Review Summary: The Protomen top themselves in style. A catchy, smart, and diverse collection of songs from a promising young band.
5 of 5 thought this review was well written
Certain things, it stands to reason, should never be musically mated. Perhaps...Mega Man, Ennio Morricone, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, "Holding Out for a Hero," and Iron Maiden are among them. Who would be so bold as to fuse these disparate parts together? To challenge the very logic of the musical universe; that is, that bands have to fit into a single genre, a sole subdivision, an idea that eventually undermines itself, yielding incomprehensible labyrinths of subgenre and a million inane arguments over the merits of blackened versus technical death metal (what's that? it's PROGRESSIVE death metal?). Who dares face such a vast hierarchy?
Stepping forth from a dystopic, smog-choked future are Tennessee's The Protomen. They've taken the general plot of the 8-bit Mega Man games, such as it is, and from this bare beginning created an epic, militant future scenario where Mega Man is pitted against his brother Protoman. However, if the mere mention of "concept album" waters your eyes, fear not. The music stands on its own as a unique statement by a group of clearly dedicated musicians, though the lyrics are smart and convey the story economically. Their self-titled debut bears the stigmata of low production values and...blossoming musicianship, but the songwriting overcomes these flaws, as do the powerful vocals of "Panther." (Yeah they use stage names, and they wear costumes. Just think...Daft Punk, not Slipknot. Genesis works too) Panther's range moves from a Mark Lanegan/Johnny Cash growl to a singular shriek which delightfully punctuates the band's thrashier moments. Just take a look at "Vengeance," which takes off like an old Iron Maiden song before shifting into a weighty chorus where Panther gives it his absolute all. Or the extended "Sons of Fate," which does a spot-on Amon Amarth before breaking open into a choral section and moving on.
Do I feel silly writing about something where a man chooses to call himself Panther? Yes, I do. But again, costumes and dumb names be damned, The Protomen have what it takes; namely, creativity and conviction. Their second album, Act II: The Father of Death begins with the serene "Intermission" before "The Good Doctor," which displays Panther's range from thick baritone to a confident upper-range as he battles himself against an escalating backdrop. "The Hounds" is a brass-laden shuffle completely unlike anything on either album and it's this song that best displays the growth from their first album. Besides the inclusion of horns, the lead guitar work has become much more on-point in terms of phrasing and tone. Whereas the guitar sound on their self-titled debut tended toward a distorted muddle, Act II benefits from a far punchier tone, as well as different clean and effect-driven textures.
"The State vs. Thomas Light" begins as a simple lament before building into a fantastic conclusion where Panther, as Dr. Light, screams "guilty" against a choir singing the opposite. It's an effective but unobtrusive way of communicating the gist of the story to the reader - Light's internal conflict - through the music alone, as well as showcasing Panther's jump in skill. Then, after the undeniably Springsteen-laced "Breaking Out" comes the flat-out 80s synth jam "Keep Quiet," which wouldn't be out of place in a Rocky montage. The trend continues with "Light Up the Night," with backing "oooh-s," palm-muted single-note guitar lines, electronic drums, and of course throbbing synthesizers. "Here Comes the Arm" moves through a gentle, Vangelis-like intro, to a piano-and-voice midsection, and finally to a crushing outro, layering fat chords, gated drums, church bells, filthy synths, and soaring choral vocals. It feels like something just went down, even if you're not quite sure what.
In conclusion, I humbly submit that The Protomen are worth your time. If the words "Mega Man" and "concept album" don't grab you immediately, the music might. It's a great album from a band with a lot of potential.
I found this album to be fantastic in every sense, surpassing the first album in every area.
I understand this is not for everyone. The first album was more pop-ish, I guess. A lot of my friends who listen to radio rock liked the first album very much, but were not happy with this release. And that's understandable, as this is a huge contrast from the first one. Me, being a progressive rock and classical junkie enjoyed it even more because of the whole EPIC feel. Plus, I'm a sucker for rock operas. :P
It's hard to believe this is an indie record... it's just too good! Possibly AOTY for me.
Yeah, I think the lyrics are pretty great. At the very least, they tell the story in effective fashion, and 'Panther' certainly puts his all into it (as well as...the guitarist? I think he does the other voice, on "The Hounds" and stuff). I wouldn't call it 'indie,' really...except in the literal sense - that they put it out independently.
But as for Tokyochuchu's sound-off...I don't see how the late trio of "Breaking Out," "Keep Quiet," and "Light Up the Night" can't be counted as some sort of climax. Plus it's followed by an appropriately heroic instrumental and a crazy operatic closer. It doesn't go anywhere thrashy or punk-ish, no...
Well... I thought the first album was kind of kooky and fun. 'Will Of One' and 'Vengence' were great fun to listen to. But this album has no excitement to it. It needed at least one full-blown explosion (huge guitars, choral singers, spazy keyboards... Think 'The Final Countdown'). I was waiting for it on the last track, because it really sounded like it was going there, but just as it started to fire up, it ended. It sounds half-way epic... But half-way is SO unsatisfying.
I can see that. It definitely peaks at "Keep Quiet." I kinda feel like that should be the last song, switch around "Light Up the Night" and the others, because it is more what you're talking about. But no there's nothing "Vengeance"-style, though "The Hounds" is a fun jam.
This album REALLY challenged Coheed and Cambria as my favorite band. I love them, but this album really immerses me better than any I have ever listened to. The trio of "Breaking Out", "Keep Quiet", and "Light Up the City" just gives me chills every time I listen to it. I feel like I'm actually in some cyberpunk world. Good headphones REALLY benefit this album as well.
I believe the order of the songs was fine, considering it was supposed to reflect the mood of the plot.
"Breaking Out" through "Light Up The Night" show Sniper Joe's stand against the corrupted society of Wiley. "The Fall" marks Joe's glory, as he becomes a martyr to save the city. "Here Comes The Arm" starts with a morose tone, as Light sees the vanity of his and Joe's plans, but picks right back up after reading Emily's letter which manifested his destiny.
This is not a pop-album. The Protomen intended for this album to be listened to as a whole. So why bother adhering to simpler, more "catchier" song structure? That would only limit them in achieving their goal: to create a Megaman rock opera.
I downloaded this album through a share thread on /mu/ quite a long time ago...I never listened to it until the other day where it played by accident. Holy shit..so much wasted time. This album is amazing.