The opening cut says it all. It starts with a spoken preamble from a young girl, closing out her statement, “So remember: enjoy yourselves…you scum.”
While previous outings from heavy-prog band Frost* have been thoughtful and, at times, dark, their latest Day and Age is a bit more grim than the rest. Who could argue it? While the songs contained here are not overtly political, one could easily argue that after the past eighteen months and the world-altering situation found within, there is a specific viewpoint to be derived from the record.
As always, it is a dense and driving work, and no one would expect any less from lead writer Jem Godfrey. Dynamics ebb and flow to knock you off your guard. What sets Day and Age apart from the three albums that came before it is, even though there are individual songs on the disc, the bonds between them are strong. Most pointedly, the title opening cut and the second-to-last track “Kill the Orchestra” are directly connected musically and lyrically. That sneering statement, “enjoy yourselves,” is invoked on nearly every cut, in both shouts and whispers.
Godfrey’s very 2021 production and keyboards are tuned to haunt and menace. Guitarist John Mitchell soars and grinds, and all of these seem to be in service to a central theme. If we don’t start caring about each other, if we insist solely on amusing ourselves, we doom ourselves. That is abundantly clear on “Island Life” where Mitchell sings, over the energetic, pop-infused rock sound how you might as well go for that summer holiday because “We’re all f***ed anyway.”
The presumed piano ballad “Waiting For The Lie” illustrates the corrosive effect of a betrayal, and before too long, the music crushes as heavy as the narrative being described. “The Boy Who Stood Still,” which features a spoken-word monologue from actor Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies), tells a tale of a child who is an outsider, never brought into the fold, who observes the world and can stand so still, he remains unseen. Generations grow and die yet he remains, silently watching, and eventually he is the only one left.
Mitchell takes the reins as lead vocalist on most of the songs, a job previously left mostly to Godfrey. It is a good choice, befitting the grit and bite of these songs. As the vocalist for his own Lonely Robot project as well as for It Bites and Kino, Mitchell has more than proven himself at the mic and on the fretboard. When a heartbroken restraint fits better, Godfrey slots in nicely.
It took me a long time to dig into this record. Right from the start, I knew this was going to be an aggressive listen and I wasn’t ready for it when I first received it. I wanted comfort food, old favorites, easy listening…I wanted to enjoy myself, damn it. It wasn’t until I finally sat down and engaged with Day and Age thoroughly that I “got it.” I want to be perfectly clear about this: the album is not propaganda, nor is it trying to overtly teach you a lesson, but it definitely has a viewpoint. Maybe it will be heard cynically, that we’re so far gone that there is no coming back. If a global health crisis wasn’t enough to refocus our gaze, then nothing will. But how you fall matters, and passively giving in with a smile as we go under seems an awful lot like failure.
If you want to, you can take the record at face value. You will enjoy yourself with this assured chunk of rock music that, at times, goes harder than many metal bands I could name. I think, however, that would do a disservice to what Godfrey, Mitchell, and bassist Nathan King are bringing. Go ahead – enjoy yourselves, but don’t turn off your heart or brain in the process.