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Protector’s The Heritage manages a few great feats: first and foremost it’s a good thrash album in 1993, which is quite noteworthy in of itself, and, secondly, it features a line-up that has nothing in common with their 1980s stuff. And yet, this album is definitely deserving of the Protector namesake: tense, energetic death-thrash with plenty of distinct Protector-isms that fans will recognise from classics like Urm the Mad. In fact, as far as the Wiebel-era of the band goes I’d have to say that I like this a little bit more than A Shedding of Skin. Surely, as the title might well suggest this is a band fully aware of their own heritage.
What with it being the thrash recession one would expect that this album would show a considerable reduction in quality when compared to the band’s should-be-legendary 1980s output. After all, in the December of 1992, all German thrash bands were reduced to drinking only Aldi’s pissy, plastic-bottled lager given the levels of the thrash crisis in the face of death metal’s superiority. But still, the songs here are urgent and some are really very memorable. My favourite would have to be ‘Convicts on the Streets’ which displays what is normally considered the absolute bane of most thrash bands: a groove metal influence. Yes, indeed, after a typically kinetic thrash intro the band drive straight into a riff that bares more than a passing resemblance to Pantera’s ‘Walk’. I don’t have any major problem with any of Pantera’s output, but it just strikes me as strange that whereas 99% of thrash bands incorporating their influence ended up with something terrible, Protector struck gold. Rather surprising, I’d say. The song’s genuinely memorable, too, with a change of vocal style and some swung rhythms. It seems that there were some who could successfully diverge from the established formula and still come up with something worthwhile.
The rest of the album, however, is typical death-thrash; you’ll get the odd melodic solo here and there, and a creepy clean intro, but nothing that’ll surprise you too much. Still, this is Protector so they really don’t give any less than compelling stuff. Of course, the band have more than a passing familiarity with extreme metal – in fact, they’d (well, the band, not the musicians on this album) been plying blistering extreme thrash since ’86. As such you’ll hear a fair few blast beats and the vocals are even more guttural than those Martin Missy provided on Urm the Mad (albeit not as distinctive). So, while there is an extreme influence, it’s not like Protector were caught with their trousers down in the no-thrash-1990s and frantically decided to tack on some death metal influences. Take the excellent, 'Scars Bleed Life Long', for an example, with its pulsating deathly verses and a chorus that retains catchiness of thrash.
So although not an absolute classic, this is still another worthwhile entry into Protector’s catalogue with some cool instrumental work. For a 1993 thrash album it is simply outstanding and alongside Sodom’s Get What You Deserve it’s one of the very few good albums that I’ve heard from this genre in the mid-1990s. The writing, whilst not always excellent, is generally good and the band are clearly enjoying themselves (just check out the hyper-speed blast of ‘Paralizer’ for further proof). Simply put, if you like Protector, you should go ahead and check it out. And if you can find an actual copy, pick it up – it’s OOP and it doesn’t like it’ll be reissued any time soon.
It was time for radical changes for Protector in 1993. The tragic death of former drummer Michael Hasse made the band face the 90’s with uncertainty and doubts. Although by 1992 a completely new line-up was already playing some gigs in their home country. The only musician left from the previous album line-up was Olly Wiebel, now supported by a professional rhythmic section: Matze Grün on bass and Marco Pape on drums. Not a single member of the Protector classic line-up (Missy-Müller-Belichmeier-Hasse) was in the group anymore, making this new project more abstract and kinda senseless. I admit I was skeptic about this record, with new music players, sound and influences, recorded in difficult times for thrash but fine times for death.
But all my doubts and fears got completely smashed by the first riff sequence from the outrageous opening track. And well, the following 3 cuts feature (more or less) that same song-structure. The faces have changed but not the aggression, brutality and distinctive harsh sonic attack from previous records, including impressive cathartic riffs, merciless, sadistic, absolutely relentless and terrifying. On those 4 songs there’s a bunch of violent riff series that will make you headbang like mad; the drum work is also extremely fast so intensity and violence are guaranteed. The group surely chose the death ways, getting distant from thrash which was going through bad times by that year, so I guess this more death-focused sound was a sensible choice to survive. That outrageous velocity takes a lot of influence from Morbid Angel, early 90’s devastating Pestilence raw sound, even Terrorizer or the Florida adventure third Napalm Death album seemed to inspire Olly and co. And as I mentioned before, the fantastic first 4 tracks follow a similar structure: straight frantic killer riffs that in the half of the composition get quieter, weighty and mid-paced when the band introduces a slow lengthy break, then aggression reappears and it’s time for the pickin’ part. So those solid tunes are lethal enough to make this album worth listening to. The next numbers are another part of the story, something different and I’m afraid weaker. “Convicts On The Streets” and “Protective Unconsciousness” include some dumb unpleasant groovy moments that follow the trend of the times. They remind me a lot of Pantera (“Walk” in particular!) and their song-writing is kinda uninspired, repetitive and lame. The worst stuff ever from this band, although there are maybe a couple of good riffs in that embarrassing wreck. Unless you like incompetent imitations of Anselmo and co., you’d better skip those. I must highlight the only instrumental cut on the whole record, “Palpitation”, whose first 2 minutes are a waste, but after that the majestic powerful riffing exhibition starts, the most strengthful since Dark Angel’s immense “Cauterization”. The other songs left to comment are avoidable: the bunch of noise sequel song of their 1989’s “Molotow Cocktail”, “Paralizer”, and the 1 minute length outro which is an answer to Possessed’s “Dog Fight”.
The final result of this record is decent; I wish they didn’t follow the fashion music of those days though. It’s alright when they perform their outstanding savage death/thrash, not so consistent when they experiment with those modern sounds and elements. However, this bizarre new line-up is totally skilled and marvelous on each song. Olly particularly; his talent, creativity and technique have improved a lot since the last album. His fingers are faster and more insatiable than ever before on each of his solid heavy riffs and hooks. Completely admirable guitar work, but the solos are still sloppy and noisy. At times he tries to emulate Dimebag Darrell with mediocre results, abusing of his pedal effects. His voice, on other hand, is much more defined, guttural and incredibly evil compared to what we heard before from him. Great contribution from this guy who started in this band replacing original bassist Ede Belichmeier in a couple of shows, then took the vocalist role and finally the guitar duties as well, becoming lord and master of Protector. The only instruments he didn’t ever play were drums, but he chose the right replacement for Hasse: Mr. Marco Pape is a virtuoso with superb abilities and complete control of his double bass-drums specially. Check the amusing short drum solo on “Chronology”! Bassist Matze Grün is missing on the whole album, except when both guitars and drums mute, then you can hear him. It came as no surprise that bass faded away in the final mix, typical from thrash and death stuff. The production is rich, powerful and well-balanced though, the finest this group ever had, something that contributes to make this release memorable and listenable. Fortunately, this time they aren’t playing so many exhausting acoustic intros in the style of “Necropolis” as on the previous album, so there’s more continuity and straighter energy in this one.
It took so long for me to find this one, it has always been like a ghost album or something to me because I couldn’t get it anywhere, it’s very rare. Maybe that’s why Protector fans don’t talk much about it, but it’s worth listening to, even if there’s some lame moments. I can’t obviously put this material in the same level as the classic Protector stuff, we could have all lived without it – but as a final release (until the 21st century group resurrection) is pretty decent. As we all know, the group languished in obscurity during the tough 90’s as many other Teutonic metal heroes (Marco kept the group alive but as a live band only, apart that 2000 demo). And since 2011, Missy is back and resurrected Protector in Sweden with a completely new line-up, even announced a new CD that will be probably released next month. Let’s hope it will be good.
Protector is primarily known for their death thrash of the mid and late 1980’s. They in part helped develop the Teutonic death metal scene and arguably on a small scale the death metal scene through out Europe. The years leading up to their final album saw them getting a progressively heavier, faster and more developed death metal sound. When Olly Wiebel replaced original vocalist Martin Missy in late 1989 the band turned to a more developed death metal sound. By the time “The Heritage” was released in 1993 hundreds of bands were producing full on death metal albums, but none are as balanced as “The Heritage”.
The album is full of tempo changes, even more so than their previous album, “A Shedding Of Skin”. This does not mean though that it is in the least bit slow, in fact the song “Chronology” has the fastest thrash/skank beats that the band ever produced. The album is moderately technical, but the most important thing on this album is the high quality musicianship that it possesses. This album is the most well written death metal album that I have personally ever listened to, it is on the same scale as Dark Angel’s technical thrash album “Time Does Not Heal”, Incubus’s “Beyond The Unknown”, Cancer’s “The Sins Of Mankind”, and Armagedon’s “The Invisible Circle”. Take for example the song “Lost Properties”, the intro sends a chill down your spine, they played a very fast tremolo riff at very high tuning to get the effect that sounds like sea gulls, highly innovative, and just shows how serious Protector was in making a masterpiece death metal album.
Most bands that play as fast as Protector have a hard time stepping back and composing a album that is not only fast but that has substance to it. For Protector, this album was at their pinnacle, because with as many albums as they had under their belt they had the knowledge and experience necessary to focus and hone in on a sound that they could call their own. In most previous albums they strived to be fast and heavy with less emphasis on control. “A Shedding Of Skin” is where the band began to focus on maturing their sound and in many ways helped develop what they did on this album. In a macro view of the album it is apparent that a great deal of time and money was spent in production. This is in stark contrast to the majority of extreme metal bands in the early 1990’s, even well known death metal bands of the time like Morbid Angel and Deicide did not have as great of production and clarity in sound on their albums in comparison to “The Heritage”.
In conclusion, this album is the epitome of death metal and I am not afraid to say that this is in every way what I consider to be the best death metal album of all time, based on its level of composition, musicianship, innovation, production, speed, and heaviness.
Protector's name typically roots them in the thrash metal genre as they are best known for their Kreator-meets-Sodom influenced thrash album "Golem" from the late 80's. Their early 'thrash' sound was a mixture of hardcore, (previously mentioned) German thrash bands and 80's death metal. In 1991 "A Shedding of Skin" found Protector embracing a somewhat American style of death metal similar to that of Pestilence's "Malleus Maleficarum." By 1993 death metal was coming into its own mainstream art form, thrash metal was 'out' and Pantera's groove metal was 'in'. Protector's final album "The Heritage" is an eclectic mixture of the bands previous death/thrash styles and features some successful modern (at the time) experimentation.
'Mental Malaria' kicks off the album with a blast, a galloping death metal song with double bass drumming and wailing guitars. The style and energy of the opening song brings to mind the frantic intensity of Insanity's "Death After Death" album. The title track nearly resembles Deicide's self-titled debut or "Altars of Madness" with it's jumpy thrash riffs and death metal breaks. Track five is where the album's momentum sort of hiccups, and the tone of the album changes. Up pops "Convicts on the Street" an anomalous song that combines a riff akin to Pantera's "Walk" with an otherwise classic death metal arrangement. The product is some kind of death metal influenced rock song that is actually pretty decent. It might be the only groove song you ever like... Protector never wrote (or sang) like this on any other song they released. As the rest of the album plays "Palpitation" shows a nice bit of epic "Coma of Souls" influence.
"The Heritage" is a successful death/thrash metal album, mixing the styles at a 75/25 rate. Putting on a Protector album and not getting the sloppy "Golem" style thrash might put off some fans, but if you liked "A Shedding of Skin" and "Urm the Mad" this album will make sense. Will this album please classic thrash fans? Maybe, if you're open to old school death metal. Will this album please classic death metal fans? Yes, apart from the groove song, this should find a comfortable spot in your old school death metal collection.