FROST* - Falling Satellites
Eight years after their second album, British progressive rock band Frost* are finally back with their third album Falling Satellites. Thatís usually long enough to be forgotten, but I guess that the involved musicians were definitely not idle in between those long years. Band founder and keyboard player Jem Godfrey for instance started in a lesser known neo prog band before he became a hit song writer, for instance for Atomic Kitten whose platinum selling single Whole Again was co-written by him. Last year he also worked with Take That frontman Gary Barlow. Yet his passion still lies within the progressive rock genre. The other band members are also quite well known. Vocalist/guitarist John Mitchell has been involved with Arena, Kino and It Bites. Nathan King is the little brother of Level 42 bass icon Mark King, and while Nathan usually plays the guitar in his brotherís band, he switched to the bass guitar for Frost*. Finally there is Craig Blundell on drums, and he used to play with Steven Wilson.
So we can say without a bad conscience that Frost* are some kind of a progressive rock supergroup, and yet it feels this time as they are mainly the brainchild of Jem Godfrey. This is not a criticism, but only an observation. The album is dominated by tons of keyboard sounds on most tracks, and while this might risk becoming trite, mellow music with lesser artists, Mr Godfrey really knows how to enchant the most magical sounds out of his toolkit.
The album starts with the short intro First Day, a quiet piece that is soon followed by the first regular song and also the first single of the album, Numbers. And what a great track this is! The first notes are fast and polyrhythmic sounding, recalling Eighties King Crimson. Jem Godfrey plays a new instrument on the album, the Chapman Railboard, which is an aluminium extension of the Chapman stick that makes for a more metallic, percussive sound. Numbers is a fast and somehow festive sound with a fast beat, multi-layered vocals and a vast and strange array of sounds that make this one of the rare prog rock pieces that have hit material. Or at least could have been big in the early Eighties when audiences were more open for pop sounding prog bands.
The following Towerblock is a more complex track that has the guts to not really sound like a rock song, but rather digs into electronic, technoid sounds with crass breakbeats, strange female vocal samples. This is not an immediate pleaser, but will grow on you over time. Signsí first half goes back to epic keyboard driven prog rock, before its second half shows the bandís more rocking side. Lights Out is a ballad, I might even say a pop ballad, with heavily treated female backing vocals, and yet fitting well into the overall concept of the album. The final six tracks make up the thirty-three-minute suite Sunlight, even though some of it sounds more like regular songs, like for instance the first part Heartstrings, which was also pre-released as a single and doesnít feel that different from the preceding Numbers, even though it is not quite that hectic. The seven-minute-long Closer To The Sun has a clubby start, ideal for a chill-out room, before we are surprised by a guitar solo by none other than Joe Satriani, with whom Jem Godfrey also already worked in the past. The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 7/8 shows Frost* from their heaviest side, reminding me of Nineties King Crimson. Even the distorted vocals harken back to that bandís very early days. Nice Day For It... is an instrumental piece that seems to quote Genesisí The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, before the suite ends with two weaker but also shorter movements. Hypoventilate is a two-minute short instrumental with a very chilly atmosphere, and Last Day is a three minute short piano ballad.
The vinyl version features two bonus tracks, Lantern and British Wintertime, that add another ten minutes to the albumís length. Both tracks can also be streamed on Spotify, are nice enough, but rather mellow and canít quite keep up with the albumís stronger regular material. And still Frost* have shown that they are a progressive band unlike any other from their genre. Some people might be bothered by the soundís heavy reliance on keyboards, but when weíre in the presence of somebody like Jem Godfrey, one knows that we wonít get the usual Fare. Falling Satellites is another excellent addition to the canon of Frost* and should be checked out by everyone who wants to discover the perfect overlap between modern progressive rock and the genreís symphonic heyday.