July 28th, 2017 was an ordinary day but not in the lives of the Boston based progressive metal outfit, ‘Protean Collective’.
The band is a four piece outfit of musical virtuosos that include Graham Bacher on vocals and guitars, Steph Goyer on guitars and vocals, Dan Ehramjian on bass and vocals and Matt Zappa on drums.
The band released their new album Collapse on July 28th of this year. I heard a couple of things from them before but never an entire album, so this was my first time delving in to a complete repertoire of theirs.
I learned about the band primarily because of Steph Goyer’s YouTube presence. She is an incredible guitar player with some serious chops and fineness. I was really curious to hear her band; I really went in with a lot of high expectations, so how did this album turn out? Let’s see.
When I played the first track ‘Dead Ends’, I could sense right away what the band was going for. The intro looked like several machine guns firing right at you, you don’t get more progressive metal than that right?
Right after that adrenaline rush we hear how nicely the harmonies are done and some interesting time signatures are added in to the spin to make this track in to a very powerful opener.
The tracks is filled with confidence and it says that, “This is us, we are Protean Collective and you better get ready for this epic musical ride.”
It sets a strong foundation for the remaining album.
Now we get in to tracks like ‘Under Siege’ and ‘You and I’. Under Siege has to be one of the tightest tracks rhythmically on the album. The entire album is filled with amazing moments of technical prowess and rhythmic joy but this one in particular really outlines that to the max. Can we give a round of applause to Dan Ehramijan for his incredible and groovy bass work out here?
I think Dan is one of the best bassists to come out in the progressive rock/metal scene and he will be remembered for many years to come, he is ridiculously good. ‘Under Siege’ has a really beautiful chorus section; Steph’s guitar solo is absolutely epic as well.
‘You and I’ is a great example of a track that has a lot to offer within the six minutes forty two seconds time frame. It starts off as a thrash metal track, then transitions in to rather softer moments, with beautifully layered guitar work by Step and Graham and it has some of the best vocal moments by Graham too. I would like to point out that it’s refreshing to hear Graham’s vocal styling. He doesn’t scream, he doesn’t growl and he keeps things clean. The progressive metal genre has fallen victim to the growls and screams phenomenon in recent years. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that but it has just become way too common in so many bands in this genre.
Graham has this combination of Paul Masivdal without a vocoder and Daniël de Jongh without all the growls in his voice. It creates for a unique and interesting vocal tone and it sits well with the overall sound of the band.
This track also has one of the best drumming moments on the album. Matt Zappa is such a precise and beastly drummer. His snare sound is definitely one of the best and his overall drum tone is warm and crisp, he knows when and what to play.
‘Myopic’ is a nice change of pace on the album. This track has these really cool down tuned chugging rhythms at the start, extremely tight and precise and then it seamlessly goes in to this nice grunge rock type of track. Myopic is refreshing to hear, imagine Sound Garden going progressive metal. It hasn’t been done before and it’s done so well here. The band is at the top of their game, Graham’s vocal moments on this track are incredible and he also plays a killer guitar solo on this track, while Step compliments the track here with her rhythmic sensibilities.
This track should definitely have a video and should be released as single in my view.
‘A Thousand Years’ brings back the energy and adrenaline rush to the album. It has these really nice intricate and technically executed musical sections that are done tastefully. I believe Steph plays the interesting technical guitar passages here, she almost makes it sound like a keyboard and it sounds super cool.
The highlights on this track are the guitar solos, the first one by Steph and the second one by Graham. The entire band is on fire on this track.
The next track is the longest track on the album, clocking in at 8:02. ‘Shadows’ is nothing short of a progressive metal masterpiece. It starts with these groovy drums in the swing feel, beautifully and harmonically rich chord inversions played on the guitar and really groovy bass. Dan and Matt really kept this track together. The rhythm section is just displaying all that it can do in such a tasteful manner here. The beginning, the build up in the middle and the climax are simply superb. The riffs are really catchy here and the track ends intelligently on a very memorable lead guitar motif. That was a very smart decision by the band at the very end of this track.
‘The Drought’ is a track that has all the ingredients to be a hit single off of the album. I love the grooves on this track; the bass lines by Dan are an absolute joy to listen to. They are really catchy and memorable, and Steph Goyer’s guitar solo here is one of the best on the album. The solo on this track is right at the level of Jeff Loomis, Marty Friedman and Jason Becker. Steph Goyer is a name in the guitar world to be reckoned with.
‘In Vain ‘is a master class in writing amazing and memorable riffs. This song is all about great riffs that have been arranged seamlessly. This is a really strong track that keeps the pace of the album intact and interesting.
‘Chained’ is a beautiful and haunting track on the album. It starts off with some nice clean and acoustic guitars. At first it seems like a ballad and before you know it changes in to a heavier and fast paced track, it’s like a power ballad with lots of changes in the middle, it’s contemporary, it’s progressive and it’s done with a lot of fineness. Matt Zappa’s drumming is incredible here as well, as it is throughout the entire album. The reason why I highlight it here is because I find his approach really unique; he puts so much energy in to his drumming even in the softer moments. Steph Goyer’s solo is technical, beautiful and melodic here.
This track is another one that has the potential to be a single.
‘Beneath The Surface’ is the closer of the album these folks make sure to end the album with a bang.
This is a track where I feel the band wore all of its influences. From Textures, Cynic, Pain Of Salvation, Dream Theater, Opeth, all the way to Sound Garden. They took all the best things from some of their favorite bands and gave it an original Protean Collective stamp. No areas were left unchartered, from the guitar riffs, to the solos, to the strong vocals, the writing, the incredible drumming, and the groovy bass lines; it was all there in this finale.
As you can probably tell, I am really impressed with this album. The production and the musicianship are phenomenal on the record. The musicianship is not overdone, the tracks are well arranged and the flow is wonderful. The mix is amazing, there is no surprise there since Jens Bogren (Opeth Katatonia,Devin Townsend,Haken,etc,etc) has mixed and mastered this album, so you won’t expect any ear fatigue even in the loud and heavier parts.
Collapse to me seems like a concept album at certain points. According to my knowledge, the band hasn’t stated this but I sense a concept here.
When we see the track listing, it seems at times depressing and there is sense of hopelessness; but once we get in to hearing the songs it feels like a person struggling with the darker moments in his or her life and overcoming the challenges. The album is not only inspiring musically but lyrically as well.
Protean Collective has all the right ingredients to be progressive metal legends. I will definitely hear their previous albums now and I look forward to their future.
Get the album here https://proteancollective.bandcamp.com/album/Collapse