Over the last several years, Russia’s metal scene has been expanding in both the quality and quantity of its artists. It’s no surprise really, since the country’s pagan roots, cold climate, and majestic scenery easily lends itself to certain flavors of metal, most notably pagan metal and its more ferocious cousin, black metal. I had the privilege of seeing Arkona earlier this year on their North American tour, and I am quite fond of the music being produced by WelicoRuss and Dominia as well. So needless to say, new bands already have a lot to live up to in this emergent scene.
Hailing from Moscow, Russia, Sinister Frost is a symphonic black metal band which relies on dense musicianship, dark imagery, and sparse melodic flourishes. Their debut album, Cryotorment, is closer to an EP in length and shows promise, but is not without fault. The music presents a jarring mix of influences, from the works of late Emperor, to the plodding dirges of Ahab, and even the odd melodeath riff here and there. It is precisely this mix of influences that is both the album’s greatest asset, as well as its greatest weakness.
On the one hand, I certainly was never bored. Every distorted chord and every galloping bass drum hit kept my attention for the whole 31 minutes and 41 seconds. These folks certainly know how to handle their instruments, with catchy rhythms and clever use of atmosphere. However, just when I would settle into a groove, I felt I was hit with a spasmodic change in direction that broke the flow of the song. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the song Nightmare, which starts off with the mournful notes of an acoustic guitar accompanied by gradually building orchestral strains. The music swells and is soon joined by the ominous snarls of vocalist Upsetcross, and continues beautifully for the next two minutes or so before being abandoned completely for a throbbing up-tempo shredfest. I generally welcome this kind of variety over the course of an album, but within a song it can feel disruptive at times.
That’s not to say however, that it makes me want to stop listening. Far from it, in fact. They manage to avoid the tired tropes of their genre (I’m looking right at you, Children of Bodom), while keeping the elements that make it unique. On both parts of Gomorrah and Sodom, they really build up a great connection with the listener, forming crystalline musical landscapes that rise and fall, in which every element comes together masterfully. It is here that Sinister Frost shines most brightly.
I suggest that fans of symphonic black metal check out this release, and show them support in the future. If Sinister Frost can manage to refine their style just a little bit, with a greater focus on cohesiveness, I think they will grow to achieve great things. Their unique blend of influences and equally diverse compositions are something I feel is sorely lacking in most of the genre as of late, and that makes me happy. I will just have to remember to await any future releases with something warm nearby; this could get frosty.