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The guys of Protector had never the reputation of being messengers of a relaxing or harmonious style of music. Right from the beginning, they wanted to demonstrate their resistance against any form of anti-metallic effeminacy. We thought they had reached their maximum vehemence with their first albums. We were wrong.
"A Shedding of Skin" attacked all your senses. It seemed as if an overdose of adrenaline was running through the veins of the three musicians during the recording session. Nevertheless, the band had come of age. Protector did no longer belong to the juvenile noisemakers of the German thrash scene. You will not find one iota of naivety or unconcern. The formation was still highly motivated and acted very vigorously, but their almost adolescent thirst for action was combined with a terrifying serenity. Due to the experience gained so far, Protector designed a full-length that worshipped the most craggy side of thrash metal. Death metal influences as well as a certain affinity for hardcore showed up and led to a very edgy and misanthropic appearance of the songs. The hyperactive band mixed everything in order to create a repulsive bastard of extreme metal. And this bastard did not have a German DNA anymore. "A Shedding of Skin" emanated an international flair. Typical Teutonic stylistic devices like stomping rhythms and hymnal choruses were out of scope. Instead, Protector crossed the border in order to start a mission of destruction.
The intro was nothing else but the calm before the storm. Directly afterwards, the ultra-fast "Mortuary Nightmare" broke the silence in the most brutal manner. Without any harmonious elements, the song raced along the highway of extreme metal (of course, no speed limits far and wide). The unleashed drumming of the last founding member, Michael Hasse (R.I.P.), was confusingly similar to the blows of a wrecking ball. Additionally, the violent vocals of Olli Wiebel did not give a shit about any aspects of variety. The majority of the subsequent tracks followed an analogical structure. While blowing the last particle of dust out of your ears, the title track, "Retribution in Darkness" and "Face Fear" continued the musical amok run in an imposing way. If you want to be kissed by the power of sheer franticness, the aforementioned death / thrash monsters can make your wish come true in a matter of minutes. These outbursts of anger shaped the general impression of the full-length.
Due to the blatantly aggressive approach of the formation, I do not think that the three live wires tried to generate very smooth breaks. But if they did so, they had not been successful. Just listen to the punishing "Whom Gods Destroy". Its breaks had the charm of an accident. Imagine a car that drives at full speed against a massive wall. But instead of falling apart, the vehicle is surprisingly still functional. Its driver just smiles and continues his wild ride while choosing another direction. We, the beholders, are totally astonished. Anyway, in the case of Protector, the abruptness of the breaks seemed to be intended and this was remarkable, but neither good nor bad per se.
Contrariwise, the exceptionally slow-moving "Tantalus" did not need any breaks. It crawled forward like a poisonous snake. The heavyweight tune was a welcome change after having survived the majority of the high velocity bullets. Its tough main riff appeared as the sonic opposite of clemency. In particular, its bridge impressed with a controversial mix of morbidity and catchiness. Unfortunately, this powerful bulldozer marked the last highlight and the following regular numbers as well as the bonus track were of lesser quality. However, "A Shedding of Skin" could rely on its solid sound and was a pain in the ass of every poser - and its best tracks like "Thy Will Be Done" have withstood the test of time with great ease. The guys that represent the band in its present form have not yet released a full-length of the same quality. Martin Missy and his Swedish fellows will hopefully accept and master this challenge.
Let’s travel back in time, to 1991. Kreator’s “Coma Of Souls”, Destruction’s “Cracked Brain” and Sodom’s “Better Off Dead” made clear the previous year that the teutonic thrash scene was still alive and well, very well. Miles away on Florida, there was some action going on; foreigner and local bands were having fun: Cancer’s “Death Shall Rise”, Gorguts’ “Considered Dead”, Malevolent Creation’s “The Ten Commandments”, and more records demonstrated that those were good times for death metal. But what about Protector, a band that took elements from both metal subgenres? They could do no wrong.
This record is the culmination of the sound that Protector developed on the previous brilliant long and extended plays. The violent harsh riffing on “Face Fear”, “A Shedding Of Skin”, “Death Comes Soon” and the superb “Mortuary Nightmare” has no compassion and shows no mercy. Those riffs are complex and progress during the song, but everything is not hanging on them only: there’s a bunch of breaks, bridges, pickin’ parts and changes in the tempo of the tunes, all of them skilled and executed properly. This terminal velocity and aggression requires talent and technique, and there’s no lack of them at any cut, every instrumental display is professional and efficient. But hey, not all numbers go that fast: “Tantalus”, “Doomed To Failure” and “Towards Destruction” lose speed, but gain intensity and power on their riffs and vocals; the band introduces a few melodic arrangements on them as well. “Unleashed Terror”, “Thy Will Be Done” and “Retribution In Darkness” alternate quiet mid-paced parts with raging speed, and the rhythm changes are remarkable, along with the terrifying vocals that provide the sound of continuity and strenght.
Olly Wiebel’s voice is dark, evil and merciless on each track, he’s able to reach both high and low notes and keep the growling style during his whole performance. But no, he doesn’t make me forget about Martin Missy, whose vocals were much more deep, sinister and outrageous; I wish he sang on this album. About Wiebel’s guitar work, I must say it’s absolutely excellent, his amazing virtuosism, technique and skills are similar to the former member Hansi Müller, so his departure didn’t affect the sound of Protector at all. The rhythmic section Belichmeier-Hasse is the perfect support for the guitars and vocals; the several blast beats on the record will make you headbang like crazy, and I wish I could say something positive about the bass lines as well, but Ede’s presence is humble and inconsistent during most of the tracks. Who’s to blame? Harris Johns? Well, his production and sound engineering job didn’t ruin the result this time (like on Sodom’s forgotten jewel “Better Off Dead”), in fact it’s raw, tough and features a good balance between the music and the voice, both loud and listenable, even when all members of the group attack together in fff (fortississimo), the bass is the exception though. However, don’t get me wrong, this long-play has no significant weak spots and each number is a memorable display of the most extreme death/thrash of the early 90’s.
So thrash fans, death fans or lovers of splatter horror films in general: this is your album. If you like brutality and violence on music, and despise melodic cheesy love songs as much as I do, then this stuff will make you reach catharsis at once. Teutonic brutality has no boundaries.
Naseous, gasping for air amidst the foul stench of rotting skin and flesh bound with fabric to the couch you'll never leave alive in your morbid obesity. A slow, self-inflicted death in plain sight of those closest to you (as close as they can get). Sure, maybe one day you'll try and rip yourself off that sofa at the cost of numerous layers of skin... You're a grotesque and hopeless animal. You know it.
This death/thrash metal album evokes that same common disgust the foul, couch-grafted, rotting obese inflict upon those who still have hope. Most wouldn't venture to these depths, this sound or these images found on this piece of music... but a select few are willing to sit down for these thirty-eight minutes of grotesque noise and come out a better person. Maybe this isn't this harsh German thrash band's best album but it is a thing of foul decaying beauty, their mixture of death metal into their behemoth thrash sound is hard to rival. This is an excellent genre-splicing progression that would last only one more album.
The crusting pile of grafted skin cursing those who scrape incessantly in their eczema and psoriasis induced mania might notice how balanced and versatile the production is on "A Shedding of Skin". While not as ballsy as it's follow-up this chunk of burning flesh wrenched into a bloody cross that spatters noisily as it burns publically... this album is heavy, full of great guitar riffs and maintains the sound and feel of past Protector releases.
Variance is an issue for most any guitar based album, as with many death/thrash albums. The focus is very much a monorail of stapled, pus-lined flesh decaying in a straight and poignant line of fire. Overall the content weighs heavy over the method and this album does not grow stale or boring to my ears. "A Shedding of Skin" is essential to any fan of death and thrash metal.