Frontierer – Oxidized


Scottish mathcore bruisers, Frontierer, achieved critical acclaim for 2018’s Unloved LP, even receiving press attention from Rolling Stone magazine along the way. There’s no doubt that their last effort deserves a place on the list of the heaviest albums of the 2010s next to its 2015 predecessor, Orange Mathematics. If you haven’t heard their music, think of your wildest mash-up fantasies of Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan and Squarepusher, and multiply it by a thousand.

The key to Frontierer’s murderous aggression is twofold. One, they have one of the best hardcore screamers in the business in Chad Kapper. His voice explodes with the harsh muscular belting of Greg Puciato and has a paradoxical clarity to it that should be impossible at such insane levels of aggression. The way he roars through this album will leave you in awe of his heroic power. Two, chief songwriter, Pedram Valiani, uses the power of the eight-string guitar to great effect and shows a good understanding of frequency range in his compositions. Admittedly, ‘compositions’ might not be the right word to describe a Frontierer song. Sonic destruction is more accurate.

Album opener, ‘Heirloom’, pulls no surprises and provides us with a snapshot of what to expect on Oxidized. Kapper’s screams project like a man breaking out of the electric chair with four prison guards trying to hold him back. The superhuman strength compliments the Car Bomb riffs with all manner of zap and glitch effects flashing through your brain as you try to make sense of it all. ‘Corrosive Wash’ is what death metal would sound like if played on eight-string guitars, in drop-G tuning, using an octave pedal. Jesus Christ, this is violent music! Listen to the intensity of ‘Disintegrative’ and thank God you’re in the safe confines of your house rather than in the front row of a Frontierer show. The barrage of brutal down-picking in ‘Motherboard’ needs to be heard to do it justice.

Those of you that listened to Unloved in 2018 will remember losing patience at the three-quarter mark due to the total running time. Here, sixteen songs clocking in at forty-nine minutes sound like a slog, but Oxidized is better in its structure and phasing than its predecessor. Frontierer also reach out to the artists that inspired them and get them to contribute. Step forward Grady Avenell of Will Haven, who contributes to the excellent glitch-cum-mathcore groove of ‘This Magnetic Drift’. The template for the band’s sound is Ion Dissonance’s classic 2010 Cursed album, and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear the latter’s Kevin McCaughey lend his hyper-aggressive pipes to the chunky chaos of ‘Removal of the Copper Iris and the Lightning Pill’. You can turn that football cliché of running through brick walls into a reality with this song streaming through your headphones.

Music as intense as this cannot grow tired or predictable due to its sheer ferocity, but Frontierer introduce a few surprises when you least expect them. ‘SVVANS’ is avant-garde in its cinematic mood and use of electronic break beats. How many other artists would even consider mixing drum ‘n’ bass with metallic hardcore vocals? Likewise, the way the blast beats and thick guitar grooves give way to a Deftones melodic interlude on ‘Daybreak’ is as impressive as the Boards of Canada passage preceding the slow doom grind towards the end. Those iconic Aphex Twin malfunctions are all over this record.

It’s easy to forget the lyrics on an album that relies on chaos for its power and purpose. The stanzas read like a succession of death fantasies and nervous breakdown episodes. You’ll hear mention of words like abyss and rusted and phrases such as “I’m burning/ Take me to the water” and “As I wake up under the wax/ I’m slowly seizing up”. These are bleak images that match the colossal rage of the music. A Frontierer party demands that you be prepared to lose your life in the process.

Oxidized is the record the Scots have been threatening to make since 2015. It’s pulverising yet experimental and never becomes a chore. This is a new chapter in the band’s career and could be the start of something even more exciting. Did we mention that it’s also heavier than the engine of a space shuttle?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/10/2021

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: Heirloom, LK WX, Daydark

Suggested Further Listening: Ion Dissonance – Cursed (2010), Car Bomb – Meta (2016), Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works (2007)