[FULL DISCLOSURE: Singer Gwyn Strang has been a personal friend for over twenty years. Fear not, readers, hyping a friend’s shitty band would be doing no favours to you, them, or myself, so I hope you’ll trust my praise is genuine.]
Frayle are a band unto themselves: While clearly Doom Metal, they till a different field than the Sabbath-emulators, ’70s Prog-enthusiasts, and Stoner Rockers. Closer to Funeral Doom or Drone, given their use of guitar as much for ambient texture as for head-banging riffs, they nonetheless differentiate themselves from those sub-genres with traces of ’90s ‘alternative’ such as Shoegaze (particularly in the wraithlike vocals) and Trip-Hop – in fact, they covered a Portishead song on their debut release.
Formed in 2017 as a duo, with Strang on vocals and Sean Bilovecky handling all instruments, they’ve since expanded to a full touring band with the addition of Eric Mzik on bass, Pat Ginley on drums, and Elliot Rosen on rhythm guitar before recording their first full-length.
Which brings us forward—and back—to “1692“. Naming an album for the year the Salem Witch Trials began seems natural for an act whose initial pair of releases was “The White Witch” e.p. and the “Witches” single. The aptly-titled “Intro” starts things off with an ominous, forboding, slowly-climbing riff and vocals reminiscent of erstwhile Shoegaze stars Curve—never a bad thing in this reviewer’s book, and it makes one wonder why combining the style with Doom hasn’t been endeavoured to the same extent that it has with Black Metal. Shifting gears into the title track, the focus seems to be a bit more on the drumming than strings, with an almost early Napalm Death flavour to the mid-paced, snappy percussion. The single “Gods of No Faith” offers yet another detour, this time into more traditional Doom with monstrous riffs and a great interplay between Strang’s faerie tone and the gruff ‘trollish’ vocals courtesy of Mushroomhead’s Jason Popson. Having already garnered praise from Kerrang!, amongst others, it’s easy to imagine it as an encore in future live shows.
“Monsters”, a brief, nursery-rhyme-style interlude prefaces the very mantra-like “Darker Than Black”. Almost a chorus with verses to fill it out, it calls Sepultura’s “Roots, Bloody Roots” to mind in a curious way, while “Dead Inside” is awash with reverbed drone riffs and sylph-like vocals where synth and drums add the musical punctuation.
If there’s a song on here likely to cross over to more commercial and mainstream media outlets, it’s surely “Burn”, with its sharp drumming, short verses, and ascendant pre-chorus/chorus galore. Nice break, too. “Godless”, again, focuses on the drums. (While all of the musicianship is solid, adding Ginley was a definite coup.) Yet there’s also an insistent drive to the guitar, while the vox remain ethereally eerie, as of someone/thing luring you to a lonely place – as playmate or prey?
Drawing things to a close, “If You Stay” seems a likely slow-grower, I suspect. Who knows; it could well be a favourite after repeated listens sure to come? The feedback outro certainly catches the ear. Speaking of outros, “Stab”, ironically, would make a good first track on a live set list: It builds eerily and would transition awesomely into a more riff-based song. The fade-out, short as it may be, though, works excellently as a finale for the album.
“1692”, in summation, is not only well worth your time, it leaves little room to wonder why a band as new as Frayle have already managed to share stages with such Doom heavyweights as Blood Ceremony, Yob, and Coven. Cleveland, Ohio, may be best known for its tough-guy Hardcore scene but, to paraphrase Depeche Mode, “doom is everywhere.”
[If you can’t find a copy at your store or mail-order of choice, you can buy it on vinyl or cd (in a regular version or limited edition with a book and patch), or digitally at: https://frayle.bandcamp.com/ ]
Rating – 4/5.