If you are a Luddite like me, this will send shivers down your spine. Frostbite Orckings, an AI-generated band, are about to deliver the world’s inaugural AI-generated full-length Heavy Metal album. Yep, with thousands of views on YouTube and TikTok and 325,000 Spotify streams, something sinister is brewing.
Frostbite Orckings – The Orcish Eclipse (Metalverse)
Release Date: 22 December 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Doing my due diligence on this was a journey into another world. I’m not averse to innovation in music by any means, and I wanted to discover a bit more before I wrote this album off.
Cue a visit to an article in Forbes, AI Generated Music With Real Human Fans (forbes.com), which provided some essential background. Here, we discover that Frostbite Orckings has its origins in an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model, Musical Bits, created by Stefan Schmidt, the main man behind the band Van Canto.
AI is his day job, so it seemed natural for him to blend AI with Metal. It’s a complex and mysterious world to me, with copyright and imagery at its heart. A legal minefield, perhaps.
Jens De Vos, a European tour manager with considerable experience, is quoted as saying, “The first time I heard that first song, Guardians Of Time, I was on tour with a band I worked for. I checked it out with a lot of people around a laptop, and to be honest, everyone really loved it. I can still recall it has this great hook. The rest of the tour everyone was humming that melody. They could have easily fooled us into believing Frostbite Orckings was a real band.”
And perhaps that is the key sentence – “fooled us into believing”.
As you dive deeper into the Forbes article, Schmidt reveals how the music was created, which involves musicians fine-tuning parts of the songs. It still feels wrong. On so many levels. But ultimately, is the music any good, for that must be the key question.
Ignore the computer-created visuals of a bunch of musclebound to within an inch of their life cartoon characters, with names such as Folkvar Jarlsson, Alva Berrilsdotter and Omar Kaukaa, and what you have is a ten-track release which sits very much in the Amon Amarth Melodic Death Metal camp.
Is the target of this project teenage males, sitting on gaming consoles all day, who listen to the accessible yet generic Metal which stirs the soul with its raging anthems whilst killing monsters and living out their fantasies from the safety of the reinforced gaming chair? Or is that another stereotype?
For this is not good.
Titles like Orcs Don’t Cry, the hammering of opener When I Fall, or the machismo Viking roar of Hammers High will certainly appeal to said audience.
But does it do anything new or exciting? Absolutely not.
And repeated plays don’t enhance the listening pleasure in any way at all.
Hammers High, for example, is overproduced, massively so, like every song here, with a swirling sound that combines the ridiculously over-gruff vocals that are the adopted style alongside occasional symphonic sweeps and ludicrously over-the-top programmed blast beats.
There’s nothing particularly memorable here either, with the songs blending into each other with worrying ease. Feel The Night is the seventh song on the album, yet it feels like it is part of the opening trio.
Such is the generic nature of this music.
I’ve played this album several times, and it is average at best. It would be routine if it was played by genuine musicians. Even the penultimate track, Nightfall, is contrived and overblown. The vocals are genuinely horrible, forced, and one-dimensional. Why this would appeal to anyone is beyond me. Trying to bring an epic ballad which ends up as a hybrid offering between Amon Amarth and Lordi simply fails on every level.
And they manage to save the worst til last. Endless Love is ghastly, with a disco beat that would be at home in those lost Eurovision qualifiers. You know, the rounds that we never get to see. Vocoded female vocals make it even worse than previously thought. Can you get over it? Yes, by hitting the off button.
If this is the future of Metal, then I’m more than happy to gather my vinyl from the ’70s and ’80s and lock myself in my room forevermore.
I had listened to Deep Purple’s Stormbringer directly before the fourth play of The Orcish Eclipse. I soon put it on again after this. My world was restored.