The Harlot Star is, and this cannot be stated enough, an absolute behemoth of an album. The second full-length release by American death metallers Frost Giant contains a jaw-dropping amount of variety, with the album seemingly dipping its toes in every heavy metal sub-genre available. It manages to do this, though, and still at no point does it feel stretched thin. Something of a passion project, The Harlot Star is the first full-length release from Frost Giant in a whopping eight years, and stands four years apart from their most recent EP. The question must be asked then, has the wait been worth it?
The short answer is yes, yes it has, though the slightly longer and perhaps truer answer would be that, while The Harlot Star manages to prove itself as worth the wait, fans have surely missed the diverse and, at times, controversial stylings of Frost Giant. Perhaps this acts simply as more of a positive, though, with the satisfaction growing as the years drew on.
Regardless of this long stretch between releases, The Harlot Star acts as evidence that Frost Giant are growing as a group, maturing in a way. Comparing the album to the last release by the band, their 2014 EP Silver Dagger, it soon becomes apparent that Frost Giant have spent their time away from the studio honing and refining their musical abilities.
This in no way diminishes the previous releases from the band, but when tracks such as “Prisoner From The Past” and “Curse of Doubt” are taken into consideration, the variation available throughout these tracks compared to earlier releases becomes obvious. “Curse of Doubt”, for instance, introduces itself as something of a bog-standard death metal track, with the drums firing at full speed, and the vocals roared fiercely. This expectation is quickly subverted, however, as an underlying melody breaks through from the depths of the track, rumbling below. This melody, one which somehow manages to adopt an adventurous feeling to it, rises and falls throughout “Curse of Doubt”, drawing itself to the surface intermittently, infusing a melo-death style. The song eventually draws quieter, with each instrument ceasing play, until all that is left is a solo guitar, plucking at individual notes; a lonely and isolated feeling ending the song, contrasting severely to the loud and brash opening.
“Prisoner From The Past” opens to a group of kazoos. It is amazing, and manages to be both a fun, folk metal-ish romp, while also delivering on the heavier side of things. A bizarre and brilliant track that must be heard to be appreciated.
By far, though, the song from The Harlot Star which manages to dominate the album is the ambiguously titled “Forgive Me Not”. Following the slow, and heavily atmospheric introductory track “The Harlot Star”, “Forgive Me Not” flares into life at once with quick, and elaborate drumming, before a choir of somber-sounding baritone singers melancholically belt out the titular song title. This group is joined immediately after by another, one in a higher tone, yet sounding equally as depressed. It is quite a powerful beginning to an album, to say the least. This style of singing is repeated throughout “Forgive Me Not”, though there is also a heavy usage of angry-sounding guitar riffs and hoarse screamed vocals.
As the track continues, the pacing changes, and soon, the anger and wild savagery which is to be expected of a death metal band fades, becoming subdued. It is as if a wild animal has been tamed: it may seem calm on the surface, but you should never let your guard down lest you wish to have its teeth sink into you. This is, perhaps, the way that the entirety of The Harlot Star should be considered; a wild beast, graceful, yet capable of ripping you to shreds. Certainly an album for those seeking something new or different, though there is still plenty available for those who just want to bang their heads.
The Harlot Star is out now.