Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Protector 101 Ventures Into The Wastelands

by Jon Of The Shred

Hello friends and esteemed colleagues. It is I, Jon of the Shred. You may or may not know me, but if you're a part of the Synthetix.FM Facebook community it's fair to assume you've heard some of my music. But what you may not have known is I'm also a writer. It is a great privilege to lend my writing skills to Synthetix.FM. Many moons ago, my music was introduced to this scene by Rick Shithouse on this very website! My first concentrated effort to nail the 80's soundtrack vibe was a track called 2029 A.D., and Rick mentioned it in a Weekend Update last November. Now, dozens of songs and collaborations later, here I am. Kudos to Rick for not only introducing my music to the scene, but also giving me the opportunity to give back in joining the Synthetix.FM staff.

For my first review, I felt obligated to choose “Wastelands,” the latest Protector 101 release. I'd like to mention, before starting, that every melodic element of this album (everything besides drums and SFX) was made using the freeware VST Synth 1.

Things open with an atmospheric spoken intro that conjures images of Mad Max meets the Stranger Gun Dealer from Resident Evil 4. “Watcha buyin? Watcha sellin? NOT ENOUGH CASH. Ah, I'll buy it at a high price!” This transitions right into an atmospheric piece, the 'Opening Credits', which then segues fluidly to 'Across the Dust Bowl'.

This is totally a film-score for a movie that plays out in the listeners mind, with Master Control's masterful artwork providing just enough of a springboard to get the wheels of imagination spinning out of control as atmospheric track after atmospheric track bombards the senses with cinematic expertise. 

Throughout the first three songs I imagine our protagonist journeying through a vast wasteland, but it isn't until track 4 that the ever-rising tension built in the first three tracks peak. 'The Nuclear Brawlers' is a pulsing track full of intrigue and drama. A reverb soaked synth lead tells tales of wonder and horror, as synth drones in the background wail ominously like dying dinosaurs.

'Urban Maze at Night' gives me a Warriors vibe. The protagonist has somehow sneaked past the Nuclear Brawlers camp without being spotted and now stealthily moves through fog covered allies. But it doesn't last for long – seems he has been spotted in very next track, entitled 'The Knight Waste', given the stabbing bass lines and dissonant sweeps giving off a danger-wrought aura. And so the album continues onward, with each track adding another piece to the puzzle, painting more color and texture for the world Protector 101 creates through his synth driven symphonies.

The beauty of the album lies in it's ability to paint a picture, each song not only having a place and progressing the story further, but also transitioning cleanly from track-to-track. The fact Protector 101 used only Synth 1 for the entirety of this album is very impressive, and it makes sense – this has a total film-score vibe. The cohesiveness of a film-score requires a similar tone maintained throughout. Synth 1 was  great choice to capture this constant ebb and flow of tension the album manages to evoke.

Things seem to really take off with 'The Vipers'. While most tracks before it were more in the realm of expertly calculated atmosphere, 'The Vipers' is a track that hits the ground running and doesn't let up, with a constant driving sound that lets you know Act 1 of the movie is over and Act 2 has come into play. 'The Vipers' ends on a melodic note, which perfectly flows into 'Back Alleys'. This one has a very horror vibe, which is further expanded upon in 'The Storm'.

This album comes highly recommended from me, and in the interest of it's story-telling genius, I'm going to leave you with some surprises. You will no doubt come up with stories of your own as you listen to this album, it truly is a cinematic experience, and arguably Protector 101's strongest release thus far.

As a fan of concepts that play out throughout the course of an album, it is a treat to listen to this, to hear it all play out and progress. I can't help but think again and again of the films The Warriors and the Mad Max trilogy as this album plays out. Wastelands would compliment either of these movies perfectly, namely a skilled anti-hero staring down the odds, foes in great numbers all attempting to hunt him or her down, and the anti-hero overcoming the odds through violent means. 

The highlights to me were the more driving numbers, and I do wish we could have gotten a bit more of those, as there was plenty of atmospheric and ambient tracks. The short guitar bursts in 'Memories' were also a nice touch. But the 4-song punch that ends the album, particularly the 9+ minute epic, 'Mall', are probably the highlights of the entire album for me. 'Mall' nails the whole end-of-movie-final-showdown vibe perfectly, rising in intensity throughout the track run-time, building off the momentum that's been building the entire album. 

Don't miss this one, it's a killer release and one of several concept albums in the synth scene that are a must-listen for fans of movie scores and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.

Telefuture Records presents Protector 101's Wastelands album on their Bandcamp page here where you can pick up a copy in digital formats and limited edition cassette. 

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written Jon. I agree - it's a kickass album. P101 is one of the best at creating that movie atmosphere :)