the Frost* project as a way of returning to a more adventurous world of music.
Many fans saw Godfrey’s commercial past as a bad sign and also took exception to the way he claimed he wanted to bring better production values, a more modern sound and greater professionalism to the world of prog.
Given his past and the opinions he’s offered in interviews, it’s perhaps not surprising to find that Milliontown is a slickly produced six-track exploration of the worlds of pop, heavy rock, and modern prog rock. Putting it into a little stylistic box is tricky – its very modern sounding (partly because of all that rather glossy production) so at times (and only at times!) it sounds more like something by the Backstreet Boys than classic Genesis or Yes. But then the Backstreet Boys would never attempt tracks that last over 26 minutes, or let’s pray they wouldn’t anyway! The end result is a bunch of tracks that tend to show influences from the best of modern-inspired prog rock – if you appreciate the likes of Kino, Spock’s Beard and Chroma Key, for example, then this is probably for you.
The production values are superb (though won’t be to everyone’s tastes) and this helps to emphasise how good all the instrumentation sounds. Because this is, in effect, a prog super group (yes, yet another one!) the musicianship is, not surprisingly, first class, with Godfrey himself displaying his keyboard expertise throughout the album, whilst the compositions and arrangements are up to the high standards that Godfrey is no doubt used to in the pop world. The vocals are good too, though some people might find the layers of effects somewhat off-putting.
The songwriting itself is excellent and surprisingly diverse, ranging from the shortest track “Snowman”, an impressive and appropriately chilly ballad with much of a Chroma Key sound about it, through to the longest, the 26 minute title track which makes for an imperfect but nevertheless superb epic. With the title track a little bit of everything has been thrown in and it works very effectively... perhaps it doesn’t need to be quite as long as it is, but unlike many recent attempts at truly epic prog rock tracks, it never outstays its welcome.
In addition there’s the opener, “Hyperventilate”, an excellent instrumental that provides a dazzling run through an assortment of prog rock styles and sounds, and seems to me like a cross between Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater and Kino. It’s the kind of opener that could leave you breathless.
“No Me No You” has an interesting start to it (a mass of sampled voices) before launching into arguably the heaviest track on the album. It’s certainly got a lot going for it, including a chugging prog metal riff near the start, and a tinkling piano break half-way through and at the end, though it’s probably my least favourite track on the album (more an indication of the overall quality of the album than anything).
“The Other Me” perhaps comes closest to sounding like one of Godfrey’s chart hits. It’s incredibly catchy, but there’s still enough for prog fans to appreciate – an acceptable cross between power pop and modern prog rock, methinks.
Perhaps the standout track though is “Black Light Machine”. It’s just as catchy as “The Other Me”, but at ten minutes there’s much more room to develop the prog rock elements, including some particularly fine guitar work from Mr. Mitchell, and it’s rather appropriate that he has the opportunity to shine here given that this track perhaps displays the strongest It Bites influence (Godfrey is a big It Bites fan and he’ll no doubt love the new Mitchell version of the band).
In final analysis, it’s easy to see why some prog fans have taken a dislike to this album: the opinionated group leader, the polished sound, the strong trends towards melody and even, dare I say it, modern pop music. But if you like modern-sounding melodic prog with a mixture of pop, symphonic and prog metal influences then there’s little out there that sounds as good as this. I would definitely recommend this album to fans of Kino, Spock’s Beard and It Bites, and even fans with broader prog tastes will probably find something to tickle their fancy. The future of Frost* may be in doubt, but if a second album does ever emerge then I’ll definitely want to hear it.
Best tracks: “Hyperventilate”, “Snowman”, “The Other Me”, “Black Light Machine”, “Milliontown”.