Album Review: The Protomen - Act II: Father of Death

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There are probably some things you should know about The Protomen before I start describing their music to you (unless you’re satisfied by “Go buy this album, because it’s really good”, then please feel free to go and buy this album, because it’s really good). The Protomen are a gimmick band. They play music based on the Mega Man video game for the NES. For their first album they took the story of Mega Man and made it into a masterful rock opera. Their second album, Act II - The Father of Death, is a prequel to their first album and the original Mega Man game. It focuses on Dr. Tom Light’s creation of the robots, his consequent doubts about them and their usefulness, and Dr. Wily’s attempt to use them to control humanity, and destroy Tom’s reputation (by killing Emily, Tom’s wife, and then framing the doctor for the act). With Dr. Light on the run, the story starts to follow Joe, an ordinary citiizen, as he meets the now exciled Dr. Light, and ends with Joe dead in his suicidal attempt to give the city back to the humans and take it away from Dr. Wily’s robots. Tom Light then realizes that he has “work to do”, setting the stage for the actual story of Mega Man.

But all that says nothing about the music. The songs on this album are so varied that it’s hard to place them into a single category. The album starts of slow, with drummer boy marching and slow flamingo style guitar picking, music that would fit the soundtrack of any number of spaghetti westerns from the 1960’s. Dr. Light and Dr. Wily’s (the actual artists are known only by their stagenames) vocals are in a style reminiscent of call and response, a theme that continues throughout the album. As the story progresses the music gets aggressive - more intense, the picking turns into strumming, and electric guitars start screaming simple solos. All of this works together to build an atmosphere that draws the listener into the story.

The Protomen inject their album with equal dosages of instrumentals and mob-chanting-choir-heavy music. While the first couple of songs are reminiscent of Calexico-styled music, The Hounds leaves this behind with riffs and a faster tempo filled in by trumpets, with as result that you can easily imagine an Aha framed chase sequence with fire and pitchforks. It’s probably the central - and most important - part of the story, and pivotal to how the album develops. The music becomes a lot darker, and a lot more complex. None of it is really exemplary: there are no mind blowing guitar solos, no incredibly intense drum sequences, the music doesn’t get very loud, but all of it works together well. While it’s simple, it’s the sum of all the individual parts that comes together and paints a masterful apocalyptic drama. Musically, there is nothing that I could think of to improve this album. The band clearly knows what they are doing and the style they are going for, and as far as I’m concerned achieve it very well. The Protomen Myspace

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