Texas death metal unit, Frozen Soul, received notable praise for their 2021 debut album. Scream Blast Repeat had more of a lukewarm reaction to Crypt of Ice: ‘Eighty percent of this album sounds like no other artist except for Bolt Thrower. Even worse, you can pinpoint it to one specific album with 2005’s Those Once Loyal.’ We enjoyed the guitarwork and the thrash metal foundations to the down-tuned riffing but speculated that ‘the next LP is where they will prove if they have what it takes to ascend to the premier league of contemporary metal.’ That time has arrived with the group’s sophomore effort, but Frozen Soul leave you underwhelmed despite some obvious improvements since the last record.
There is little to criticise on Glacial Domination if you approach this album as a checklist with a basic criterion for achieving a pass. The audio engineering is first-class; the guitar tone sears into your flesh like a soldering iron; the drums are as clear as the water reserves trapped under Antarctica’s ice sheet. Opener, ‘Invisible Tormentor’, dares to second guess you with a John Carpenter synth drama in the intro before all five members pile in after twenty-seven seconds with a sharp ferocity of purpose. A multitude of down-picking shapes and rapid slide motions whoosh through your headphones like high-velocity arrows. Drummer, Matt Dennard, does a fine job of switching tempos when the muscle and malevolence of Chad Green’s vocals threaten to dig their fingers into your skin. ‘Death and Glory’ thrives on a succession of mid-range tremolo patterns and crunchy guitar fills. So, why does this record not click as a chronological long-form experience?
Unfortunately, Glacial Domination continues the band’s homage to Bolt Thrower and lacks originality. The likes of ‘Morbid Effigy’ and ‘Frozen Soul’ are fine compositions on their own, but neither would stand out on the latest Memoriam album. John Gallagher of Dying Fetus appears on the former, which might explain why it employs the famous slam rhythms after experimenting with a dungeon synth intro. The song that bares the band’s name feeds on a vigorous pulse and a seething vocal performance from Chad Green. Listen how they ascend by one octave to recycle the riff at the end – very clever. Frozen Soul are no strangers to conventional song structures, either. The title-track delivers a memorable chorus through persistence and repetition until you feel the compulsion to roar, “Set free, released/ Your frozen soul will be entrapped.”
But the last third of this record suffers from hypothermia. Your body goes into a slow paralysis after a succession of indistinguishable songs from track eight to track ten. ‘Best Served Cold’ demonstrates a sardonic sense of humour and harks back to the glory of the 1980s when the classic fade-in riff dominated the best metal albums. Yet it fails to seize you by the throat because it sounds like, er… Frozen Soul covering Bolt Thrower. The slimy groove of closing effort, ‘Atomic Winter’, is far superior and more likely to put a gurning expression on your face once the guitars get into gear. Here is proof that the Texans have the right mindset to write the best death metal, but it comes too late.
Frozen Soul’s biggest virtue is their competency, but album number two is only a marginal improvement on their debut despite the synthesiser interludes and guest appearances from Matt Heafy (Trivium) and synthwave artist, Gost. It begs the question for the next studio effort: will they settle on this sound and freeze to death, or will they fight for their lives when the reckoning comes?
Release Date: 19/05/2023
Record Label: Century Media
Standout tracks: Invisible Tormentor, Death and Glory, Frozen Soul
Suggested Further Listening: Benediction – Scriptures (2020), Immolation – Acts of God (2022), Memoriam – Rise to Power (2023)