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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.
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.