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Perhaps it's because I was looking at the grotesque album cover as the intro began - a masterfully subtle, acoustic composition atop mystical chords and the sounds of wildlife, bringing the macabre image to life. Protector had demonstrated their propensity for thick, dripping atmosphere at least one other time with their EP Leviathan's Desire, but this time, no punches are pulled. After the intro, Protector commences its warpath, barely stopping to take a breath throughout the forty minutes of snarling death/thrash.
Arousingly similar to Sarcofago's revered debut I.N.R.I, tracks like 'Retribution in Darkness' and 'Mortuary Nightmare' illustrate a fascinating injection of pinpoint technical ability in otherwise undistilled death metal. I don't often begin by talking about the drummer, but the late Michael Hasse was an underrated savant of his craft, implementing some profoundly effective drum patterns well ahead of their time. Although I'm not personally a fan of some of the specific rhythms utilized - namely the frenzied rolls of 'Face Fear' - I still know to appreciate them.
Similarly well-delivered are Olly Wiebel's vocals, which can cover an impressive range of monstrous, Gothenburg lows and lozenge-requiring highs all in the same song. 'Tantalus' is a track often criticized for its sluggish pace, but it became one of my favorites due to the engaging, guttural growls of Wiebel. You know a vocalist is talented when he can make "to atone for his stupid crime" sound intimidating. Tantalus was, of course, atoning for his crime of cannibalism and tricking the goddess of agriculture into eating his son's arm. I would perhaps denominate that crime a little worse than 'stupid'.
Unfortunately, my complaints extend past Wiebel's choice of adjectives. The following track 'Death Comes Soon' I view as little more than disappointingly unambitious filler. Though it makes some effort to display more of their technical prowess, the riffs felt sparse and repetitive. 'Unleashed Terror' suffers from the same problem, working with too little to justify the drawn-out intro. Sadly, I experienced this issue during numerous tracks because of my unrequited love of bass. Absurdly low and tragically inaudible throughout most of the album, only infrequent basslines such as the bridge in the bonus track 'Toward Destruction' could be pieced together. Even then, I found the bass-tone even soggier and lifeless than the guy on the cover.
I feel like I should've said this a while ago, but I have no issue with Protector's debut Golem or the subsequent Urm the Mad. But it was that all-encompassing, overpowering atmosphere that boosts A Shedding of Skin to the top rung of the Protector ladder. And while I have no qualms recommending it to any death metal fans, bare in mind how unquantifiable atmosphere really is. What yellows my pants may have no effect on you.
Sentenced - Shadows of the Past
Purtenance - Member of Immortal Damnation
Damn these guys really know how to thrash. They borrowed many elements from death metal, Teutonic thrash, bay area thrash, and blended it together to make such an incredible rifftastic, technical album. The way this album comes out is like a delicious chocolate milkshake that was blended just right, the chocolate and the thickness of it is just right, not too thick but not too watery, the temperature is cold, and it goes down the throat with ease. This album is technical, thrashy, brutal, and catchy as hell. What more could you ask from a thrash record? The production from Harris Johns is crystal clear and still holds up compared to the ultra digital, ultra processed, death/thrash recordings of today's modern times. Everything is really clear compared to the muddiness of Morrisound Studios. Harris Johns might be the greatest metal producer ever. You should know him from classics such as Pleasure to Kill, Agent Orange, Dawn of Possession, Persecution Mania, as well as Consuming Impulse. He also has this beast under his belt so anyway let's get on to the instrumentation.
Olly Weibel is the star of this album. How come no one ever talks about this guy as one of the greatest front men ever? It's just crazy. This guy plays lead guitar with insanely fast solos, he plays frantic riffs, and he puts on one of the most batshit insane singing performances ever. He shrieks, growls, rasps, with such speed and intensity throughout that when you hear him you feel he is actually a deranged lunatic from hell that was meant to put on a performance straight from the netherworlds. He also plays such technical riffs and solos on top of that. Wow, that is impressive beyond belief. His riffs are very diverse all across the board from really thrashy/catchy bay area sounding thrash riffs, to pure death metal riffs, sludgy heavy as fuck riffs, Teutonic thrash riffs, as well as some clean guitar interludes to give you a break from the onslaught of insane thrash so you don't die of overkill. His vocals might be even more insane one moment he belts out a tortured sounding shriek, then a raspy black metal style of singing, then he can belt out some seriously guttural lows (as demonstrated on Thy Will Be Done) that would put most death metal vocalists to shame, unbelievable. His lead work is crazy fast as well as technically proficient not just mindless noodling around.
We can't forget Michael Hasse on drums. His drum work is fantastic as well. His drumming reminds me heavily of Craig Smilowski of early immolation in the way he blasts, very fast and brutal in approach but slightly less crazy on tom and snare fills, but still impressive no less. He also plays a diverse range of styles from pure blasting, to straight grooving and letting the music breath. That's one thing that makes him standout, he knows how to let the music breath and go with the flow instead of blasting non stop at a thousand miles an hour. That some of these new metal bands that just never stop. For example guys like Tony Laureano are very good and technical but he has to play a fill like every three seconds in some of the older Nile records and he just never lets the music flow. Michael Hasse lets the music flow and he knows when to go crazy.
Last but not least we can't forget Ede Belichmeier. Although his bass tone is buried by the wicked riffs of Olly and the frantic drumming of Michael Hasse he still plays a vital roll to the music. His bass prominence is not to be missed as he gives the chugging sections more power and weight behind them, as well as being part of the rhythm section behind the madness. He does his job, nothing too crazy, no real standouts for him but he gets the job done.
Last but not least if you enjoy the heavier end of thrash such as Sodom, Kreator, Demolition Hammer, even Malevolent Creation you will love this album. If your idea of thrash is stuff like Anthrax, Megadeth, early Exodus this might be a little too much for you because of its brutality and super sonic speed. This album is incredibly underrated and extremely difficult to find but if you do find it you will be in thrash heaven. It's sad these guys never went anywhere, they were on top of their game at this point, but it will remain in the underground and be found by those who seek to find such gems. Standout tracks include almost every track. Weakest track is Tantalus, it just plods along and never really picks up anywhere. Other than that on this album you get a huge range of diversity on the tracks and is filled with catchy riffs, technicality, and heaviness. So buy this album if you can.
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.
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.