I have been pondering recently on whether 2013 has been a seminal year for the release of seriously good prog/metal albums and, having had a couple of discussions with my fellow authors, have come to the conclusion that it very much has. Some of the grandees of the genre have released new and very exciting albums that have taken their music to another level. For anyone over 40, the last time the charts held any excitement and contained any music worthy of the word was the 70’s and 80’s, great song writing and excellent musicianship combined to create brilliant anthemic creations, hard rocking riffs with complex progressive themes and music which held your attention for a long time. Nowadays, all we get is bubblegum music where talent and song writing have taken a back seat to commercialism, marketing and the almighty dollar. To discover new and exciting music that touches our psyche we now rely on music websites, webzines and communities to ferret out the gems and stars of tomorrow, music that has a soul and is meaningful. Music that comes from the heart would drown in the mediocrity of today’s mainstream music charts. On-line communities and music sites like our own (and many others) allow the modern listener to link up with left-field, non-mainstream musicians that produce the music we want to listen to in today’s stagnating music scene.
If it were not for these other avenues then I am sure that Protomythos’ debut release, In Human Sight, would not have come to my attention, would have passed me by and my life would be much worse off for that. This is music from the heart, music that touches you both emotionally and intellectually and adds to the plethora of superlative releases we have had already in this halcyon year.
Now for some background, the idea behind Protomythos and In Human Sight has been long in the making. Israeli musician, Tom Treivish had been writing and recording music from home since 2002 and, after being in a band that didn’t last long, decided to do things his own way and record his own music. Tom contacted producer Noam Akrabi in 2011 and, whilst sifting through the material that they thought should comprise the album, decided that he didn’t want to write songs that were similar to everything else and were not created to serve a specific concept, Tom wanted his songs to have meaning and it soon became clear to him what the album’s concept would be. A vegetarian since 16 and a practising vegan for more than 2 years, Tom decided on a rock concept album that deals with animal treatment, animal rights today and species-ism, it is meant to serve as a voice for the voiceless. In Human Sight uniformly portrays various angles of a world viewpoint that is often overlooked.
Protomythos is, basically, a one man band. All the instruments on the demos were played by Tom himself. However, on the actual album Adi Har Zvi plays the bass (except on the title track) and Ethan Raz provides drumming duties. The album diversifies into many different musical styles and it is this variation and the excellence of the song writing and cohesion throughout the album that really lifts this from the norm. The lyrics are thoughtful and well written and do not become a soapbox to thrust Tom’s views down our throats. In fact, the lyrics are quite minimal, but very eloquent, in portraying the viewpoint of the writer and how he tries to convey the feelings of those unable to speak for themselves. I won’t delve deeper into the lyrics here, if you want to know more then go to Protomythos’ website, they are very thought provoking.
The album opener and title track, In Human Sight, is an instrumental that starts very low key before a real Pink Floyd vibe is introduced by the guitar. A nice, steady rock groove is interlinked with heavier, almost crashy guitars that run throughout the song. There are hints of Nine Inch Nails in the techno style guitar riffs dropped in throughout the track. All in all, a classy opening to the album. Cage Bound begins with a cool guitar sound before Tom’s mournful vocals kick in, hinting at a laid back, almost Metallica, vibe with that strong guitar sound present throughout, drums and bass holding sway in the background. A short break in the middle of the track is followed by a brilliant solo that takes you, on a cloud of emotion, to the end of the song. House of Slaughter (no guesses what this song is about) starts with more of that Nine Inch Nails vibe, a strident guitar interjected between the verses, this is not good time music and is not intended to be. The monotone, deep vocals portraying the horror envisioned by the writer, there are hints of Queens of the Stone Edge in that slightly distorted guitar sound. There is a feeling that this is a sonic tale of woe. Hard, thumping notes convey the misery right to the end. A catchy, acoustic guitar slides us into Inside a Square, an almost narrative vocal takes up the story, the verses divided by a nice guitar break. We are into Steven Wilson territory here, a beautiful guitar solo backed by that soft acoustic note and soft strings to ebb out the rest of this little gem of a track. The Blind Spot deals with us turning a blind eye to what goes on around us, a crashing guitar introducing a laid back, pared down vocal sound. The chorus takes the vocals into a higher range and shows what a good voice this guy has. The tempo is lifted before the rising chorus takes over again, the guitar sound is backed by a great drum groove before a short but sweet solo break, there is a very subtle Nine Inch Nails vibe to this track as already heard throughout the album. A repetitive guitar break heralds another great, slow burning section overlaid by a spoken word sample that signifies the end of a great song. A nice bass intro a la Faith No More begins Condiments and Blood, a sound that has hints of toned down industrial metal, that pared back, monotone vocal interspersed with a ringing guitar sound all bound together with the thumping bass and drum beat, bringing another hint of Pink Floyd to the mix. Towards the end, the song really has a feel of Another Brick in the Wall, that strident note and strong vocal before a low fade out finishes the track with the words “The paradigm shift has begun”.
Science Moved On begins with a seriously laid back ambient/djent vibe, the gentle plucking of the guitar introduces a laid back vocal reminiscent of the stadium sound produced by Starsailor and Embrace and a guitar that could be played by U2’s The Edge, this is a epic tune, my favourite on the album. A crashing guitar then heralds a brilliantly pared back, low key solo that plucks at your consciousness and burrows in deep. It is the heart and soul of the song and runs right through to the close, one of my tracks of the year. A slow bass and steady drum beat are the precursors to Part of the Fold before a plaintive guitar is followed by the soft, deep vocal we have become accustomed to, a stronger guitar run leads into a lifting, soaring chorus that brings to mind great, anthemic, stadium rock of the past, the song deals with the blond following the blind and not thinking for themselves. A second run of the chorus is followed by a break into a sublime solo, a real piece of thought provoking music. We Bleed for Real tests the hypothosis that god created animals to feed believers, it has that Pink Floyd/Nine Inch Nails feel to it that is present in many parts of the album, acoustic style guitar overlaying the monotone, low vocals that lend a menace to the songs on the track wherever it is present. The verse repeated over, perhaps to emphasise the subject at hand before a classy guitar solo carries the song to its conclusion. One thing is becoming apparent on this album, Tom Treivish can really play the guitar. We reach the conclusion of this labour of love with the suitably passionate and thought provoking Voiceless, a soulful intro begins with a suitably low key acoustic guitar, then lifting into a plaintive vibe, it has a real, modern Opeth feel to it, the vocals low and monotone with a touch of Mikel Akerfeldt. String like keyboards add an ethereal background to the final part of this superb concept album, as we move towards the ending of the track a delightfully sombre and mournful guitar solo gives a subtle and low key finale to the song and the album.
I expected some brilliant new releases from the heavyweights of the genres this year but, when you get a totally unexpected hidden gem like this beautiful piece of music, it really stands out from the crowd and the quality of this concept album is a cut above most of its contemporaries. With In Human Sight you get the best of both worlds, if you buy into the ethos and ideals of what the passion that Protomythos are trying to get across with this concept then, you will appreciate the lyrics and sentiment as much as the outstanding music but, even if you just like outstanding progressive music, In Human Sight is wonderful album that is extremely thought provoking and emotional and should be part of your collection, life doesn’t get much better than this.