It’s not often that you come across a band that neatly encapsulates the more po-faced nature of supposedly “traditional” or straight-forward metal with the boozy fun times of a party band, but here we are with PROTOKULT. It’s a bit perplexing, but all bands can’t be alike, right? One minute you’re enjoying a thrashing mosh monster of a track, the next you’re slamming your tankards down in a “yo-ho-ho” jam. And that’s to say nothing of the slower, folkier passages that weave their way into the fold.
“Mark Of Thunder” is a prime indicator of this rather strangely compelling listen. Opening quietly with clean guitar arpeggios, it then moves towards an almost war metal-esque epic quality that is then superseded by something more uptempo and aggressive – you keeping up? In similar fashion, follow-up “Feed Your Demons” flows from thrash, to folk and finally to black metal with nary the bat of an eyelid. To be fair, PROTOKULT make things flow smoothly, so there is no danger of a variety of genres being cobbled together haphazardly – musically, the whole band are exceptionally astute at what they do.
Whilst the likes of the above are the more straight-up metal bangers, alongside the veritably venomous “Valley Of Thorns” – a cut that rages harder than most across the album – it’s the tonal shift on the likes of “1516 (Keeper Of The Hops)”, “Oy Kanada” and “Wenches” that presents some intrigue. Three guesses as to what the former and latter are about! With that in mind, the lurch in tone is, to be frank, a little bizarre. You come to expect certain consistencies when you listen to metal, but this is something altogether different. Though it provide something of an inconsistent tone, it’s this variety that certainly offers a sense of levity to proceedings.
Despite the lighter tracks above, it’s two of the more serious ones that stand out the most across ‘Transcending The Ruins’. Firstly, “Rusalka” combines the beauty-and-the-beast style vocals to almost gothic-influenced folk with aplomb. The operatic vocals sound incredibly opulent and would not feel out of place on a NIGHTWISH or DIMMU BORGIR album, and adds a pleasant romanticism to an already colourful fold. Yet, for all the band offers across the album’s hour-and-nine-minute runtime, nothing best encapsulates their sound than closing epic “Dead New World”. Crunching riffs, noodly solos and calming sections of folk all combine to great effect alongside the dual-vocal approach, whilst taking you on a rather melancholic journey. Defiant, yet doom-laden and a touch nihilistic, it’s everything your big album curtain call should be.
PROTOKULT walk an exceptionally thin tightrope. Combining elements of thrash, black metal and folk together is not unheard of but still difficult enough to balance, but to throw in shifts in tone from your usual folk metal tropes, to outright drinkin’ songs is next level. ‘Transcending The Ruins’ may not follow the well-worn path laid out by the band’s contemporaries, but then that wouldn’t be transcending anything, would it? The levity those more humorous moments bring serves up a bit of fun and, ultimately, makes the heavier, darker moments across the album land heavier blows. It might jar on initial listens, but it all adds up to a quirky, yet enjoyable listen.