Label: Rockshot Records
We have been waiting for a long time to hear the follow-up to Everfrost‘s extremely impressive first album, Blue Eyed Emotion. Joining Benjamin Connelly and Markus Laito now is the ever-present Mikael Salo acting as the new vocalist and frontman for the band, alongside a rhythm section including Jope “James” Salminen and Allan C. Hasanen on drums and bass respectively: Everfrost is finally coming into their own, and Winterider comes out on September 6th, 2019, promising the next chapter in the Everfrost saga, and we were first in line to give it a listen.
If you’re not familiar with Everfrost’s story and you’d like to catch up, you can read our concept feature on Blue Eyed Emotion HERE!
This review will contain basic plot spoilers! If you don’t want to know anything, you can read our Winterider pre-listening report HERE, which exclusively talks about our first impression of the music before we knew anything about the story.
Check out our in-depth interview with Benji Connelly HERE!
The album starts strong with the powerful title track, “Winterider,” which brings us back to the village of Everfrost, mysterious, secluded, and now somehow trapped in an eternal winter (good thing this area is already called Everfrost). Due to the inability to grow food in the cold, as well as the area’s unwillingness to accept help from the outside world, the town has descended into chaos as the locals do whatever it takes to survive, including eating their own. The first song is an epic starter with everything you want from both the beginning of an album and a story, with bouncy fun keyboards, smooth guitar riffs, and a wicked, powerful rhythm section. Salo on vocals proves that he’s not a one-note singer and has a different sound for every project, and he truly shines with this band.
The story then closes in on the main characters with “Juhannus in January,” which is an absolute symphonic metal powerhouse of a party track. This is pretty ironic, considering the lines are fairly dark, with “we’ll die if we stay one more night” front and center in the chorus. The song’s title refers to how the folk of town are fleeing to their cottages as if it were midsummer [juhannus], though it is a frozen January.
We then move on to a few more character-specific songs. “Chainlace Angel” was my instant favorite and remains so nearly 2 months later. It speaks about Chihiro and her relationship with her father. Based on the comic pages, her father is not a good person… he has the image of someone abusive, possibly a drunk, and the lyrics – specifically “the violating candlelight” – have some seriously dark notes that made me wonder if he sexually abuses her as well (though that’s intentionally left up to the listener to decide). Musically, this track is far darker and less power metal than the first two, but still extremely melodic and Salo’s Michael Jackson-isms are truly fantastic. Every time I hear “someone’s gonna die tonight” I get chills, and the bridge building up to the chorus hypes me to the max every time. I find myself completely unable to not rock out like a madman every time this song comes on. This might be my favorite song of 2019 (at least so far).
“Actraiser” took a few listens to grow on me but now I find myself singing it constantly. Like “JiJ,” it’s another power metal slayer, talking about Timjami. This character is described as being rather stupid, as well as a weeaboo and chuunibyou, though he seems like a good-hearted person. The cheesy, heroic music perfectly accentuates the character’s foolish beliefs, Hassanen on bass stands out with some really funky grooves, and the chorus is so ferociously singalong-able that I just cannot wait to hear this live.
The album’s first single may already be known to you, but if not, “Cold Night Remedy” is about the characters trying to relieve their stress and tension by hanging out in the sauna. “Throw your fears on the stones tonight” is a fantastic line, and the chorus further references how women in Finland historically gave birth in the sauna. I wasn’t completely convinced by this song on the first several listens, but it has grown on me drastically and I find it constantly stuck in my head and part of the chorus has a vague echo of Sonata Arctica’s “White Pearl, Black Oceans” in it, which is always nice. It also has a truly delightful music video where Connelly moonwalks across the ice with a keyboard.
Everfrost’s first ballad is “Above the Treeline,” sung from the point of view of Casey-Rose as she holds and hugs Tibbie, who has lost his beloved adoptive parents before the beginning of Winterider. While this track is simpler than the rest of the album and perhaps doesn’t quite hold up musically compared to everything else, the lyrics and vocals still strongly carry on the emotion of the characters, the grief and sorrow caused by a devastating loss. The guitar solo is done by Asim Searah [Wintersun].
The energy bounces back with “Brandy and Antifreeze,” which is another joyous power metal anthem with barrels of energy and a nearly Turmion Kätilöt-y disco vibe. This is a drinking song and likely instigated by Maggie, who has some degree of alcoholism going on. We’re entering into the carpé diem territory with this song, and the breakdown about halfway through works really well as a change-up in the overall vibe, keeping these very power metal songs diverse.
The band very cleverly worked in a cover that goes along with the story perfectly, with Kesha‘s “Die Young.” I struggle to be objective because I wanted to love the original because of it’s nice melody but find Kesha’s image and lyrics so awful that it was really hard to accept it. This is everything I wanted and needed the cover to be. It’s just fun, catchy, and Everfrost’s style works perfectly with it. The lyrics are altered a little to suit the band and their image, as well as the story (did you catch the part about heating up the sauna rocks?), making this a fantastic party song.
The fun and games ended with the cover though, as supplies have run out and it’s time to escape Everfrost for good. The characters flee, and this song is where Salminen is worked as hard as he can – the furious drums combined with the almost Iron Maiden -like guitars, which eventually blend in with Connelly’s keys make this into a truly wonderful and energetic chase song. For the first time, we see that the monster – a preta, or hungry ghost – is catching up with the characters at last.
Finally, the characters have to face the inevitable in the grand, epic finale, “A Whisper in a Frozen Tale.” The song is divided into three parts, “Melanchorale,” the instrumental “Dead Winter Colossus,” and the ending, “A Cruel Angel’s Remorse.” The song is overwhelmingly impressive for a new band’s first epic, clocking in at just over 15 minutes, but there isn’t a single moment in the song that gets boring or makes you want to skip over a part. The slow acoustic intro works perfectly to set the stage, as a dynamic power builds up as the full band joins in. Salo’s vocals coupled with the lyrical concept work incredibly well – every time I hear “was it even really that cold / or were my eyes just closed” I get chills, and the song swiftly and seemlessly moves through its three parts. The final part builds to an epic climax, which slowly fades out on a mysterious and foreboding instrumental part, leaving the listener wondering what has happened and is this really the end.
There are some albums for which you have high expectations and thus are worried that disappointment might be inevitable. Then again, some people are just so talented that they live up to your ridiculous standards. This is one of those albums. I thought there would be at least one song on the album that I didn’t like, but it didn’t happen. While the ballad doesn’t work as well as a stand-alone song, the entire concept, art, and music are executed beautifully. The wintry sound is perfect throughout, giving Everfrost something that is uniquely their own even within their genre(s). Furthermore, there are many mysteries still left unsolved! What happened to Zolberg? What is the deal with the cursed tower? Will we see these characters again? Those are just a handful of the questions and we’ll have to wait to find out more. I know I at least am already on the edge of my seat for what happens next!
Rating: 9.5-10/10, 5 stars
2. Juhannus in January
3. Chainlace Angel
5. Cold Night Remedy
6. Above the Treeline
7. Brandy and Antifreeze
8. Die Young (Kesha cover)
9. Darkwoods Drain Backwaters
10. A Whisper in a Frozen Tale