On their website, the home page, the first words about Froskull are, 'Nashville's premier progressive rock band ...' And, I'm like thinking, 'Nashville? Shit, they're probably the only progressive rock band within 20 miles of the city.' I'm sure other observers have made the same point about the town mostly known for country music, though not so much anymore. Then, there's someone like prog icon Neal Morse who lives in Nashville, so go figure.
The next thing you understand about Froskull is that they're not entirely a 'band'. Yes, there are individual players for different instruments and, live, I'm sure they play together. But Froskull is mostly Stephen Rockford Hammond, who composed, produced, engineered, and mixed their self-titled debut album. He probably ran out for donuts and coffee, or beer in the wee hours of recording. It makes you wonder if the other players actually contributed anything except to help him play his songs. While there are others listed in the liner notes, there's little said about who played what instrument. I think Hammond plays guitar.
But much of the preceding is a moot point. The music within this album is quite interesting and entertaining. At first, I wasn't sure of Froskull's sound or direction, which will come as some self-satisfaction to the band. 'Yeah, dude, you can't pigeon hole our music into some preconceived sound.' Oh yeah, just watch me, bitches. Froskull reminds me of a mash up of Zappa, Coheed & Cambria, and some Brand X. (They probably have no idea who Brand X is.) You might also want to throw in some bits from that English dude who goes by Chimp Spanner.
Like the best prog rock, there's much going on in each arrangement. Yet, most tunes are quite guitar-centered. But then there's some quirky synths, or samples, also bouncing about. Tempos shift. Time signatures change and rupture. Instruments can boggle. Drums wander, rumble and ripple. Bass lines groove, smolder, and rise. The piano is both subtle and expressive. The guitars, both acoustic and electric, an exercise in capriciousness or, perhaps better, whimsy like a Kipling poem. Hammond's vocals are all over the place, some would say versatile, but mostly appropriate.
Put these things into a composition and you have songs that swirl somewhere between cacophony and the cohesion of fusion. It's almost as if Hammond, in the privacy of his locked, padded, room wrote bits, pieces, and parts of music, and then found some glue to hold them together. And what is that glue? I have no flippin' idea. But it's something akin to musical Gorilla Glue.
The result is that the majority of what you hear is genuinely original and inspired like Should Have Known, The Road to Sto-vo-kot, or Perihelion. Others will bore the ever-loving shit out of you like Report From Ganymede or A Thousand Years. In between, Hammond gives us 'Bardos,' (Tibetan for 'between two', but not here) mostly quirky segues of miscellany, probably also from his musical notebook of tricks, so he just dropped him in here. The other result is that I find my credulity stretched, like a rubber band used to many times, to think that all this was 'composed' by him. Perhaps it was. Sure sounds pretty darn good.
With a truckload of inspiration, creativity, and talent Froskull's quirky and complex progressive rock is throwing the pop-focused, auto-tuned, Nashville gaggle into an 'O my gosh, I don't understand this' conundrum. Get on board now, and fuck with the Nashville mindset big time.
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