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NBHAP Rating: 4,5/5


[one_half last=”yes”]PROTOMARTYR
The Agent Intellect

Release-Date: 09.10.2015
Label: Hardly Art/Cargo

01. The Devil in His Youth
02. Cowards Starve
03. I Forgive You
04. Boyce or Boice
05. Pontiac 87
06. Uncle Mother’s
07. Dope Cloud
08. The Hermit
09. Clandestine Time
10. Why Does It Shake?
11. Ellen
12. Feast of Stephen





It takes balls for a man in his mid 30s to form a band along with a bunch of young, ambitious and hungry musicians. Especially when the music that this band happens to make turns out to be the self-consuming, rambling post punk that PROTOMARTYR exercise. But Joe Casey went along with it anway, giving the tunes of his bandmates Greg Ahee, Alex Leonard and Scott Davidson a frontman they deserve. The Agent Intellect is now already PROTOMARTYR‘s third record in three years and the scary thing is: these guys just keep getting better.

Last year’s Under Color Of Official Right probably marked a breakthrough for the Detroit based foursome. Its dark undertone stood out mainly because of the distinct voice of Casey, who’s referring to himself as more of a yeller than a singer. But just how good the songwriting of the whole band has gotten is apparent now, that PROTOMARTYR deliver their best work to date although they’ve already been on a high level.

Singer Joe Casey recently compared his relation to the rest of the band as being the tick, sucking on a dog. And indeed, there’s a something like a productive incompability in this band’s music but nonetheless: The commitment of everyone involved in PROTOMARTYR is sensible, almost physical.

Protomartyr - Photo by Zak Bratto

Protomartyr – Photo by Zak Bratto

A typical PROTOMARTYR song works like an unpredictable novel plot: many details are laid out, all great in their own way but one after another also slowly falling into place to ultimately reveal a very bright architecture. There are the beautifully classic and in their sparseness bloody intelligent guitar lines of Pontiac 87 that’ll stick with you for a long time, promised. And while Joe Casey’s hardly optimistic mantra ‘there’s no use being sad about it / what’s the point of crying about it’ keeps talking in the back of your head, the chorusses’ noisey shreds and all-over-the-place-drums still elegantly keep the track edgy enough to maintain PROTOMARTYR‘s typical sense of despair.

And yes, PROTOMARTYR‘s music is still much more like Dismaland than Disneyland. It’s got a raging political impetus at times (‘False happiness is on the rise / See the victims piled high’) and it’s fueled by dark, twisted imagery, dealing with, according to Casey, nothing less than: ‘evil, false pride, lawyer billboards, dust, Matt Ziolkowski, Detroit, mountains, money, Alzheimer’s, death, laughs, eyes, internet bullshit, whatever psychological affliction people have that leads one to act like Samson and pull the walls down on themselves, hatred of babies, drinking, old folks trying to be young, the loss of self, etc.’.

Sure, there’s also hope and light in there, a good dash of dry humour as well. But what really elevates The Age Intellect from PROTOMARTYR‘s already impressive output are probably the more personal moments. Ellen, written as a love letter from Casey’s dead father to his mother and Why Does It Shake?, a metaphorical lingering on her Alzheimers disease are a truely heart-wrenching double. The JOY DIVISION references become pretty obvious in the latter, although that’s kind of the lazy man’s comparison; so let’s add the more nerdy influences of avantgarde punks PERE UBU and THE FALL here.

In their best moments, PROTOMARTYR indeed don’t fall short of those big reference points – in fact, there’s possibly no band out there right now that digs so elegantly through the dirt of noise and post punk. But you have to be prepared for this album’s emotional impact. It sucks you in, twists you ’round and spits you out. It’s a devastating and – in the best sense of the word – real experience; but it feels cool as fuck to go through it.