Sound. Big, big sound. Glorious walls of sizzling, throbbing, energetic sound which sweep you along and enthusiastically caress you with a fizzing sense of vibrancy and effervescence. Eight years on from the highly regarded Experiments in Mass Appeal (mark that title, for we will return to its possible significance shortly) Frost* are back with a thoroughly modern and impressively contemporary offering which stands as a truly remarkable demonstration of how to intelligently – as well as lovingly – fashion progressive music in the 21st Century.
Progressive music is, by definition, always evolving, always probing the boundaries and exploring the possibilities of new influences, movements and ideas. That we have become so accustomed to the pairing of ‘progressive’ and ‘rock’ may feel comfortable in terms of the kinds of music to which we listen but it does not always do justice to the way such music is allowed to develop and grow beyond the familiar.
It is not just rock which is progressive. We have seen the rise of progressive metal, progressive jazz and progressive pop, which in turn opens the door to progressive electronica, house, trance and other forms of music. And it is possibly no coincidence that song writer and keyboardist Jem Godfrey believes the new album represents “our strongest album to date and moves the sound forward whilst still referencing what has gone before”.
Taken in conjunction with what Experiments in Mass Appeal might broadly be suggesting, then it is clear that Godfrey has spent the intervening years sampling a multitude of particularly modern, popular forms and varieties of music which progress their respective genres whilst remaining true to its core character and sound.
That he has learned from his samplings becomes crystal clear in the new album. Take Towerblock as the prime example. At around 1:40 the music explodes into a variant dub step sequence which is short, staccato, arresting and powerful. He enhances this with a full contemporary synthesizer sound, creating sweeping, spacious vistas leading to and blending with an anthemic chorus in the very finest of prog traditions before opening the door to a mixture of guitar and synth solos. But listen carefully; not only does the staccato return at 6:03 but these are supplemented throughout by sequenced arpeggio layers building up an impressive wall of sound production style.
In a similar vein, the opening 15 seconds of Heartstrings are a heavy keyboard electronic riff, with pounding beat/rock drumming entering the mix at the end, with a glorious synth hook arriving at 0:30 and setting the tone for the rest of the track. A symphonic chorus arrives at 1:20 before the hook takes over again at 1:51, reprised at 4:40. It’s a masterful and quite brilliant example of progressive rock being infiltrated, blended and spliced with techniques and styles from popular music. It works. And it works very well.
The influence of co-writer John Mitchell is also clearly apparent from the driving, heavy purposeful rock of Numbers, the archetypal Frost* cadences Signs and some scintillating guitar work in Closer to the Sun. Craig Blundell’s drumming is the perfect balance of aggression and spirited passion throughout whilst Nathan King’s bass work is inspirational in following the splicing of styles and techniques, pumping out diverse rhythms, discordant contrasts and varied harmonies.
This is thoroughly modern prog. Across 11 songs, including the dazzling 32 minute Sunshine Suite, it is also enjoyably intense and thoroughly stirring rock. It is bold in daring to go in directions and experiment with techniques where few seem willing to go in pushing the boundaries of mass appeal. But the reward is an album full of happy inventiveness, creative exuberance and fresh ingenuity. Falling Satellites fearlessly shows what is possible when progressive rock well and truly opens its doors and embraces contemporary moods and feelings.
01. First Day (1:37)
02. Numbers (4:21)
03. Towerblock (6:13)
04. Signs (6:36)
05. Lights Out (3:52)
06. Sunshine Suite
– a) Heartstrings (6:20)
– b) Closer To The Sun (7:20)
– c) The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light Blues (7:49)
– d) Nice Day For It (6:37)
– e) Hypoventilate (2:00)
– f) Last Day (3:01)
~ CD Bonus tracks:
07. Lantern (3:45)
08. British Wintertime (6:29)
Total time – 65:11
Craig Blundell – Drums
Jem Godfrey – Vocals, Keys, Railboard, Guitar
Nathan King – Bass
John Mitchell – Guitars, Vocals
Joe Satriani – Guitar
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Date of Release: 27th May 2016
Special Edition CD Mediabook
Ltd. CD Digipak
Gatefold 2LP+CD (in Black, White or Clear Vinyl)