Frostwork’s debut album Lore Of Winter – Ealdspell was released by Wodfreca Records in 2012 and I have to say that I feel honoured to own one of the 100 copies that were released. I really appreciate well thought-out album artwork, and the cover artwork is quietly beautiful, with a certain cold strength emanating from it. The booklet is just as appealing, with dark, wintry forests and captivating illustrations. There is a degree of melancholy about the artwork, but it’s not all consuming.
The first track on the album, The Winter Raven is dense with the feel of winter, and the sounds of northerly, arctic winds. The sound clips are very much in the forefront for this track, but they’re well considered and work to develop the darkening mood. It’s unlikely that anyone will be able to stay where they are when listening to this track. It picks you up and transports you somewhere else entirely. A slow pace and rich tone is maintained throughout, and the haunting, whispered vocals, bring to mind Agalloch. It’s a darkly alluring start to the album.
On White Carrion Wings you remain outdoors in the freezing temperatures, and ravens circle above your head. The intro to this track is satisfyingly rough, with thrashing, distorted chord progressions. Dagon’s sinister, black infused vocals are hugely effective, even more so when coupled with haunting, choir-like vocals. The layering of different vocal styles really works to heighten the ambience of this track, and make it one of the most memorable on the album. There are moments of raw primitiveness, but also times where it crosses over into something else entirely that sounds anything but familiar.
Cast From His Wings has an bewitching intro, where the poignant choral vocals come into play again. There are numerous changes of tone, which smash your expectations and build up something new. The whispered vocals are especially eerie, and lead this track elsewhere and off the path. I enjoy the fact that the track maintains a mid-pace tempo throughout. It really works to build on the atmosphere and maintain a level of captivation.
When Ravens Claw The Sky is a dramatic combination of sound effects, and the soft voice of a woman speaking about native American Indian beliefs concerning the raven. It’s a really chilling, yet stirring piece, despite its brevity.
Frozen Veins Shed No Blood leads in with a feeling of bleakness, which the harsh, screamed vocals work to enhance. The spoken parts chill the blood, and the guitars are dense and rhythmic. The melancholy of this track is significantly more oppressive than what came before.
The Essence Of Darkest Winter is another especially desolate track, with harrowing vocals. This has a different, darker feel than rest of the album, and feels like the fury of winter. The vocals are made up of something evil. I really enjoy the diversity in this track, and the sinister atmosphere it evokes disturbs your bones.
The She Wolf zones our attention in on the other predominant creature within the album’s subject matter – the wolf. A voice which makes me think of the narrator of a fantasy film embroiders the story of a she-wolf ‘Once upon a time, when the village was asleep, a she-wolf came from the world below…’ It slips right under your skin, smooth as ice.
The lyrics in the final track This Woman Wolf Skin Clad really struck a chord:
She escapes to the woods
feeling the pull of the moon above her
she tears away her bloody clothes
naked she stands in awe
this woman wolf skin clad
The emergence of distorted guitars and fierce, harsh vocals is a bit of a shock to the system, after an almost delicate beginning. It turns out this track is immensely diverse, with a real primal energy about it. The vocals are ruthless and unnerving, and you can’t help but feel wolves are getting closer, closing in. At moments it feels like early Burzum. I really appreciate the twists and turns that this track has, and it’s an excellent, fulfilling conclusions.
Lore Of Winter – Ealdspell is an insightful, multi-layered album, with its own spirit. Definitely one of the most innovative releases I’ve heard in quite some time.