I have to respect an artist that releases music at a rate as prolific as Frozen Ocean. Not to mention the fact that multi-instrumentalist Vaarwel‘s art spans a range of genres, his ability to redefine Frozen Ocean with each new release lends his high output quantity a greater weight. Narrower-scoped projects with numerous albums a year tend to make themselves redundant. In this sense at least, Prills of Remembrance is an interesting leap from the cosmic black metal of The Dyson Swarm from the year before. Capitalizing exclusively on the electronic overtones from that album, Prills of Remembrance very much feels like a new experience in contrast.
With that said, a lot of the same jaded comparisons still follow Frozen Ocean regardless of the genre in mind. Although some of the band’s past black metal work was considerably rawer, The Dyson Swarm crossed me as a relatively bland take on the cold, swirling Blut aus Nord template. When you consider that band has gone down similarly ambient roads (most recently on the Codex Obscura Nomina split with Aevangelist), it’s still difficult to dissociate Frozen Ocean from its would-be status as a far less impressive acolyte project. I can regard Vaarwel’s decision to explore less-trodden paths with his music; it’s disappointing that it’s never so interesting as when he kept his sound raw.
Prills of Remembrance is intended to evoke inner mental images and a general state of reflection. Vaarwel means to achieve this through down-tempo trip-hop. They’re the sort of chilled-out electronic beats that would probably be perfect for pleasant background sound or the blasé soundtrack to a DVD menu screen. I’m not particularly moved in any way by Prills of Remembrance, but I think it does manage to pull off the relaxing introspection it was intended for. It’s obvious he wasn’t trying to create some startling electronic revelation. These are laid back beats padded with soft synthesizers and a vaguely futuristic atmosphere. Where a more involved piece of ambiance might evoke something deeper, I haven’t had any such luck with Prills of Remembrance.
Despite this, it’s important to note that Vaarwel actually handles the electronic instrumentation quite professionally. I never once felt like I was listening to the work of an amateur. The sound is generally well-mixed and arranged, but like The Dyson Swarm, a competent execution doesn’t really forgive lacking material. It’s debatable whether Frozen Ocean got closer to its goal with this one compared to my past experience with the project, but Prills of Remembrance is generally less intriguing for the simple reason that there’s less going on in the music. Where experimental black metal can potentially take a thousand forms, basic trip-hop draws from a much narrower span of techniques. This album gets the fundamentals down reasonably well, but I’m otherwise left feeling starved for some greater depth.
01) Touching Clouds Beyond the Edge of Dome
02) Into the Forest of Rope Dolls
03) As White Supergiant Illumes Petrified Streets
04) Gathering Amaranthine Rain of Escape
05) Broken Feather of the Last Seraphim
06) Of Blurred Signs Once Carved on Full Moon
07) Chains Hang Down the Abyss
08) Forgotten Children Play on Concealed Stages
09) Slow Stars in Underwater Caves
10) White Birds Thaw on Toy Soldier’s Burial