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No Consistency in Protokult - 50%

imcominforyou, November 11th, 2014

I guess it’s best to start this review by disclaiming that I am absolutely not the target demographic for No Beer in Heaven. I’m just an 18 year old non-drinker that likes metal reviewing an album that prides itself in worshiping beer and vodka. That’s not to say Protokult’s folk stylings or lyrical themes are ones that I haven’t enjoyed in the past; Equilibrium and Korpiklaani are absolute favorites of mine in the folk metal genre, but to say that No Beer in Heaven is disjointed is an understatement.

The album can’t make up its mind about whether it wants to go the Turisas direction and play power/folk or if it wants to tread atmospheric black metal territory. Lead singer, Martin Drozd’s, voice is a dead ringer for Mathias Nygård of Turisas, and that becomes incredibly obvious in the first half of the album immediately as “Get Me a Beer!” kicks in. This first half lasts until “Sanctuaries”, and it’s flooded with a lot of highlights and memorable moments, with “Flight of the Winged Hussar” being the primary one. It’s a power metal track that utilizes both female and male vocals well that sounds like it could fit in effortlessly with a Turisas album (I promise I won’t mention them again!). My least favorite aspect of the lineup is Ekaterina’s folkish warbles, and luckily she keeps it rather subdued in the first half of the album and delivers more melody with her vocal lines. A weird anomaly I noted while listening to this first half (and the entire album) is that none of the songs are very catchy or easy to pick up and start singing. None of these are drinking songs. It’s not a bad trait to have, but it certainly won’t work in your favor considering who this album is aimed for.

The second half is incredibly bizarre and jarring to listen to following the melodic first half. It’s an incredibly confused transition to witness. It starts off well enough with “Desert Scourge” as a decently brutal and speedy way to bring you over into the darker side of the album, but it goes down fast and dismally following it with the next three tracks being devoid of any kind of flow. It’s not until “Water of Life” that some redemption is gained, but it can’t undo what was a painful latter half of the album that desperately needed some unity and direction.

This is a folk metal album that doesn’t know whether it wants melody or atmosphere. It’s going to end up alienating both sides of the spectrum partially. Some people won’t like the easy listening of “Get Me a Beer!” and others will despise the lack of melody that the album offers after “Sanctuaries”. There are some decent tracks placed throughout here that would’ve worked much better had they been placed on different albums, but I guess if there’s one good thing to say about No Beer in Heaven it’s that it’s got something for everyone to enjoy.

Written for The Metal Observer

No Beer in Heaven - 75%

theBlackHull, August 16th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Independent

For those unfamiliar with the band, Protokult is a Toronto-based act playing folk / pagan metal. Althought they kept a solid guitar, bass and drums core since its inception in 2003, the band has been a revolving door for vocalists, keyboardists and other musicians. In the last few years, it became more visible on the metal scene thanks to a first album, Ancestral Anthems, released in 2010 and an EP called Marzena a year later. No Beer in Heaven represents the new chapter in this band’s discography.

The 2014 offering picks up where Marzena left. We find the same ingredients: the festive growl of Drozd and the excellent folk vocals of Ekaterina. There still is a collection of keyboard, recorder and folk instruments I’m not familiar with, incorporated onto a solid layer of heavy guitar, bass and drums. Like its predecessor, the production is also excellent: we can hear everything, from the meaty low frequencies we came to expect from a metal album to the subtle touch of the exotic instruments, and the showcased vocals at the forefront. From the musical point of view, No Beer in Heaven is full of the good ingredients.

There is however a recognizable change of substance. While Ancestral Anthems contained a cold and distant accent of black and pagan metal that reminded me of early Manegarm, Marzena with its rich textures brought the band closer to international folk and pagan metal bands such as Arkona and Skyforger. It was an enjoyable evolution overall, one that incorporated more influences without sacrificing the depth and seriousness of the band’s themes. No Beer in Heaven is a departure from this: while there were always a few elements of comradery and festive themes on the previous albums, these suddenly become the dominant theme on No Beer in Heaven, thus eclipsing most of its darker pagan metal roots.

Like bookends to an evening of storytelling and lore celebrations, the album starts with the light ”Get Me a Beer” and ends with the powerful “Water of Life”. In between, we find a few epic songs such as “Flight of the Winged Hussar” (with its power metal edge), ”Edge of Time”, “Desert Scourge” and “Gorale”, that mix great musicianship with melodic metal and enjoyable lyrics, intertwined with a few interludes. To my opinion, the strenghts of the album start taking shape towards the middle of the album with these songs. I understand the growing interest for folk metal in general, including the whole “pirate metal” thing, but I find the bavarian inspiration on this album lightweight in comparison to what this band is capable of.

No Beer in Heaven comes with two bonus tracks – one is a dance mix which I skip every time I play the album, the other one is a funny reggae jam. The booklet comes with lyrics and a good selection of nice artworks and a band photo, making the physical copy worth buying if you enjoy what you hear.

Despite my mixed feelings about the third Protokult offering, there are strong qualities to it, and I’m certain more than one metalhead will use No Beer in Heaven as a soundtrack to their parties, for it has something to please everyone.

[Originally written for]