Frozen Ocean’s atmosphere-rich black metal cuts with emotion on EP ‘The Prowess of Dormition’

Frozen OceanYou’re pretty busy, right? Lots of work to do. In the middle of another long, demanding week where it feels like things never will come to an end. We’ve all been there, Ace, and it’s not like you’re the only one with a bunch of things to do. In fact, your whining is so inane, Russian multi-instrumentalist Vaarwell is laughing at you somewhere in the wilderness.

See, with his amazing Frozen Ocean project, the man has managed to release 11 full-length efforts since 2011. Yeah. In five years, he has put out more albums than some bands do in a lifespan, and his creative clip has been so prolific, he managed to get five of those records out in 2011 alone. What’s that again about your workload? The last album Vaarwell (also of Smothered Bowels, Goatpsalm) put out under this banner was last year’s “Prills of Remembrance,” and he’s now following that with a stunning new EP “The Prowess of Dormition” that arrives via Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings. While there is plenty of Frozen Ocean material out there for consumption, the band isn’t really a household name even in the most underground of homes, but perhaps this four-track gem can help change that. Oh, and if you like riffs, you’ll be pretty happy.

Frozen Ocean EPWe get started on “No Blizzard,” a track that begins with a spacious, gothic feel and later opens up like a storm cloud. The melodies are energetic and thick, while the growls are filled with montrous intent, and the track sprawls and surges. Murky synth finds its way in, and then the tempo starts to push even harder. The song gets shimmery and icy, the riffs rise again,and the track has a nice, strong ending. “Once Aglow” bursts right away, with power blowing down the doors and a folkish-style atmosphere dressing the song in new shades. The growls are raspy, while the waves of playing lap over you, carrying you underneath. The bulk of the song has an epic emotional push, with cold keys dripping, new explosions coming out of the haze, and a gigantic final minute that reveals its strength before fading.

“Det Siste Snøfallet” is up next, an instrumental number that lets the guitars charge forth, the playing unleash tons of devastation (both physical and psychological), and the tempo keep building and twisting. The song’s might keeps generating momentum and new layers, rolling with a  cause right up to its sudden, abrupt conclusion that rips your breath away. The closing title cut pounds and swelters as it establishes itself, carrying through like a buzzsaw on its way to seize and punish you. Synth arrives again, as the song heads into cleaner territory, but then the pace crunches again as it sinks into melodies that are downright regal. As the song makes its way to its end, it splashes in all of the EP’s finest elements, from the chilling synth, to the fiery riffs, to the caterwaul of genuine human emotion that comprises this music’s giant black heart.   

If this is your first exposure to Frozen Ocean, then you have a hell of a lot of history to learn. There is plenty to sift through in the band’s back catalog, which should provide hours of fun on a lonely weekend when darkness is your only friend. “The Prowess of Dormition” is a pretty great stopgap on the way to the next album, and it hopefully will expose this man’s enormous talents to a wider, hungrier audience.

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