Frost Like Ashes – “Fellowship of Suffering” (ep)


FrostLike Ashes have returned from a long hiatus with a much anticipated release that should live up to and surpass expectations of black metal and extreme music fans. Vocals ranging from high pitched shrieks to deep growls, blazing and cold guitar riffs, and a driving, pounding rhythm section combine to make this one of the best releases of 2021, breathing life into black and extreme metal.

For those who have never heard of or even simply heard, Frost Like Ashes, the legendary black metal band formed back in 2001 in Kansas City, MO out of the remnants of Possession and since formation the band has released the ep’s Pure as the Blood Covered Snow (2003) and Born to Pieces (2008) with the full length Tophet (2005) in between. Throw in a few random tracks here and there including a ripping rendition of “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent/O Come Emmanuel” on A Brutal Christmas (2002), and you have pretty much the discography of the band. While not releasing a lot of material, the band’s visuals with corpse paint and incredibly heavy musical presence has kept them continually present in the extreme music community, earning critical praise from both the Christian (unblack) and secular side of things.

Much like the release of Omen by fellow black metal legends Antestor after a lengthy hiatus, I had reservations around Fellowship of Suffering. Were my expectations going to have set a bar too high? Would the band live up to the ridiculous expectations I had set for them based on a release 13 years ago? Antestor didn’t disappoint and Frost Like Ashes doesn’t either. In both cases, what really struck me was the general feeling of confidence in the approach. Both bands know their strengths from years past and have seemingly honed, strengthened, and built on that during the time away. For Frost Like Ashes, we did get an early preview with the video for “The Weight of Ice and Fog”, one of the songs probably most similar to those on Tophet. The song kicks off with a keyboard rhythm, that quickly has a fast, thrashy guitar riff covering it and within 13 seconds, Azahel’s high-pitched shriek takes over and stays through the first verse section before shifting to a deep growl. Throughout the song, the rhythm section of Blastronaut on drums and Fire on bass, keep things moving a breakneck pace. The intricate drumwork is great throughout the album and this first song was a great preview of what is to come. Varied tempos, some fast double bass and of course blast beats populate the song and keep the track moving. Qoheleth’s keyboards add a sense of eeriness to the overall sound and Sebat’s guitars have more of an edgy tone which is different than the standard droning for black metal but fits within the song and adds a sense of power.

For those who didn’t pay much attention to the video at the time and just pick up the ep, the band’s first lyric video is also the first song and serves as a great introduction to how the band has changed over the years. Sebat’s guitar riff at the beginning reminds me a bit of that in “Adorers of Blood” off the Pure as the Blood Covered Snow in the way it stands out and has an unmistakably cold, stark feeling in tone. Surprisingly, the song has more of a chugging/plodding riff highlighted early by some great drumming which plays a key role in the general flow of the song. Azahel’s vocals are surprisingly deep and growled, in contrast to the higher-pitched shrieks I was expecting. The song then has a transition into more of a standard black metal-type droning riff section where Azahel’s shrieks come in before slowing down in to a pummeling, double bass drum driven section that eventually has Azahel’s shrieks layered over the top of the growled vocals as the song ends.

“The Mountains, They Said” starts out as if it were going to be another slower, plodding track, but quickly settles into an almost groove, punctuated by the snare of Blastronaut. Azahel shifts vocals up a bit again here with more of a ragged screaming approach for parts of the song almost as if it were a warmup for the higher pitched shrieked vocals to come. Qoheleth’s keyboards make several different critical appearances within the course of the song changing the overall atmosphere each time and the song eventually moves to a somewhat fast gallop as Sebat lays in a fiery solo.

“The Comings and Goings of Suffering” follows much in the same general pattern as “The Mountains, They Said” with respect to starting out slow and plodding and then transitioning to a faster tempo with keyboards setting the tone and providing layers of complexity to the overall sound, but that being said the song is quite different and ends with strangled acapella scream from Azahel that is equal parts disturbing and intriguing.

The album closes out with “Where Cold Dies”, a song characterized by some fast bass lines from Fire, blast beats galore from Blastronaut, characteristic shrieks from Azahel, and Sebat filling in much of the rest with guitar work fitting the song and perhaps the best parts with a blazing solo layered over a riff very much like the one in “Adorers of Blood”.

A thirteen year hiatus is a long time, and Frost Like Ashes show us a few things on The Fellowship of Suffering… one is that great musicians can not only pick up from where they left off, but over time bring a new intensity and power to the music they are known for, music from great bands is timeless and seems fresh whenever you hear it and great bands can expand their approach to composition, making their material even stronger than before, and finally and for us the listener…”good things come to those who wait”. If you like extreme music at all, just get this…

Rating: 10/10

Written by John Jackson

1. Goer
2. The Mountains, They Said
3. The Comings and Goings of Suffering
4. The Weight of Ice and Fog
5. Where Cold Dies

Band Members
Sebat – guitar
Azahel – vocals
Qoheleth – keyboards
Fire – bass
Blastronaut – drums

Release Date: August 13th. 2021

Record Label: Rottweiler Records

Weblinks: Facebook / Spotify / Website / Bandcamp

Video for ‘The Weight of Ice and Fog’

Lyric video for ‘Goer’

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