RETURN OF THE FROG QUEEN
It’s somewhat surprising to regard this album as an elliptic progressive cascade, because it comes from a man who had previously built his reputation in Sunny Day Real Estate, a band who were among the pioneers of the emo movement in the early 90s. When they split up in 1995, frontman Enigk took something of a left field turn and in the process came up with this multi-faceted solo album.
Much has been made of the fact that Return Of The Frog Queen was recorded soon after Enigk had converted to Christianity, and there’s certainly an influence from that situation on his lyrical stance here. You can sense that Enigk was reaching out, striving to come to terms with an inward emotional turmoil. But while it’s easy to interpret songs like Lizard and Explain as introspective, bringing into focus the main man’s new perspective on life, this nonetheless shouldn’t be seen as a record that’s only about a religious epiphany. You can still enjoy the compositions on here without having any interest in Enigk’s personal views on life or his belief system.
The music here is dark, but never bleak. The use of a string section, plus various wind instruments, gives the tone a depth that draws the listener in and keeps them absorbed. There’s a restive spirit running through the album that tells of a man searching for answers. This makes the songs intriguing and mature but also allows plenty of room to manoeuvre. Enigk never clutters the sound, and in doing so gives himself space for exploration.
There are times when Syd Barrett and Peter Hammill come to mind. Yet, while both these giants could sometimes revel in chaos of their own creation, what happens here is that Enigk uses his own attempts to find a way through a maze of selfdoubt to a distinct artistic path. This means that he draws you into his world and keeps you enthralled.
No song on Return Of The Frog Queen is lengthy – Shade And The Black Hat is the longest, and that’s under five minutes – but brevity allows Enigk a chance to show how it’s possible to turn even short compositions into suites if you have the requisite musical temperament.
There’s a wide spectrum of soundscapes used throughout, which delve down classical, jazz and melodic routes. At its best – on the title track, Carnival and the aforementioned Shade And The Black Hat – this is a remarkably articulate album that’s full of progressive aspiration.
Engik went on to release several more solo albums, the most recent being 2017’s Ghosts. A remastered edition of Return Of The Frog Queen came out earlier this year, with bonus material added.