Frost* - Milliontown

Year of Release: 2006
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 252/SPV 79092
Format: CD
Total Time: 59:07:00

With it being the winter holiday season as I write this, it seems appropriate to review the first, and perhaps last, release from the chilly quintet Frost*. A name that came complete with its own snowflake (but also to differentiate it from the metal outfit Frost, methinks). In case you haven't heard, Frost* is the collaboration between Jem Godfrey (keyboards, vocals), John Boyes (additional guitars), John Jowitt (bass), John Mitchell (guitars, vocals) and Andy Edwards (drums) - the latter three active with other bands you might have heard of. Milliontown was their debut offering, which led to several live appearances, including support for Pallas. Two of their then upcoming performances were BajaProg and RoSFest, but since the project was becoming a blizzard of activity, not exactly what they, or project leader Godfrey at least, had intended, these dates were cancelled and the group thawed out. Guess they weren't permafrost.*

All frosty puns aside, since I'm sure they've cropped up everywhere -- or perhaps I'm the only one cheesy enough to actually use them? -- let's talk about what lies beneath the wintry concoction known as Milliontown. I know, because I've read the reactions out there on the internet, that this album has excited those prog rock fans who have already listened to it. That's because it hits all the right prog rock buttons. Yessiree, this is a nifty little prog rock gem? Jem's gem? (Sorry, still in pun mode). The title track is another exercise in prog epic, and if you were to name the band, you'd likely find an element or two of them in here, though I hear mostly Spock's Beard. Not that this track, or even this album, has any hints of homage to it. It has its own identity; it's just that that identity draws upon stylistic influences of the genre. Let's say, if IQ are a prog rock band that eschews that (or any) label, then Frost* are (or were) a band that embraces that appellation. Like Kino, it's modern prog not looking back to the 70s, although you know somewhere in there are reflections of the first generation of prog.

It's at times heavier than you might expect, at least to my ears. And yet, it's also lighter than you might expect. The what-you-expect comes with the first track, "Hyperventilate," which begins as lovely, classical-styled piano piece that then explodes into a progtastic track that would make any prog rock, certainly neo-prog fans, ecstatic? hyperventilate? A celebration of all that is neo, really - widdly keys, soaring guitar solos? with a bit of harder edge that puts them closer to Pallas than, interestingly enough, IQ.

This "softer" approach continues in the prog-pop piece "Black Light Machine" which recalls, if a little more keyboard widdily-ier, John Mitchell's other side project, Kino. And here we get another typical-for-the-genre (and yet not a by-the-numbers) guitar solo out of Mitchell, shimmery and expressive, one that seems swirl about the other instruments, carrying them along in its wake, keyboards playing wingman (in other words, the keys are equally prominent; neither overshadows drums and bass). But that is not where the track ends, there's a great deal more beyond that solo (including another guitar solo)? which means, if you were to look at the number of tracks, you might think this an ep? but you get a lot of music in those six? In that respect, you could say this is definitely a prog record - no 3 minute pop-tunes.

This harder-than-you'd-expect aspect occurs mainly in "No Me No You," a piece that recalls Metallica. Admittedly Metallica put through a prog rock/metal filter, though not quite in the direction that Dream Theater took/takes it, since we have choruses that tend more towards the melodic, and a section at the 3:20 (or so) mark that is angular in a very? well, Spock's Beard kind of way (Morse period). "The Other Me" is a funky, harsh piece, with a throb that portents something dangerous; never mind that I imagine Mitchell looking out from under his brows and like to bite the head off his microphone. I'm not sure if it is Mitchell singing; the vocals seem treated and Godfrey is also credited with vocals on the album. No growly death vocals or anything; in fact, it's um? well, a bit like Kevin Gilbert, actually. But, I'd also compare it, as it's a bit quirky, to Kino's "Swimming In Women" though the two sound nothing alike. But, melikes the hint of menace in this piece.

"Snowman" also recalls Kino, with a bit of Floyd's "Fearless" lurking at the edges. It is mellow, and given the vocal effects, a bit frosty (like frosted glass). It's low key, mostly keyboard piece. Can't say ballad, but it's near enough to that to say it serves as the album's ballad.

"Milliontown," the track that ends the album is epic both in length and in scope, and in that we can mention The Flower Kings - latter day, and not quite as symphonic. And one might have to think about it bit to agree with me, but I also thought of ELO during a couple sections; the soft vocal delivery here and instrumentation recalls the opening vocals to "Strange Magic." There are six sections to this piece in total, a concept piece? one I haven't yet quite got a complete handle on yet, but it involves death and life full of metaphors? It ends the album in the manner that it began, with a soft, classical-esque piano passage.

Great stuff this Frost*? and we shall regret their melting. The good news is that it's not like they had a meltdown (falling out), so they could refreeze in a studio at some point and chill on being a live unit.

* Bet you thought that asterisk was just more of the pun I was having. Nope, just, a way for me to add without breakin' the flow that: as of this writing, rumour has it Jowitt, a RoSFest regular, will hitch a ride with Frost*'s RF replacement, Galahad.
Hyperventilate (7:31) / No Me No You (6)6:06) / Snowman (3:55) / The Other Me (4:51) / Black Light Machine (10:06) / Milliontown (26:35)

Jem Godfrey - keyboards, vocals
John Mitchell - guitars, vocals
Andy Edwards - drums
John Jowitt - bass
John Boyes - additional guitars

Milliontown (2006)
Frost Tour EP (avail. only on '08's tour) (2008)
Experiments In Mass Appeal (2008)
FrostFest Live CD (available from band website) (2009)
The Philadelphia Experiment (2010)
The Rockfield Files (2013)
Falling Satellites (2016)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: December 29th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 2128
Language: english


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