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Urn, you lovely little skeleton fella, you - 88%

Acrobat, November 7th, 2011

For whatever reason I don't tend to hear the name "Protector" mentioned all that often when people discuss early extreme metal (no, there's not a "proto-extreme" in this case; you're either in or you're out). However, I do think they are notably extreme enough to make the cut along with, say, other German luminaries such as Kreator, Destruction and Sodom (yes, those three once again). Perhaps it's worth noting that while those limelight-hogging trio largely gave up the extremity to their sound after their early records (with Sodom being the possible exception with their brief flirtation with death thrash on the Tapping the Vein album), Protector got a considerably harder-edge over time. Or, at least from what I've heard, they got heavier between their full-length debut, Golem, and this the ripping Urn the Mad.

What is present on this record is notably less typically thrashy than what came before; a frequent use of slower tempos, even murkier production and truly sick vocals from Martin Missy (who, despite having a name that makes him sound like a bit-part character in a sub-par King Diamond album, is a fucking excellent vocalist). So, I guess what I find interesting about Protector, then, is that instead of following a thrashier path on this record they lumbered towards some odd primordial death-like sound. It's still a thrash record, sure, but it feels notably darker, grimmer and generally lacks that "push people around in the mosh pit" vibe that is associated with late-80s thrash. If pressed, I'd certainly say that this is closer to Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion than whatever your own personal standard of "typical late-80s" thrash metal might be. So, that basically leaves us with a thrash record that will appeal to people who don't necessarily like Exodus or Metallica.

Missy's sepulchural vocals are perhaps the most deathy aspect to this record. I can't honestly say that I've heard a thrash vocalist sound so convincingly extreme as he does here. Just listen to the title-track - he's positively menancing! Urn... THE MAD! See, this is thrash metal for fans of Slowly We Rot. Okay, so maybe you're not impressed by convincing death/thrash in 1989? Considering that this was a year after Malleus Maleficarum and a handful of other death metal full-lengths (although, notably ones that are still very much thrash-flecked in tone), perhaps this is not such an impressive feat. Hell, I should probably note that the band aren't afraid to use blast-beats with the closer being a fifty-second grind-influenced piece. Nonetheless, Urn the Mad has a ripping vitality to it and certainly stands to be more than a mere historical footnote; it's very memorable but I wouldn't necessarily call it an obviously catchy record. The riffs themselves aren't particularly "hooky" and it doesn't have any catchy tracks like 'Space Cake' or 'Golem', and yet the combination of Missy's schizophrenic vocals - which do literally "leap out" at the listener at times - and Hansi Müller's rather austere riffing make for something that strangely atmospheric, if you can ever use such an adjective when describing thrash.

Basically, this is thrash metal that functions so well very as death metal that you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for its younger, even uglier brother. It has all the grey-skyed oppressive heaviness you could ask for and with Martin Missy's absolutely vile vocals it's an even more (un)attractive package. You can pick this up through the compilation Ominous Message of Brutality (a more fitting title you possibly couldn't find) and I strongly recommend doing so.