Ben Frost: Scope Neglect review – grim grandeur with gnarly tongue-out riffs

<span>Occasional spells of bluster or self-seriousness … Ben Frost.</span><span>Photograph: Topper Komm</span>
Occasional spells of bluster or self-seriousness … Ben Frost.Photograph: Topper Komm

Iceland-based Australian composer Ben Frost has the portfolio career of most avant garde musicians, dividing his time between scores for film, TV and video games while also making opera and art installations. An album project seems almost quaint, but his first in seven years houses some of his very best work.

Frost has long tended towards symphonic grandeur, disrupting it with punkish guitar, glitching electronics and spooky sound design – with occasional spells of bluster or self-seriousness. But Scope Neglect undercuts that by centring the gnarly tongue-out riffs used by metal bands, played by prog-metal guitarist Greg Kubacki. Frost gave Kubacki and bassist Liam Andrews fully fledged orchestrations to guide the emotion of their playing – and then removed those orchestrations from the finished record, arranging it in a way that resists easy emotion.

Frost brings his considerable sound design skill to bear on the almighty hammer blows of Chimera and the electrifying The River of Light and Radiation, giving both a sci-fi cinematic heft. Centrepiece Turning the Prism slackens the narrative tension, but there’s still something gripping about sitting with its pure affect: arrhythmic beats landing like red-mist punches, Kubacki’s guitar rearing up with an equine whinny. That violence reverberates even through the more placid ambient tracks, resulting in a grim, magnificent record that trades in real horror.