Protomartyr-2015-The_Agent_Intellect-coverIt is evident that Protomartyr singer Joe Casey, ten years senior to the rest of the band, is on a mission to make the band stand out amongst the flotsam of modern music. In recent interviews Joe Casey explains that he “needed this, needed Protomartyr”. He states that he didn’t want to end up singing classic rock covers in dive bars one night a week. Therefore, at 35 with no musical background and crippling stage fright, he found friends who were young and hearty enough to want to write and record and practice and tour and be heard as badly as he did.

The Angel Intellect is the third album from the Detroit, Michigan post-punks and is named after an ancient philosophical questioning of how the mind operates in relation to the self. The album, their third in three years, follows on from the critically acclaimed Under Color of Official Right and finds them in a rich vein of form.

The album opens with the ‘Devil In His Youth all rattling snake rhythms and pummelling drums and Casey’s doom-laden baritone vocal leading a fine tale of the allure and power of evil. At times, such as on the opening bars of ‘Boyce or Boice’, Protomartyr remind me of an awkward dishevelled cousin of The National, but any similarities melt away as the song changes emphasis and twists into something far more malevolent. There is also a touch of Mark E Smith’s impish charm on swathes of the album, such as ‘Uncle Mother’.

Two particular highlights are Dope Clouds, where Casey espouses the fact that neither religion nor wealth will save us from our ultimate destiny; whilst Why Does it Shake is a gem of a song with Casey initially voicing the arrogance of youth with the lyrics, “Sharp mind, eternal youth, I’ll be the first to never die”, before the reality of mortality creeps into his thoughts, and the song shifts to reflect this, changing gears movingly whilst Casey explores humanities questioning anxiety.

The song Ellen’, named after his mother and written from the perspective of his late father, shows a different romantic side to Protomartyr, with Casey promising to wait for her on the other side with the memories she’s lost due to Alzheimer’s safely in hand.

The depth of thought and Casey’s eloquent tones is why this album is relevant and deserves wide attention. Casey is not afraid to tackle the big issues in our lives and articulately rages at love, death and evil and the impact these have on us.

The Angel Intellect is an intense listen, but an album of the year without a shadow of doubt.

Release Date 09/10/2015 (Hardly Art)

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Jonathan Roby

Overgrown indie kid with a penchant for americana, psych and weird folk.