Unloved by Frontierer

Release date: July 27, 2018
Label: Self-Released

Frontierer’s 2015 debut album, Orange Mathematics, was attention-grabbing.

Self-released digitally, Orange Mathematics was written, played, recorded and produced by Edinburgh-based Pedram Valiani with collaboration from Missouri’s Chad Kapper (A Dark Orbit) on vocals. A violently chaotic and distorted mash-up of math metal, grind and noise, critical acclaim for Orange Mathematics started to slowly build to the point that, following a physical release, it was included in many end of year lists in 2016, including Rolling Stone’s. All of this from an online collaboration and without having played a single live show. A few festival appearances and a short tour with a full complement of band members (alongside Pedram and Chad, the band is now comprised of Dan Stevenson on guitar, Calum Craig playing bass and Owen Hughes on drums) demonstrated that the complexities and insane energy of Orange Mathematics transferred lethally to the stage.

Frontierer’s second album, Unloved, is attention-grabbing.

Unloved is another DIY release written, recorded and produced by noise wizard Pedram at his Outlier Studio, with mastering duties handled by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, and Chad Kapper supplying the vocals. It’s safe to say that Unloved is highly-anticipated. Frontierer have done a great job building hype through releasing a few songs and video clips in the run-up to release. The recent Bandcamp pre-order for Unloved virtually broke Frontierer’s page, as well as their PayPal, and propelled the album to the metal top spot and top five across the whole site. An incredible achievement for an extreme metal act that essentially started as an online-based side project to Pedram’s hardcore band Sectioned. Now, with Pedram treating both Sectioned and Frontierer as main bands, 2018 sees both releasing full-length albums, both touring and both killing it.

With much hype, comes heightened expectations. Thankfully, Unloved easily lives up to the expectations heaped upon it, but at the same time is not exactly what people might have predicted. The fully anticipated ferocious pace, out-of-control programmed drums, staccato rhythms, gut-wrenching vocals, distorted riffs and outrageous guitar noises that featured on Orange Mathematics are all present and improved upon by Frontierer 2.0. The chaotic, yet precisely orchestrated song structures are enhanced on Unloved with Pedram’s further experimentation with Ichirou Agata (of Melt-Banana) style crazy guitar sounds and with a greater confidence in the use of glitching power electronics. Whether deliberately or not, I hear a few hints of a Digital Hardcore influence on tracks such as ‘Heartless 101’, and throughout the breakbeats of ‘Unloved & Oxidised’ and ‘Fluorescent Nights’. Integrating electronics into math or tech metal is nothing new, Botch did it, The Dillinger Escape Plan did it, but Pedram’s ability to augment and elevate Unloved using adds greatly to the overall sense of pushing everything to the limit, of not adhering to genre boundaries.

Frontierer constantly break genre restrictions and thrusts extreme music beyond just aggressive noise. Unloved can simply be listened to as a cathartic exercise in fast, fierce and ear-splitting extreme metal, or it can be explored to unlock its intricacies and almost unbelievably its subtleties. The former was all I could handle on the initial playthroughs, jaw agape, as Unloved is an almost overwhelming listen. Albums as extremely unpredictable and as breakneck as Unloved can sometimes be difficult to handle and to analyse upon the first few listens, and Frontierer’s latest is no exception to this. It does take time to uncover the many layers of inventive guitar playing alone – there are plenty of weird and wonderful, heavily effected guitar sirens, sweeps, bleeps and swirls that immediately leap out, but there are countless others hidden behind the dense, low-end distortion and frankly preposterous programmed drums. Then there are the completely unexpected quieter, bordering on melodic moments. The two restrained sections of ‘Heartless 101’, complete with delicate pops and crackles of a playing LP, belie the doom-laden and down-tuned groove that eventually kicks in, but provide much-needed space to breathe

Similarly to Orange Mathematics, at nearly an hour long, over the duration of its fourteen tracks Unloved comes close to being an endurance test of sorts when listened to in full, but is compelling and interesting enough to keep you coming back for more punishment. The majority of the songs instantly explode into a violent aural assault from their first or second bar, a prime example being the furious ‘Fluorescent Nights’. Whereas Orange Mathematics doesn’t really have a flow or structure, it’s all go, all of the time, and could pretty much be listened to on shuffle with no real change in how the album played out, Frontierer have clearly considered the dynamics of Unloved. There is more of an obvious structure, with the aforementioned sixth track ‘Heartless 101’, which features fellow tech-metallers Michael Dafferner and Greg Kubacki of Car Bomb on guest vocals and guitar respectively, marking somewhat of a turning point on the album. From that point onwards, the electronic elements are utilised more often and to greater effect (see the likes of wonderfully titled, ‘Neon Barnacle’), and tracks such ‘Electric Gag’ have slower tempos and a couple of exceptional beatdowns. The penultimate and final tracks, ‘Darkside Moonstroll’ and ‘Reprogrammed Dawn’ return to the immediacy of the first half of the album and finish Unloved with a flourish of fury.

As if further proof was needed that metal is far from stale, Unloved is gripping, exciting and punishing. Available as a Name Your Price digital download and for a very limited time on physical formats, Unloved is an innovative, dynamic extreme tech-metal album that I’m only just starting to get to grips with after two weeks of listening, analysing and most importantly, enjoying.

Unloved is attention-grabbing.

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