Photos By Adam Cedillo
Hypothermia is nasty business. The blood to your extremities constricts as your body tries to prioritise your internal organs. Your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive: your ailing heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises, and the respiratory rate climbs. You begin to shiver violenty and your skin turns corpse-blue as frostbite sets in. You soon lose the ability to control your blatter, your muscles turn to stone, and you become badly disorientated. After all that, fingers and toes fade to black, your heart rate slows to a crawl, and you begin to lose consciousness. Finally, your vital organs fail, and death welcomes you into its icy grasp.
The whole sorry affair sounds pretty death metal to us. And it clearly sounds pretty death metal to Frozen Soul, given the Texan quintet has as a musical and aesthetic obsession with metaphorically casting listeners into ice-bound graves bejewelled with sharp stalactites—a fixation that’s in direct contrast with their sweltering climes.
Frozen Soul’s 2019 demo, Encased in Ice, was released by the boutique label of all things grotesque, Maggot Stomp, and it earned the new act some underground buzz, which resulted in their signing to Century Media. Full-length debut Crypt of Ice capitalises on the potential of that demo and refines the band’s visual, lyrical, musical and sonic approach to death metal.
In terms of their chosen subgenre, this break-out band land in the blunt-force bludgeon bracket where grisly veterans such as Asphyx, Grave, Obituary, Benediction or Mortician reside. Hell, if Bolt Thrower—another directly audible influence—manned a relentless sonic battle tank, Frozen Soul are marauding around in an armour-plated snow plow operated by White Walkers.
All three original tracks from the demo—“Hand of Vengeance”, “Encased in Ice” and “Merciless”—have been carried forward and buffed up for their first full-length (the demo was rounded out with a cover of Mortician’s “Witches’ Coven”). Each of these songs are stylistically uniform; they’re rammed with destructive double-bass runs, impactful tempo changes and concussive chugs that borrow as much from metallic hardcore and Celtic Frost’s early primitivism as they do from classic death metal. Yet even though each of the ten songs land with the sudden impact of an ice-pick to the forehead, any seasoned DM lifer can pick out the atmospheric idiosyncrasies and zone in on the individual musical and vocal hooks across this debut as a whole.
From the pulverising riffs and rhythms of “Crypt of Ice” to death/doom lurch of “Gravedigger”, there’s very little in the way of wasted space on this debut. Frozen Soul are very confident compositionally and are cognisant of the need to avoid overplaying or blank repetition. Also, the growled vocals, courtesy of Chad Green, are nasty and tonally diverse; the subtle black metal rasp on certain syllables fits the austerity of the music as much as the evocative album artwork suits what’s contained within.
“Frigid, solid as a stone / Encased in ice / Forever alone.” This lyric, bellowed by Green in a Karl Willetts-like fashion over raging syncopations during “Encased in Ice”, speaks of the simplistic brutality of Frozen Soul’s music, and of the physical and emotional agony of freezing to death itself. As some of death metal’s classic albums attest, sometimes simplicity, feel, groove, harnessed power and neck-snapping riffs are all you need to succeed—a rather straightforward formula in comparison to some of the subgenre’s attempts at musical gymnastics, yet one that’s difficult to master. Like contemporaries in Gatecreeper, Creeping Death, Xibalba or Undeath, Frozen Soul understand that direct, effective game-plan instinctively on Crypt of Ice. The results of their comprehension is the first heavy-hitting death metal album of 2021.