Maybe it’s true, maybe time really is just a memory. Look at what time has done for The Frozen Autumn: the first album Pale Awakening, which came out on the German label Weisser Herbst, had a song on it billed as “This Time (80’s Song)”. I remember getting my hands on this circa 1999 (and personally, it’s been on my playlists ever since) and thinking, isn’t it all rather eighties-sounding? More than twenty years later, Dark Entries – largely devoted to unearthing the 1980s underground – presses The Frozen Autumn onto vinyl, just like all of the ‘80s songs’ it has mastered and committed to wax over the years. As Diego Merletto sings, an epiphanic twinkle in his voice: ‘shadows coming back!’
In fact Merletto and partner in crime Froxeanne have been delivering sombre temporal shadows and insistently banging their fingers on drum machines pretty much non stop since their début: they are wedded to a noble loyalty to the epic echelons of the frosty 1980s and are well-known to an un-hipsterised goth scene for whom looking back is for life, not just for Christmas. Ripping the Turinese outfit out of one underground and – in a sense – into another, Dark Entries has taken a rich back-catalogue and distilled it into an absolute best of six mighty tracks that show off The Frozen Autumn’s expert and inspired breed of inconsolable synth which in fact resonates significantly with some other notables in the San Franciscan label’s output: Clan of Xymox, Kirlian Camera, Victrola all cast more than a shadow on The Frozen Autumn’s stadium-ready yet woefully crepuscular, handsome and typically Italian darkwave.
Clan of Xymox, Kirlian Camera and Victrola all cast more than a shadow on The Frozen Autumn’s stadium-ready yet woefully crepuscular, handsome, and very Italian darkwave
A delicious introduction to the band for the non-initiated, the record follows a narrative thread that goes from the more opaque stuff on Side A to the brighter, dancier material on Side B, all taken from the band’s early output. Minimalism ain’t what’s on offer here: rich patterns and textures – sampled choirs, bells, the whole show – are layered onto ever-so romantic voices, and twinkling melancholy synth-lines are chased by swarms of drum-machines and by that quick, silvery post-Marr guitar which got so elegantly stretched by the goth tradition. A high point is “There’s No Time To Recall”, which albeit its more-than-derivative affiliation to Xymox (“Stumble and Fall” revisited) remains one of the most satisfying apocalyptic ballads around. However it’s Side B that kills, displaying the seedier, EBM-infused side of the band’s material. “Silence is Talking”, a crazed nightmare with a glorious vocal performance by Arianna-Froxeanne who seems to luminously ‘lift’ the crime-wave soul of the song (if you want more of her also listen to their side project Static Movement), and the fatally plaintive “Wait for Nothing” will stay with you for a long time if you’ve ever loved any bent in Italian darkwave from Carmody to L.A.S.’s Crime, or if you’re a fan of the likes of Martial Cantarel or Staccato Du Mal. The curtain falls on those anthemic ‘shadows coming back’ in “This Time”, which having lived through the CD and the rather unarchival 1990s, can circulate this time without that chain around its neck of being an ‘80s song’, and take its place amongst the most heartfelt, melodic and bittersweet goth-synth tracks of any time.