It’s funny how experimental, extreme, and essentially subversive genres become just as susceptible to tropes and cliches as any other genre out there. It probably has something to do with how creativity works, that most of us need a common scaffolding from which to work, leaving the truly wild explorations to fully shake up or reinvent the status quo. But there’s also a different kind of creativity, one which we’ve eluded to multiple times on the blog, and that’s the creativity of taking established ideas and reconfiguring them in interesting ways. That means that the new work is inherently recognizable, as it relies on many common tropes, but does things interestingly enough to have merit on its own.
This is the case with Protosequence and their upcoming A Blunt Description of Something Obscene. It’s an album that’s very much “of” the current paradigm of progressive/technical death metal but it has enough to say about dissonance, vocals, brutality, fragility, and aggression to be incredibly interesting and engaging. This variety, the band’s own unique take on established things, can be heard right off the bat. “Savagery in Fundamental Behaviors” wastes absolutely no time; it starts off with quick drum work, making excellent use of the hi-hat, and then fleshes things out with an absolutely vicious bass line. Embellished by the guitar, these sounds become the basis for the fast-moving, intricate beast that is the track itself.
Add in brutal gutturals, squeals, and growls, and the full picture starts to unfold: Protosequence are about fast, technical, and bewildering death metal. As we said, the tropes should be intimately familiar to fans of the genre, from the (excellent and well produced) drum tone, through the way the guitar bends and wends its way around the riffs, to the groovy sections replete throughout that break up the technicality in satisfying ways. But everything has Protosequence’s flourish on it, especially the vocals which are a few notches heavier and filthier than you’d expect to hear here but also on the “open” chords which the guitar strums, reminding us of Artificial Brain‘s odd approach to backing chords or Mithras‘s open, cold, expansive guitar lines.
The next “shift”, the next time you really feel Protosequence’s take on things, is when this first, blazingly fast, opening track transitions into the second, self-titled track. The clean vocals that suddenly erupt are extremely effective after the abrasive singing on the previous track. This is accompanied by a more morose guitar sound. Things are still intricate, with multiple styles blending together, but the overall direction is different, more mellow, almost Opeth influenced. That is, until it goes back to being incredibly heavy and punishing, the track channeling early Job For a Cowboy or Beneath the Massacre for an extended segment in the middle, replete with some furious “ough”s and squeals.
These back and forth jumps are not, in and of themself, something daring or experimental (within the confines of the sub-genre of course, which is already more experimental than most other styles of music out there) but the way in which Protosequence pull them off is incredibly satisfying. That’s what makes A Blunt Description of Something Obscene so fun: these guys are clearly fans of progressive death metal and they clearly know their way around the genre (and heavier ones, as the vocals and music slip once again and again into brutal deathcore territory). It’s a joy to hear them explore the tensions between established ideas from that genre of meta, adding in sounds from adjacent genres. This creates an intricate and engaging album, even if it doesn’t shatter the individual tropes of the genres in which it resides, delivering fury, aggression, and complexity.
A Blunt Description of Something Obscene is available May 19 via Lacerated Enemy Records.