Five years ago, on a dark April night, a band of strangers marched into the heart of Tennessee, warning of a time when humanity would be subsumed by its own creations. They spoke of a great battle for the soul of mankind, for its freedom, for its dignity. They told a tale of bravery and heroism in the face of man's inhumanity to man. They were named The Protomen, a black clad squadron of bards, conveying the allegory of man's darkest hour and the struggle for our own survival. Frankly, I thought it was all very, very silly.
In fact, I may have been the band's first detractor, writing them off as nothing more than a novelty act before they had finished their very first show. C'mon, a bunch of grown-ass dudes wearing silver face-paint and singing about the classic '80s video game Mega Man? Call it nerd-on-nerd discrimination, but the topic matter seemed a bit frivolous, lacking the grandeur and importance of, say, Dune or Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. Hell, I thought it lacked the grandeur and importance of The Ice Pirates. Even after The Protomen released their self-titled debut, and the owners of America's 20-sided dice began crawling out of their mothers' basements to pack shows and buy obscene amounts of merch, the whole affair still seemed like a lark, like an old joke that didn't stop being funny.
Now, the joke is on me. The Protomen's second album, Act II: The Father of Death, is in stores now, and it is awesome. I say this not as a fan or a friend, but as the very first person to talk shit about this band. I get it now, and damn, it's badass. The Protomen have always been an incredible live band, but there was something about the first album that made it tough to listen to repeatedly. (Eight-bit mastering perhaps?) With the addition of British producer Alan Shacklock, who produced Meatloaf's 1985 Bad Attitude, to the Proto-fold, those rough edges have been smoothed out, and The Epic has been cranked way, way up, allowing the band's unique mix of Morricone-influenced orchestration and '80s action-movie anthems a stage fitting of their size and scope.
The contrast is startling—as if their debut was a DVD rip of a VHS dub of Blood at Sundown posted on YouTube, and they just delivered a new 70mm film print of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The enhanced clarity and definition keep the story from being overshadowed and allows tunes like the horn-driven bar boogie "The Hounds" and "Breaking Out" to stand on their own, rocking just as much within context as without.
Not unlike the soundtrack to Cobra, Sylvester Stallone's 1986 masterpiece of mindless violence and mirror shades (and an obvious point of reference for The Protomen's particular approach to sonic storytelling), Act II covers a breadth of musical territory. You'll find Beaver Brown Band-style youth-in-revolt tunes like "Light Up the Night" alongside the brooding synths of the Sylvester Levay-style "How the World Fell Under Darkness." There's even a pseudo-duet, "Father of Death," that fortunately never descends into the treacly territory of the Gladys Knight/Bill Medley collaboration "Loving on Borrowed Time." And not unlike Sylvester Stallone's titular crime fighter, Act II is all about kicking ass with a serious, serious vengeance. If navel-gazing wimpitude is Nashville's musical disease, then The Protomen are its cure.
The link seems to be down. And by the way how come nothing about Lincoln…
Thanks Lance.. Let us know if you wanna come out tonight on us... Anthem
This is the first time I've heard "Chicken in Black," so I'm no apologist, but…
no d-pat, it's "fun with a 'k'"