When opening the press pack, the bands listed under the “for fans of…” are ARKONA, KORPIKLANNI, WINDIR, NIGHTWISH, TURISAS and SKYFORGER. This piqued my curiosity as that is such a wide range of influences and since this is my first experience of Toronto Pagan/Folk act PROTOKULT, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With that said, their upcoming third studio album Transcending The Ruins is one of the more interesting albums I have heard. It’s one I would highly recommend listening to once it’s released. Given its vast variety of content and many unexpected surprises, one of my rare track by track reviews seemed apt here.
Mark Of Thunder has got to be first album opener that has ever teased me. There are sombre tones that create a mysterious atmosphere that are abruptly interrupted by heavy distortion. From the moment you press play, you don’t know what to expect and I admire that. You are then treated to the actual song itself; the prevailing growls and excellent guitar work catch my attention instantly. ENSIFERUM and AEPHANEMER come to mind when I listen to this track.
The pounding rhythms in Feed Your Demons remind me of running into battle at full speed. You can hear the full range of Ekaterina’s vast vocal work. She sings like a siren and screeches like a banshee, in my books those are the marks of an amazing vocalist.
After Folk/Pagan sounds, the Power Metal style vocals in 1516 (Keep Of The Hops) came as a surprise. Especially alongside the growls. There are hints of NIGHTWISH in this track from the delicate keyboards and haunting choral vocals.
Oy Kanada is the track that will cause the mosh pits at live shows. ENSIFERUM came to mind when I hear the finger blistering riffs that produce warrior-esque melodies. The beauty and the beast style contrast between Ekaterina’s beautiful vocals and Martin Drozd’s prevailing growls works really well.
Troubled Lad (Slainte Mhaith) is dedicated to their former Irish-Canadian keyboardist who left the band to pursue Gaelic studies. In particular, it looks at those with multiple ethnicities/backgrounds integrating into a multi-cultural society. From the moment you press play, you know instantly to have drinking horns ready for a party.
Na Gryanoi Nedele is a haunting instrumental that has you transfixed. It has you ready for the next track.
If ARKONA and NIGHTWISH were to create music together, it would sound something like Rusalka. When I listen to the delicate keyboard melodies coming through the heavy guitar riffs, I think of twinkling stars still shining through on a dark, foggy night. It works impeccably well.
After hearing Valley Of Thorns, I am thinking Symphonic Thrash metal could easily be a thing. The rapid guitar riffs with twinkling, delicate synth arrangements coming through reinforce this theory. It’s sharp and keeps you on your toes, just like going through a literal valley of thorns.
Wenches is another party track. It allows us to kick back and enjoy ourselves. I am reminded of an old tavern or a Viking mess hall where tankards or drinking horns are raised up high. Could it be the next folk metal party anthem? I certainly think it could be.
I have one word for Greet The Dawn: beautiful. Ekaterina’s stunning vocals remind me of Mother Nature speaking to the earth. It is simply enchanting. This track allows the listener to unwind for a few moments and to take a break from the heavy tracks. Even when the growls and heavy riffs come in, this does not affect the tranquillity of the track whatsoever.
When I listen to the beautiful, calm opening of Dead New World, one question enters my mind. Is it going to stay like this throughout or will it change? As that thought follows through my mind, it goes from tranquil to dark in a matter of seconds. Even down to the last track, the band keep us guessing and on our toes.
Transcending The Ruins is my first experience of PROTOKULT and I am now a new fan because of this mesmerising record. With its huge variety of tracks, I am certain this will appeal to a wide variety of metal fans.
Words: Lotty Whittingham
Transcending The Ruins will be released 1st October 2020.
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