Review by Michael on January 13, 2021.
Last weekend I heard a neighbor scraping ice in the morning and then it occurred to me that the season for kale, mulled wine and Enslaved's Frost has arrived. Just look at the cover. It shows a Norwegian fjord framed by mountains and puts you in a wonderful mood for what's to come musically. The cover lacks a little snow however. But Enslaved were already a bit more visionary back then (keyword: climate change) even though the clothes on the band photos don't seem really winterly. I wonder if the Vikings dressed like that in winter (and with Ivar, if he still has a part-time job as an executioner somewhere) because if they did, then they surely froze their asses off. But that also would explain why they traveled all the way to the Mediterranean....
Now to the music. Enslaved easily proved on the split with Emperor already and then on their first longplayer that they have excellent musical and compositional skills. Frost is another quantum leap in the field of black metal. The keyboard intro spreads an icy atmosphere that captivates the listener. I'm not a fan of long intros, but this one fits like a glove. Then, after a short slow intermezzo, the full program starts. Furious, sawing guitar riffs paired with drums that are beaten up as if there was no tomorrow. The growly, croaky voice and the demonic laughter of Grutle give the whole thing an icy topping. Despite everything, the song is surprisingly catchy and the same goes for the other tracks, which mostly prefer high tempo, too. Also, the keyboard is used again and again to set particularly varied accents, thus, the songs are not limited to bludgeoning. Even the acoustic song 'Yggdrasil' is an interesting counterpart to the metal songs, because only clear vocals and a Jew's harp are used. Vocal part on 'Odin' however I find a bit too overdone. But that is complaining on an extremely high level.
If someone would ask me which songs you absolutely have to listen to, my answer would actually be all of them, but I'll single out a few. 'Fenris' is a song you can immediately bob along to, very accessible and with spoken word passage at the beginning. 'Svarte Vidder' spreads a chilling coldness through its lyrics and the merciless sounding guitars. Moreover, there are the crowd favorites 'Wotan' as well as 'Isöders Dronning' which change from quietly held pieces with beautifully played acoustic guitars to rather atmospheric black metal songs. The contrasting vocals ensure that those songs are few of the many highlights on the album.
In my opinion, Frost spreads such an icy atmosphere that there is no better album to listen to when it's frozen outside. So this is my advice: if you hear someone pushing snow or scraping ice, quickly get out Frost and throw it into the CD player!!!!
Rating: 9.4 out of 10603
Review by Felix on January 13, 2021.
With regard to their susceptibility to progressiveness, Enslaved did never join my imaginary inner circle of top bands. Put clearly, I do not appreciate their entire works very much. Fortunately, Frost is different. Contrary to the first impression, the ice-cold artwork is anything else but primitive. The cover rather expresses the atmosphere of the musical content in a very suitable manner. I am not speaking of the icy guitars that characterized the early works of Immortal or Gorgoroth. The guys of Enslaved generate another form of coldness. Without killing the force of the album with an overdose of pagan elements, the music transmits a natural Scandinavian aura. Enslaved take the listeners on a journey through the dark woods of Norway, they show us the majestic countenance of the rugged and dreary fjords and a shiver runs down the spine while gazing at weather-beaten and deserted expanses. One thing is for sure, this album sounds authentic and I will not tire of repeating that this is an important feature.
Enslaved's sound on Frost shines with its variety without being too complex or complicated. One can understand the song patterns quickly, although the band is not afraid of suddenly emerging yet cleverly executed breaks. For example, 'Fenris' begins with a majestic spoken word sequence and grows steadily until it reaches a very high level of intensity. But it also surprises after a rapid part with an extremely catchy, almost danceable part. It interrupts the speedy rhythms and is putting its own mark on it before high velocity gains the upper hand again. The subsequent 'Svarte Vidder' starts with smooth guitar lines which are accompanied by supporting background vocals. But the guttural voice and the hammering drums give the song another direction. An adequate number of breaks, atmospheric keyboards and the interplay of craggy harshness and harmonic leads form an epic tune that seems to express the beauty of Norway's nature. Of course, I am speaking of a very individual beauty. Prepare yourself for cold winds, a grey sky and inhospitable regions.
Back in 1994, the sound of Enslaved was definitely original. The band expanded my musical horizon. As said before, the album is not overloaded with folkloric sounds. Nevertheless, a song like 'Yggdrasil' combines Nordic harmonies with electric guitars and shows a new facet of black metal. Yet it is a fact that the aggressive parts dominate this album. The sheer, ferocious belligerence of 'Jotunblod' or 'Wotan' underlines this. But the Vikings of Enslaved achieve their top form when connecting noble melodies with a proper amount of aggression. The short chorus of 'Gylfaginning' is based on this connection and it enriches the song in a brilliant way. Thankfully, the clear and vigorous production supplies the appropriate framework for the songs. The folkloric instruments and the typical metal tools are mutually reinforcing and the predominantly raw, sometimes illustrious vocals add the finishing touch. By the way, especially the vocal performance activates the feeling of being subjected to a long cold Northern winter. Therefore, if you like to walk on icy ground, don't hesitate to visit the frosty realm of Enslaved's second full-length.
Rating: 8.4 out of 10603
Review by Allan on September 4, 2002.
Enslaved has always been a band that I’ve highly admired. They are consistent in releasing quality albums that while not all groundbreaking or absolutely fantastic, are well done and never leave you feeling like you didn’t get something out of it. “Frost” is their sophomore release, and while it isn’t highly original or amazing, it’s a well-done and rewarding album.
What Enslaved decided to do with “Frost” was to travel the path of chaotic black metal that rarely lets up one iota. At the time it fit right into place with the beginning of Emperor, Mayhem, and Darkthrone, but that doesn’t mean it was as genre defining as those bands.
Production-wise, “Frost” is far above the rest of the large black metal bands circa 1994. Production comes second hand to the music itself though. Compared to a band like Emperor at the time, Enslaved really weren’t stressing their creative side. Despite the fact that Enslaved weren’t as creative, they did have certain qualities about them that helped keep them afloat other than production. They had their own chromatic sound, which gave the band a distinctive sharpness and ability to stand out. What Enslaved were also able to do as well as anybody else was to create an good atmosphere. Be it the subtle and haunting keyboard melodies of songs like ‘Svarte Vidder’, the grim and cold guitar riffing, or the sometimes slow, melodic guitar of tracks like ‘Isoders Dronning’, Enslaved always pulled it off. The band also put an epic edge on their music, not only on songs like ‘Yggdrasil’ where it’s readily obvious, but on the overall feel of the album. So while “Frost” falls short in some areas and prospers in others, it still makes for a good listen from time to time, strictly for the aforementioned factors.
While “Frost” is good, it happens to disappoint me when I listen to it. It had serious potential, but it was missing something that pushed it over the edge. It didn’t have the trance inducing qualities of “Vikingligr Veldi”, nor was it as memorable, or epic. That aside, “Frost” does have its high points and it does have a worthy place in Enslaved’s history.
Bottom Line: People who really enjoy bare bones black metal will love this album, and others will find it just satisfying. If you’re a fan of Enslaved, it’s sure to hold some appeal.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
Rating: 6.8 out of 10