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Those familiar with the dark corners of the 80s' thrash metal scene will sure have good things to say about Protector. These German thrashers released at least two underground classics of the era (1988's "Golem" and 1991's "A Shedding of Skin") and, despite the never-ending changes in personnel, never lost hold of their aggressive musical vision. Now back from a prolonged hibernation (when the group released a few demo recordings and nothing else), Protector is back for more with "Reanimated Homunculus", the first new album from the band in almost twenty years. As the sole survivor from Protector's most well-regarded recordings, classic-era singer Martin Missy (V) sure had a reputation to uphold - and it's fair to say that "Reanimated Homunculus" definitely survives scrutiny, being a mostly enjoyable addiction to the group's violent legacy.
Excellent opening track "Sons of Kain" leaves no room for doubt on what you're going to get: straight-to-the-point old school thrash with a few pinches of vintage death metal in a Possessed or Obituary vein. A mixture some will call Teutonic thrash, as many bands from Germany were keen to explore such musical avenues. Don't expect impressive displays of technical dexterity or never-ceasing tempo and signature changes, Protector is more than satisfied to hit the metal road with the pedal to the floor, keeping things fast, brutal and simple most of the time.
Songs like "Deranged Nymphomania" and "Road Rage" (this one could find a place in Sepultura's "Schizophrenia" LP, I guess) walk very confidently upon the line that divides thrash and death metal, while the dynamic "Birth of a Nation" even reminds me of vintage Kreator in places, which is a very good thing of course. I also enjoy the title-track (which is a more vicious and doomy affair filled with very respectable riffing) and the tongue-in-cheek "Calle Brutal", that closes proceedings with a tale about Venice (yeah, the Italian city) which is so reckless and random that it turns out to be extremely catchy and funny.
It's not a revolutionary record by any stretch of the imagination, and some of its lesser cuts (such as "Antiman" and "Holiday in Hell"), although enjoyable for the average thrasher, lack the necessary savoir-fare to be really relevant or memorable. Still, "Reanimated Homunculus" is sure to put some necks in motion: if you're into some good old-fashioned thrash/death headbanging, here's a CD that will hardly let you down.
As far as comeback albums go, Protector have taken a fairly strange route to get here. Not so much because of the multitude of lineup changes, those are par for the course, but because of how little political strife between members those changes caused. For a little background, the original lineup was broken when in 1989 Martin Missy was replaced on vocals Olly Wiebel, and then forever broken when drummer Michael Hasse passed away in 1991, and the original guitarist and bassist quitting soon thereafter. This resulted in 1993's respectable effort The Heritage figuring around Wiebel and replacement drummer Marco Pape (neither of them original members), before Wiebel too quit and Pape spent the next decade trying to rebuild the band, managing only one demo in 2000. Where the strangeness comes in is that when Martin Missy put together a new live lineup of young Swedish musicianships a few years ago he saw no problem in playing material from the albums after his departure, even re-recording “Retribution In Darkness” on a split with Ungod earlier this year and one track of this album coming from the 2000 Resurrected demo. Metal soap opera's over rights to band names be damned it seems- Missy's incarnation of Protector is all about the music, from all their eras.
Despite this diplomatic approach there is also a keenness for this to be seen as a continuation of Protector in their most widely regarded period- from 1987 to 1999. The opening track hints at this with “Sons Of Kain”, a song about the steadfastness of old school Metal fans that could equally be referring to Missy's new bandmates, long-time devotees to the band whose 1987 EP featured a song called “Kain And Abel.” If there is a suggestion in that song title then the title track of this album spells it out clear as day- not only did the word “homunculus” appear in the the title track to the the 1988 album “Golem” but the references to the rabbi at work by burning candlelight in these lyrics are intended to make a direct link between the two. Make no mistake, Protector are back and Missy wants you to know which era (his era) they are continuing on from.
While this album has its moments it stops short of being a completely worthy successor to that great era of this great band. “Birth Of A Nation” is a stone cold killer track that could hang with any of the 80's output while “Deranged Nymphomania” has a Celtic Frost tinge and a call-and-response chorus made with a live setting in mind that make it a close second for best track on here, and the production leaves nothing to be desired either. Being recorded in Sunlight studios by Tomas Skogsberg gives this a filth-ridden and morbid feel calling to mind the classic era of Swedish Death Metal and drips these songs in menace, so much so that whether they be Thrash-heads or not fans of records like Into The Grave, Sumerian Cry and Only Shreds Remain should check this out simply for the purely sonic similarities.
Great production aside the quality is not maintained throughout. Although he was never regarded as the most potent wordsmith Missy outdoes himself on the terrible lyrics front for the Deliverance-themed track “Holiday In Hell” which boasts a chorus of “Squeal like a pig/They'll break you, like a twig/The inbreds do a jolly jig.” The latter half of the album has to settle for being merely average rather than downright daft, and I think part of the problem there lies in how, despite Missy being the elder statesman here, none of his hired hands are particularly young any more either. Heck, Mathias Johansson has been making music in Suicidal Winds since 2002, so it can hardly come as a total surprise that these men don't have the creative spark to pull an absolute classic out of the bag any more. As if to prove my point about the link between age and vibrant musicianship it takes
“The End”, the song originally from Marco Pape's much shorter in the tooth incarnation of the band's 2000 demo, to pull this album out a 3-song rut. Missy and co. scrape back some points in the last minute and 26 seconds thanks to the full-on rager “Calle Brutal” (though there is something a bit geriatric about a song to do with getting lost in Venice), meaning this album is far from a disappointment. No one should be expecting the world from Protector at this stage, but for an unspectacular yet solid Teutonic Thrash album in 2013 this should be your first port of call. [7/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts
It's a refreshing thing, have a new Teutonic thrash album in the old style from a band that is not only started when the style was fresh, but is also one that actually originated from Germany. Not to knock the continuing onslaught of younger Greek, Italian, Brazilian and American bands that discovered a time period where the lines between death and thrash metal were not so clearly drawn, but there is definitely something to be said for a band that had first hand experience. To be clear, Protector didn't make nearly the same splash in the 80s thrash metal craze as their forefathers Kreator, to whom they share the most in common with musically, but they did manage a collection of formidable offerings in the late 80s and early 90s, and after about 2 decades of studio silence (excluding a couple of demos), they've taken advantage of the current rekindling of the flame of thrash metal and picked things up as if they'd never left.
This is the violent, red to the core rage that Detroit's own Nocturnal Fear has been gunning for in the past 10 years, but with a less mechanistic and more vintage character that would hint at something along the lines of Morbid Saint's "Spectrum Of Death". It comes in hacking away like a frenetic slasher movie villain, leaving little time for rest apart from the occasionally slowed down middle section, most of which venture into territory similar to that of old school Death. The guitar tone is a bit on the tinny and top-heavy side, and the same general story holds true in the drums, which are mixed to maximize the cymbal hits and Martin Missy's sepulchral ravings, which have a heavy hint of Angelripper with a side order of ultra-blackened barks which are nasty enough to pass for mid 90s Gorgoroth. It stops just a tiny bit shy of being a Demolition Hammer emulation, but it shares a similarly relentless character to that of "Epidemic Of Violence" and even throws in a few blast beats here and there.
There are times where it gets difficult to separate this album from an outright blackened thrash affair, though it still holds a bit more in common with Kreator's "Pleasure To Kill" despite the occasional hints at an early 90s black metal influence. Particularly in the case of "Lycopolis", the blast beats tend to overpower the song and come off as a slightly higher-fidelity answer to "A Blaze In The Northern Sky", complete with the quasi-death metal breakdowns that aren't quite muddy sounding enough to pass for what was going on in Stockholm, New York or Florida in the early 90s. But for the most part, this album is represented by up tempo and punchy thrashers like "Sons Of Kain", "Road Rage" and "The End" that really bring home the speed in a manner akin to "Persecution Mania", whereas the slightly slower and groovier "Birth Of A Nation" and "Holiday In Hell" definitely bring about as much of an Exodus feel to the riff work as it does a blackened nastiness in the vocals.
Despite the field being a bit crowded at present, Protector definitely have a lot to offer the nostalgic old school death/thrasher who remembers the mold that was broken by albums like "Seven Churches" and "Morbid Visions" and then saw this newer sound erupt into its own impressive scene in Germany while having an equally deep impact on what would come out of Florida, and then Sweden on the death metal side of the coin. It showcases a sound that has come full circle and returned to a raw, primitive, yet still highly impressive formula befitting the rage and fury that goes into the darker side of the 80s thrash sound. Sure, the image of reanimated zombies crawling out of a landscape adorned with skulls and bones is a bit tried and true, but a solid concept definitely bears repeating, and in this album's case it goes well beyond being merely bearable.