2020, despite the suspension on touring proved not to be the musical drought some imagined it might be when the world went into lockdown. Coming into 2021, artists, executives and fans alike remain cautiously optimistic that things will begin to improve and the industry can totally return to business as usual. In the meantime, the first few records of the year are beginning to trickle in- one of them being Crypt Of Ice, the aptly titled full-length debut from Frozen Soul.
Having emerged fairly recently, the Texas death metal outfit has swiftly set about defining themselves with their debut and their prior EP Encased In Ice. Their self-comparisons to old-school staples of the likes of Obituary, Mortician and Bolt Thrower certainly shine through in the first few tracks of Crypt; the title track opens up from a desolate, atmospheric intro into mid-tempo blasting and demonic, chugging riffs. “Arctic Stranglehold” follows a similar dynamic while “Hand Of Vengeance” opens up with some chilling, desolate piano and gives way to another straight shot of mosh-able riffery; “Wraith of Death” meanwhile fully exploits the slow-and-sinister approach first perfected by the likes of Morbid Angel on records like Covenant and Domination. “Merciless” offers a bit more speed, and by this point the key elements of Frozen Soul’s sound are clear: Moderate tempos, ominous guitar work and a thematic focus on the deathly cold and desolation of winter.
“Encased In Ice”, the title track of Frozen’s EP from last year features here again in complete form, though it certainly isn’t encased to a single tempo with several changes throughout. That probably won’t deter future moshers and headbangers though, and the thrashing rhythms and menacing breakdowns of “Beat To Dust” will provide them with ample encouragement. The swirling vortex at the beginning of “Twist The Knife” allows a second of reprieve for listeners’ necks to recover, snapping (for lack of a better word) back into 3:07 more of standard fare immediately after. “Faceless Enemy” is likewise par for the course, though it is worth noting the great vocals here and throughout Crypt that give this record such a classic vibe. Finally, there is “Gravedigger”, an extra-riffy closer complete with hammering kicks and dark growls to really drive the album- and the concept of Frozen Soul as a band- home.
In a lot of ways, Crypt Of Ice can be called a strong and formidable debut. It’s thematically clear-cut, the production is on point and it shows Frozen Soul as a band with a fairly formed identity despite having only been around for about 3 years. On the flip side, the tracks in succession tend to have little sonic diversity, but this is to be expected early on in a band’s career. In enough time Frozen Earth will branch out, ideally into faster tempos and perhaps some alternative lyrical themes as well. Right now they’re where they’re supposed to be, all the while showing many signs of where they intend to go.