The album was halfway over, mere background noise pulsing past my uncaring ears, when suddenly a fishhook caught in my ear, causing me to stop my day job and actually listen. The song was "Black Light Machine," a 10-minute ditty that opens with a hint of Pink Floyd drenched in Asia and schooled under Flower Kings that rises to a rather heart-brightening chorus before blending into one of the most tasteful and passionate melodic guitar solos I've heard since Stream of Passion. The part that got to me was an intensely creative instrumental mid-section, their specialty it seems, where the previous mainstream power ballad gets turned on its head, using some great sounds to spin the song 540 degrees into a heart-inciting manic clavinet funk-fest.
There have since been many such illuminating instances when listening to Milliontown, the debut album by Frost – so many that it has quickly become one of my favorite albums of the year. The opening track, "Hyperventilate," is an instrumental orchestral prelude, giving a taste of things to come with it's mashing, flowing melodies and invigorating rhythms that weave into lush symphonic passages as good as anything done by Spock's Beard in their prime. A tranquil water-drip piano, accenting sounds of a woodwind trying to speak and laconic vocals make "Snowman" a brilliant offering for Chroma Key fans. In "No Me No You" your emotions collide with merciless drums and a dark huffing guitar that opens to half-time in the chorus before adding a string section while singing
"You're Killing My Love for You" is a gripping, desperate melody that can't help but to build hope. As if personifying the state of the relationship, the song crashes into a dissonant breakdown section that is both terrifying and beautiful. Kevin Gilbert is resurrected from the dead for "The Other Me," varnishing the entire piece in elastic guitars, walls of vocals, buzzing tones and stuttering Chroma Key digital dropout effects. The crowning composition is the title track, which zooms in at 26 minutes. During this time the mood switches from heartfelt angst (via an emotionally searing two-minute guitar solo by John Mitchell) to a calming Pink Floyd bit to a pulse-quickening funky rhythm section where every note is in the pocket to Spock's Beard-styled orchestration – all done to perfection with a half-hour that passes faster than some musicians can tune their instrument.
Spearheaded by British studio guru Jem Godfrey, who assembled musicians from Kino and IQ (British progressive bands whose recent albums knocked my boots off), Milliontown is more than a technical spree of progressive rock. Rather, it's a rare combination of the heart and mind, balancing the passion of heartfelt music with the muscle of rock in an intelligent format that is so well written that – like any Schoolhouse Rock song – you're enjoying the music so much that you don't realize until it's too late that there's quite a bit of meat beneath the surface. If you liked the commercial prog of Asia, Yes's 90125, Spock's Beard or Kevin Gilbert, you owe it to yourself to add Milliontown style='font-size:11pt;line-height:120%'> to your collection.
Originally published in 2006 in WhatzUp.