Frost*: Falling Satallites album review

Jem Godfrey and band rocket back into the prog firmament as Frost*.

Album cover for Frost*'s Falling Satellites

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Despite Jem Godfrey being a frightful tease about the nature of, and timescales for, the follow-up to 2008’s Experiments In Mass Appeal, to anyone familiar with the full Frost* story it isn’t unsurprising that things haven’t panned out quite as advertised. But what has finally emerged is an album of great depth and variety that explores some new paths, yet remains unmistakeably Frost*-shaped.

First Day ushers in Frost* circa 2016 via an expansive wave of synth with a foreboding edge and a gorgeous vocal. It’s followed by the urgent, up-tempo rock pummelling of Numbers, establishing the album’s themes of the astronomical odds in life and against any of us being here in the first place.

It has been suggested that this is a more pop-influenced Frost*, and certainly Lights Out is essentially a soulful, chart-leaning ballad, albeit a sophisticated and beautifully crafted one. Godfrey utilises all his pop writer/producer tricks throughout the album. Vocals are subject to all manner of processing and effects, memorable and hummable vocal hooks and very contemporary keyboard sounds proliferate, and elements fly pleasingly through the stereo field.

This is far from an exclusively easy listen, though. It can be a bewildering sonic world of thick layers, keyboard wrangling, John Mitchell’s guitar pyrotechnics and lyrical intrigue. Signs moves through various meter changes (directly referenced in a knowing lyric). Towerblock merges elements of dubstep with the wider soundscape in a brain-melting manner which steadily coalesces into more conventional Frost* fare.

An immersive, thoroughly enjoyable album of great depth.

Running across the album’s second half is the thematically connected, six-song suite Sunlight. Its first song Heartstrings (included in an earlier form on The Rockfield Files DVD) and its skittering, raspy synth intro should have heads banging and fists pumping – its undoubted power enriched by some great vocal melodies shared between Godfrey and Mitchell.

Musical Sturm und Drang is delivered in bulk by The Rage Against The Dying Of The Light Blues In 78 and adjoining instrumental Hypoventilate – if you hadn’t realised quite what an astonishingly good rhythm section Nathan King and Craig Blundell create, then be prepared for some jaw-dropping action. Last Day acts as a yearning coda to proceedings – sad, reflective yet with a note of hope for the future.

Falling Satellites is immersive and enjoyable, proving that modern progressive music can straddle numerous camps. The band remain one of the most entertaining and exciting bands on the block, and this classy, multi-faceted 21st century collection is surely destined for many ‘Best Of 2016’ lists.

Gary Mackenzie

Gary has contributed reviews and news features for Prog Magazine for over a decade now. A fan of prog and heavy rock since childhood, his main areas of interest are classic and symphonic prog, prog-metal and modern acts bringing in fresh influences to the genre. He has a professional background in youth and community work, he teaches drum kit in schools and is a working musician. Gary was the drummer in semi-legendary NWOBHM band Praying Mantis for a couple of years and has been a member of indie-prog-pop-art-rock combo The Mighty Handful for more than twenty years. He loves cats and skiing, and has a Blue Peter badge.