Cited as what happens when you get if you infuse So-Cal punk with folk metal and Norse mythology, Frost Giant are to say the least, channeling quite a few different influences. Although the band have been around since 2010, they’ve spent the last eight years honing their craft before releasing first full length The Harlot Star on a largely unsuspecting world. The general consensus before now was that American folk metal generally didn’t live up to its counterparts in Europe with heavyweights such as Eluveitie, Turisas and Alestorm but thanks to the efforts of bands such as Wilderun and now Frost Giant that might look set to change.
As seems par for the course with a great many bands, The Harlot Star opens with a brief instrumental, the album’s title track, before the first track proper launches the album. And what a launch it is; ‘Forgive Me Not’ is a blastbeat-driven rager that alternates between quasi-operatic clean vocals and vicious screams, refusing to let up. Frost Giant have some great instincts when it comes to writing hard-hitting tracks, not just in speed such as here or the galloping tempo of ‘Curse of Doubt’ but also the emotional heft, such as the slower passage closing out the aforementioned ‘Curse of Doubt’.
As an album it’s extraordinarily heavy on the back end; over half of the album’s entire runtime exists across just the final four tracks, but despite this the band manage to pack plenty in to the first half. Early on, the faster and heavier tracks almost always give way to musical interludes that act as refocusing points for the band and the listener. ‘An Exile in Storm’ also bears a special mention given that it’s entirely acapella with naught but finger snaps for percussion or emphasis. The others, such as ‘Apostasis’, ‘Ashes Among the Earth’ or closer ‘Perpetuum et Aeternum’ all rely on instrumental passages, switching between acoustics and string or orchestral effects.
Not keen to rest on their laurels, however, Frost Giant do have other tricks up their sleeve such as the carnival-inspired opening section of ‘Prisoner of the Past’ that sounds like it might actually have a kazoo carrying the melody (!) that also packs some serious melodeath punch for a song that starts off as a goofy folk singalong. Despite being around the five minute mark the song seems to fly by in half that, and the orchestration of the various elements makes it an oddball addition to the record but a very interesting listen. Following this and its almost required subsequent musical interlude, ‘The Forgotten Graves’ gives us a glimpse of Frost Giant at their most grandiose and almost experimental. Running to nearly eleven minutes, it also includes an entirely expected interlude but also fuses power metal, folk metal and even punk rock and hardcore swagger into its mammoth runtime and yet manages to deftly balance the entire mix. Its follow-up ‘Of Clarity and Regret’ even manages to introduce new elements again, featuring a very Devin-esque epic turn in the vein of Epicloud or Transcendence in its genre-bending excursion between folk and hardcore.
Barring the interludes, each song encapsulates an almost entirely different facet of the band and tracks can differ wildly from goofy to po-faced seriousness. In spite of, or perhaps because of all this, The Harlot Star is a remarkably well-balanced and focused effort. Although the songs don’t have quite the sticking power of their European folky counterparts (with perhaps the exception of ‘Forget Me Not’ it still remains a tour de force of folk metal that also showcases the band’s ability to seamlessly blend genres seemingly on the fly and makes the eight-year wait for a debut absolutely worthwhile.