FROSTHELM "Winter Warriors"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Only the strong survive the winters in Minot, North Dakota. Temperatures of thirty below zero are the norm when it's at its worst. This frozen tundra forges a very hard kind of this case, four men known as Frosthelm.

When these guys sing about "The Endless Winter", they know what they're talking about. That's the name of their debut full-length album, out now on Alkemy Brothers/Black Works. One look at the frigid tableau on the cover and you'll be transported to the windswept plains of Minot. One listen to the album and you might be transformed into a statue of ice yourself. They play a precise, cold combination of black metal and thrash to chill your bones.

I threw on a parka and spoke to bassist Jimmy Cherry about the rise of North Dakota's deadliest band...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  Frosthelm is going to be a relatively new name to most fans out there. What's the origin of the band?

JIMMY CHERRY:  We first got our start in 2009 in Minot, North Dakota. I'd say we play a blend of thrash and black metal, with hints of death metal and grind in there as well.

WC: Is this the first real  band for you guys or do you have a musical history?

JC:  We do come from some local bands that were around before Frosthelm. Like a black metal band called Oblivious Enslavement, a grind band called Serviam and a punk rock band called Self Employed Savior. Spirit Life Broken was another band we had connections to. So we've been in bands prior to this, but Frosthelm is the first where we decided to cut the shit and do things right.

WC: Is North Dakota a fertile area for bands?

JC: To be honest, no, it's not. The scene's pretty dry. There's just a handful of metal bands in the area. Most of our local shows are a mixed bill with punk rock bands and sometimes acoustic acts. We've grown up playing those kind of mixed bills. But we do have a handful of damn good bands. You've probably heard of Gorgatron. Rotting Thought is another one. System's Victims. Those are right off the top of my head.

WC: Coming from an isolated scene, would you say that's helped or hurt the band or maybe both?

JC: I'd like to say both. Being from a desolate area, the opportunity to hop on bigger shows really isn't there. Especially coming from Minot. In Fargo, they have some big metal bands come through, but not too often. But on the other hand, it's good. We don't oversaturate the places we play.

WC: Does it give you more of an original sound?

JC: Yeah! What I said earlier about playing mixed bills definitely has an effect on that. We're not afraid to blend in and play with different genres. We have to do it out of necessity.

WC: Do you think you may mix more genres into your style in the future?

JC: I think so. We want to add something different with each album, but still keeping our core sound. We'll use whatever we think works. We don't have absolute allegiance to a genre.

WC: As far as lyrical inspiration goes, does that also come from being in the frozen plains?

JC:  Lyrically, being locked up all winter long comes out in the lyrics. It's a lot of personal stuff now. On our previous record, we had more sci-fi fantasy lyrics, but on "The Endless Winter"  it's a lot more personal. The last couple of years, the winter's been brutal up here. And we've gone through a lot of personal shit. We've had family members die, health issues. A lot of that anger and frustration, on top of the winter that North Dakota delivers, definitely makes for a pissed off album. (chuckles)

WC: Is there a consistent theme that runs between all the songs? Is there a link?

JC: We definitely dwell on dark content. The last song on the new album, "Silent, Dark, Everlasting" is about the Tibetan sky burial. That's where they mutilate and chop up bodies and feed them to the birds. We put our own little twist on that and personalized a bit more. At the very end of the song, all of us are chanting "Longing for death in the absence of worth".  That's almost like giving yourself up to the dark.

WC:  You have very impressive cover art on "The Endless Winter". Where did you come up with that?

JC: Thanks, man. The artist is Raymond Swanland. He's done a lot of book covers...he even does stuff for Magic: The Gathering and Marvel. He's done work for "Star Wars" and "Alien vs. Predator" so he's really tied up in the sci-fi/fantasy thing. We shot him a very basic idea...we wanted a winter scene with a menacing figure. We told him some of our lyrical themes, but gave him very little direction, just a couple of minor things. He came back at us with that picture and we were floored.

WC: Looks almost like one of the Norse frost giants on the cover.

JC: Yeah. He actually did the latest Suffocation album and if you look at that album and our album, you will see some similarities. There are some weird tube-like structures on both. I thought that was kind of neat.

WC: I could always recognize a Dan Seagrave cover. Now, you guys are on the Alkemy Brothers label that's run by producer Matt Hyde. How did you hook up with them?

JC: Initially we were looking for somebody to just mix and master the CD. I contacted Matt and he gave us one hell of a deal. It's still a bit  pricey but it was a great deal. We went to Hollywood to record and I called him up and said, we're just about done here. Would you like to come in and hear what we've got? He came over and played "The Dragon" for him. When that gnarly thrash came in, his eyes went wide open and he asked "So who's putting this out?". I was like, nobody, just us, we're going to self-release it. Well, he said I've got a label and I'm definitely interested in it. Things just went from there. We talk to him every now and then on the phone, he's a really cool dude. We're fans of his work so it's an honor that he's such a fan of ours.

WC: It's safe to say that more people know Frosthelm now than anytime in the past.

JC: Definitely, for sure! We've definitely gotten more show opportunities. We've got an offer to play the main stage on the upcoming Full Terror Assault show. Are you familiar with that?

WC: Is that the one in downstate Illinois in Juggalo land? (laughs) That's a very ambitious show, I hope it does well.

JC: I hope so, too. We really need that style of festival in the States.

WC: In Europe, a band can make their whole career just going back and forth to all the big summer festivals. Here it's a lot tougher, though. What's been the most memorable gig you've played so far?

JC:  I'd say it was the NYDM Spring Bash we played in 2014.

WC: I was there! Ran into you guys in the elevator at the hotel.

JC: Oh yeah, holy shit, yeah! Now I got the picture!

WC: Those shows are in front of very loyal and knowledgeable metal fans.

JC: I thoroughly enjoyed and loved the shit out of that show.  We got to hang out with some bands in the hotel room afterward, like Internal Bleeding and some of the Possessed guys.

WC: I'm going up to the 2015 edition in about a week and it's a crazy ass show this year.

JC: Yeah, I saw the line-up, it looks insane! Randy does a great job of putting those shows together. He's been a help for us. On our upcoming tour this year, he's helped book some shows, he's awesome!

WC:  When you guys write songs, is it done by committee, is it one guy in control or does everybody get their hand in it?

JC:  Usually, I'd say it's 95% our guitarist Dakota's work as far as the music goes. I get to sneak riffs in here and there. What he'll do is he''ll go home, fire up the old drum machine, tinker around and then bring something in to practice. We'll all go through the rounds on it, see how things fit, then he''ll take it back, fix it up, take it back again if he has to. We do that until we get the full song down. Lyrically, that's a group effort between me the bass player, Dakota the guitarist and Tyler the singer. We all three of us contribute.

WC: Do you have any idea of what you're going to do past "The Endless Winter"?

JC: We've got several riffs brewing already and we've been tossing around the idea of possibly doing another EP. If we can get the time, we might toss around 4 or 5 songs, but we're still knocking that idea around. I don't know about the other guys, but I'd like to try some splits with some other bands. That would be a good way to get the word out.

WC: Will future efforts be out on Alkemy Brothers?

JC: We've only got the one album contract with them. We have yet to decide what's going to happen. I think once we get the demo recorded, we'll definitely shop it around. We did have some interest from Indie Recordings, we might try to pitch it to them again this time around. Their main beef was that we were still relatively unknown.

WC: One band I compare your sound to is Skeletonwitch. Is that an influence you agree with?

JC: We definitely hear that a lot. I can agree to a point. I think they are more thrashy death metal and we're more thrashy black metal. I think where people are getting the comparisons are in some of the melodies. I actually have no problem with it.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

JC: Ooooh. Let's go with Genghis Khan. Let's see...that's a good question, man! How about Genghis Khan, the Dalai Lama and Stephen Hawking?

WC: What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

JC:  I'm gonna find it right now, I just bought it. It was something by Take Over and Destroy, have you heard of those guys?

WC: Are they also known as TOAD?

JC: I'm not sure! Their album is called "Endless Night". It's really cool, it's got an oldschool sound and a mixture of mid-paced slow death metal mixed with black metal.

WC: In the same vein, what was the last band you saw live just because you wanted to check them out?

JC: Morbid Angel on their 20th anniversary of "Covenant" tour. They played the entire album front to back.

WC: What did you think of that?

JC: Oh, gosh! Definitely very inspiring to watch those  guys. Definitely an experience!

WC: In the history of Frosthelm, have you ever had a Spinal Tap moment where things went wrong?

JC: Oh shit! (chuckles) We had a good friend of ours who was in Frosthelm at the very beginning. He got so shitfaced drunk that he was staggering on stage. He rammed himself head first into the cabs and knocked the amp over. It was a mess!

WC: He didn't stick his head right through it, did he?

JC: (laughs) Almost! I'm sture there's other stories but that's the one that sticks out.

WC: Any last message for Frosthelm fans out there?

JC:  Just want to say that we appreciate the support. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without the fan's support. I'd ask them to share our music with their friends, come catch us out on the road and have some brews with us. We're always looking for good conversation!