Despite an apparent reluctance to classify herself as a white witch Gwyn Strang, vocalist for Cleveland Doom / Post quintet Frayle, identifies as a spiritual being in touch with strong forces, and debut album 1692 (Aqualamb Records/Lay Bare Recordings) comes with a rather plush book explaining ancient magick among other things. It’s a daring opening gambit, complete with album title surely referring to the Salem witch trials, but does the accompanying music live up to this?
To a large extent, yes. Strang’s ethereal whispers grace the opening ‘Introduction (Arise)’ but the oppressive power of the riff and the drums of Pat Ginley IV cannot be ignored. The initial lead twangs of the title track give way to more resonant, crawling mass, but again there’s a lightness provided by Strang’s subtle, almost childlike incantations: when the guitars of Sean Bilovecky and Elliot Rosen kick in together, however, it gives that breathy voice a huge boost. Because of Strang’s lack of emphasis tracks such as ‘God of No Faith’ and ‘Dead Inside’ lose some of the reverberating weight and the inclusion of a harsh male larynx to the former does take the song toward a Symphonic or Nu Metal style. That rhythm section, however, is Kylesa-esque and the density is irresistible, especially the creeping swell of the latter.
That current of magick runs through the album: the edgy, unsettling interlude ‘Monsters’ cascades into the hypnotic, sensual ‘Darker Than Black’: pulverising yet slowly swinging, the jangling riff growling and perfectly complementing that gossamer throat. Similarly ‘Burn’ is absolutely delicious, again marvellously dictated by Ginley and bassist Eric Mzik: but a stronger, plaintive vocal is underscored by more of those creaking, emotive lead riffs which give a flavour of Windhand to the proceedings. ‘Godless’, meanwhile, is another blend of softness and slow, crushing implosion, as if Doom-Pop actually existed.
…and herein lies the only issue with Frayle’s sound: it’s arguable that the sheer power and occasional beauty of the music would be enhanced by an Andrea Vidal or Dorthia Cottrell. Despite this, there remains a near-unique charm about Strang’s winsome performance, as if that’s the bewitching factor without one realising it. The juxtaposition between the elements in closing tracks ‘If You Stay’ and ‘Stab’ exemplifies a bizarre, beguiling entity which leaves one feeling that 1692, while maybe not immediate, will be a serious grower.
6 / 10