Release DetailsLABEL Cold Meat Industry
RELEASED ON 11/30/2005
Songs of Experience
posted on 2/2006 By:
This needs to be said here and now: No, The Protagonist are by no means extreme metal; however, neoclassical, avantgarde, experimental, and ambient bands are all extreme in their own right as they undeniably try to push the envelope of modern music into areas beyond the norms of conventional music. It takes a trained eye and an open mind to realize that not all extremity has to be in the form of a blast beat or guttural vocals albeit I don’t expect every listener of metal to be able to appreciate a band like this. Avantgarde of this style is sort of like foreign films, it takes a certain sort of mindset of open mindedness to be able to enjoy them that I guarantee is rewarding.
With all this said though, The Protagonist is a poignant, impressionistic force that exists as an embodiment of the romanticism of darkness they strive so hard to create. Fancy eh? I already feel more cultured than you talking about them. Seriously though, Songs of Experience employs a technique not to foreign from the Ulver release Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in that the music is crafted from the emotional tone of said authors writings. I’ve seen it done by other bands but I wouldn’t consider Shakespeare in Hell or similar attempts to be the best comparison to the musical tonality of this type of band. I’ve always been a fan of music that pulls its inspiration from literature as it adds an interesting depth that is foreign to most extreme metal.
Unlike most neoclassical bands I’ve come across, The Protagonist utilizes classical elements in a more ambient form with less emphasis on the actual composition and more emphasis on the feeling it represents. My largest complaint is that the music itself is relatively basic and shies away from complexity. Despite the fact that complexity isn’t the end all be all of a genre like this, many of the songs are somewhat shallow in their musicianship, but ultimately this doesn’t undermine the enjoyableness of the album by too much as Magnus Sundström has a knack for writing a great song.
While many of the songs come off as a little over the top (they oftentimes sound as if they were the soundtrack to a horror movie or video games), “Hesperia” and “Spirit of the Dead” are great examples, many songs transcend these shortcomings as nothing short of breathtaking. The song “Sick Rose” is an ingeniously sinister aural interpretation on William Blake’s masterful poem that is the epitome of a commanding juxtaposition of music and literature. “La Fin de la Journée” is a chilling opus of keyboards and strings with a female voice speaking alluringly in French. The final and most moving track of Songs of Experience is “Sermon” which features a voiceover of a vehemently self-righteous preacher, reminds me more of Ulver in its strong reliance on industrial ambiance but it’s still a completely separate beast from the majority of experimental music.
If you’ve ever had an ostentatiously pretentious side to you I’d recommend checking out Songs of Experience through Cold Meat Industries (they’re an interesting label with a lot of similar, forward thinking music). Magnus Sundström has done an excellent job of crafting a horror-laden album of eerie ambiance and touching neoclassical arrangements. While not the most avantgarde or extreme work of art, The Protagonist delivers a decent forty five minutes of competent neoclassical ambiance albeit oftentimes a little over the top in it’s delivery.
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