From beneath the Italian Alps come a fine bunch of gentlemen, adorned with T-shirts and black blazers and sassy haircuts. But they are not here to show you that the modern Italian man is something altogether different from the stereotypes of old, they are here to play progressive metal. Far from the brutality and negativity of many other genres of metal, Frozen Sands utilize the space given to them on their debut album to play uplifting, rocking and often happy music. It’s not without its edge – far from it – but the overall feeling is one of positivity and energy.
The construction is clearly that of a traditional album. The CD begins with a very long intro, including small bouts of radio noise, various samples and finally an epic piano/synthesizer prelude, which lasts more than four minutes. You’re supposed to sit down and listen, not skip to your favorite track. When the first proper song, “Perfect Inspiration”, begins it is with a surprisingly dirty guitar. The sound is early 80s Whitesnake, rather than slicker, modern variants of distortion. The old school feeling remains for a while even as the other instruments, and the vocals, chime in to create a fuller picture. Despite this, it soon becomes clear that this is something a bit more complex than classic 1983 heavy metal.
The vocals alternate between English and Italian, to great effect, and the music and production exhibit an equal amount of diversity. The production is very professional, crisp even, but the filthy distortion of at least the rhythm guitar balances things out, so it never feels pop- or core-like. In fact, precisely that crunchy string fuzz appears time and again, like at the end of “Everlasting Yearning”, to reground the songs and give them an authentic, raw feeling which could easily have been entirely absent, given the overall bombast and joyousness of the album.
At times we hear a little Iron Maiden, with some parts resembling the style of “Brave New World”. This is especially the case when the bass, which is never as prominent as in Maiden, but always very well played, gets to shine a little more. NWOBHM influences can also be found in many guitar riffs and harmonies, but in the end this is more on the progressive side.
The vocals are clear, for the most part. There’s not much falsetto here, even though the vocalist can and does go high at times. Rather it’s quality hard rock vocals. On a few tracks there are traces of screaming/growling, which doesn’t really add much in this context, but nor is it cringeworthy.
The tone shifts radically between tracks, even while the tempo and overall sound remains consistent. “Sail Towards the Unknown” is a tough song with an epic chorus, while “You – Partial – Perfection – Daylight” goes full progressive on your ass. The album closes out with the ballad “Silent Raven”, largely acoustic and synthesizer based. It cannot be reduced to a simple outro, rather it is an almost folky, driven song with a very nice use of all resources at the bands disposal – including some very appealing female backing vocals.
Frozen Sands are a welcome addition to the world of progressive metal. It’s music to make you feel good, and somewhat tough, while you sport your T-shirt and black blazer.