With their most thematic album of their career on Relatives In Descent, Protomartyr had completely changed their game. For their new record however, the band decides to give a sparing offering of their raw punk energy, and atypical writing. Though this can offer a lot of brutal and raw energy, the album’s inconsistent moments will ultimately prove divisive more than anything.
Through their sonic barrage of drums and heavy feedback, Protomartyr start the album on a heavy note with “Wait” as Casey shouts his heart out. The chords grow extra demonic throughout the song to bring an even more chaotic energy as the track moves along. Ambient breaks make every return to the song’s massive rush feel even more oppressive, and Casey’s energy all the more immediate. Though the final tumultuous outro does bring a new layer of manic riffs to the song, the song does feel as if it’s missing something by the end.
Ominous dark energy runs through the riffs of “Same Face in a Different Mirror” before Casey goes on the attack with the rest of Protomartyr shredding behind him. The visual nature of his complex lyricism keeps much of the song mysterious, and gives a strong sense of coherence as the band alternates between their various grooves. Here however there’s less of an immediacy to any of the energy to make the song really pop. Regardless of the stellar grooves the band manage to pull out throughout the track, it lacks that strong pop or even the confrontational energy of many of their best songs.
With a screaming Kelley Deal in tow, “Wheel Of Fortune” is a fiery track that mixes Casey’s usual novel vocal energy with something overtly political yet somewhat divine. This energy comes right through as the track pauses for creepy keyboard breaks and waves of harmony drip through the back-end of the recording. As they shift into their slow-burning b-section, there’s a ghostly energy to the song’s harmonies that really let them play around endlessly while holding onto a pop energy. After Protmartyr begin to suggest a more autonomous look at life, the song even seems to suggest that there’s some balance between people’s own conviction and the powers that be to keep them down.
In a hovering swirl of vocals and strings, “You Always Win” sees Casey resigned to defeat as his lyrics maintain a sort of poetry despite being much more focused and personal. As his own vocal start to become more unhinged and rapid, the instrumentation in turn grows more dense and complex with a range of sounds and feedback to match him. As Deal and Casey seem to play call and response the music becomes a wall of sound to match Casey’s own disdain. With woodwinds flaring in the final drum moments, Casey doesn’t know what to do anymore but keep fighting the odds until he finds his own victory.
Words by Owen Maxwell