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1989 was another fine time for metal, many great albums were made that year. Many records that made clear that most of the groups were becoming more sophisticated, classy and inevitably commercial (with some exceptions). Power thrash became a trend by the end of the decade; melody and progression were essential elements for this new movement’s music. It seemed that the evil dark cliches of the mid-80’s were going to disappear. Fortunately, European thrashers refused to follow that mellow sweet thrash fashion and still offered sadistic stuff by that time. If you were not a big fan of cheesy power metal, back then you could chose the killer material of Protector instead, who were one of the best alternatives to the silly melodic sounds that ruled the subgenre.
These guys kept their original sound and total merciless death/thrash concept while others began to become inoffensive and predictable. “Quasimodo” or “Decadence”, which are the most inspired solid songs of the pack, made clear Protector did’t want to change their old ways. It’s true that the sound of the band hasn’t really evolved or developed by the late 80’s, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t offer relentless thrash with death elements like on previous brilliant releases. The riffs and hooks that take control on these violent compositions are straight, harsh and remarkably heavy. Not that dynamic or loose as before, you can notice the group focus on the intensity and weight of them, slowing down the tempo in tunes like “Nothing Has Changed” and “The Most Repugnant Antagonist Of Life” (I love that title) to reach a sinister cathartic climax. The result is decent, not as memorable as on the fastest moments of the long-play, though. The elements of death metal are becoming more notable this time, they forget about velocity to execute mid-paced stuff and give attention to the rough grotesque vocals. There’s not so much blast beats, but in other numbers like “Sliced, Hacked & Grinded”, “Atrocities” or the title-track, Protector alternate fierce double bass-drum beatings and rampant rhythms with quieter lenghty breaks. The bridges are skilled and necessarily numerous, so there’s no weakness on the song-structures, which are slightly complex. The unpredictable tempo changes are admirable and elaborated; technique is immaculate and performed rightly. These tracks are musically strenghtful and competent enough to reach a very high level of musicianship and creativity, even if they don’t offer nothing significantly new that we didn’t hear before from them. And the final cut “Molotow Cocktail” is a 48 seconds-lenght bunch of noise that you shouldn’t take very seriously. It seems they wanted to rivalize with Tankard’s “Mon Cheri” with that one, dumb fun!
The outrageous aggression in each song is convincing and powerful, you couldn’t really find much songs like these by that year. Maybe you will be shocked when you check the date this album was released, it sounds more like mid-80’s killer thrash instead! And the production contributes to make it sound even more vintage, because it’s primitive and bad just like on the early days of Teutonic thrash. So noisy and simple, with guitars very loud and dirty, in particular. Good to be bad this time, that rude sound engineering and mixing job makes this LP get so savage and bestial, far from the clean sophisticated result of other groups. But I wish vocals didn’t sound that distant and weak, it’s really unfair for the outstanding work Martin Missy did here. That growling is immense, so deep and intense, tuned lower than before, the ideal voice for the nature of both music and lyrics. The verses feature some interesting issues you couldn’t have expected, “Capitascism” for instance. For a short moment, they forget about the pleasant evil topics to speak about something different. Hansi Müller’s guitar parts are decent, honest and well-executed. We all know he’s one of those effective musicians who are far from technical or extraordinary, but always make an acceptable performance. His solos are the most forgettable thing of the album: so sloppy, inconsistent and repetitive, abusing of the famous guitar tremolo-bar dive bombs Slayer made so popular among thrashers. It seems to be just a single guitar track in the whole long-play, overdubbed twice but the same one after all, apart from the solos. The epitome of basic simple production, but it worked well. The rhythmic section Belichmeier-Hasse is far from impressive but defines the rhythm correctly with no clumsy incompetence, sounds very decent actually. Once again, the bass is missing in many moments of the record, but that wasn’t surprising in most of thrash albums back then (now either).
It’s not a perfect long-play, but those handicaps make it honest, raw and heavy. Another great splendid release that made clear where the most brutal metal was done. No melody, no extremely technical progression, no mercy. Their stunning death/thrash combination makes sense and works fine without exception, so fans of both subgenres will love this wicked material. I always wondered why these guys never reached the recognition and popularity or some of their country mates and still keep terribly underrated and forgotten. The discreet appreciation from most of thrash and death fans of this group is unfair to the extreme, so sad because these compositions can perfectly compete with anything the big famous death and thrash heroes made.
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.