Album Review: The Protomen
There are a quite a number of video game cover bands. Most of these bands like to take the restricted 8-bit arrangements of music from games like Super Mario, Metroid, and Legend of Zelda and expand them to a full, live band. The Protomen, however, take it a step further to pay tribute to one of the longest video game series of all time, Megaman.
If you are a nerd, like me, and remember a lot about the original Megaman series, you’ll remember that it was pretty amazing. You’ll also remember that Protoman, Megaman’s brother, was the coolest character in the game. With his awesome red helmet, scarf, kick-ass theme song, and pretty wily (haha, get it?) attitude there is no need to why The Protomen chose to name themselves after him.
And what they’ve done with their first album is create a seven part rock opera telling their history of Protoman. It’s a different story then the one told in the games, but it is also much more dramatic one, to give it more of a musical boost. The first song, “Hope Rides Alone,” acts as sort of a prologue, telling the story of Dr. Wily using his robot forces to enslave the world and how Dr. Light created Protoman in order to save mankind. Protoman fails, though, and mankind turns their back on him. Musically, the band keeps up with the story’s pace, building up when it needs to and going into very solid drum break downs and in big moments of the story.
It’s also interesting to note, even though it’s fairly typical of most concept albums, that some of the songs on this album are pretty diverse in terms of song structure. Sometimes there will be no real reoccurring chorus that comes up, or no lasting hook that carries on throughout the song. Yet it’s not a real problem since these guys have such a compelling energy to their music that it’s already captivating enough. Just listen to some of the loud, rock-out sections in “Unrest in the House of Light” and “The Stand (Man or Machine)” to see what I mean. The album is also pretty diverse musically, taking aspects from different genres. There’s a funeral song, western song, punk, hard rock song, and so on. And what’s even more important is that the band performs them all very, very well. It’s just further evidence of the musicianship these guys have.
And if you are huge fan of the music of Megaman and are wondering if The Protomen have stayed entirely true, the answer is a yes. Bright guitar melodies and heavy guitar solos are bound to happened in every song, and they get better and better as the album progresses. And even every now and then, there are a few little keyboard tones that mimic the sounds off of the NES songs. It all works flawlessly and blends in so well. The album is only 37 minutes long, but you can just tell at the amount of effort it took to craft such a well made homage to a much-loved series.
And it must be an entirely different experience to see the Protomen live, since they do play in costume. If you check out their website, you will see some of the few, awesome photos. And to be quite honest, this album should’ve appeared on my Top 10 list for 2006. Why I forgot about it I don’t know.
Listen to a few songs off of The Protomen’s album on their myspace.
Also, check out my radio show on UCLAradio.com, 3pm on Thursdays, to hear different a song from them each week for the winter quarter.
- John Higgins -