Protosequence - Bestiary

Artist: Protosequence

Album Title: Bestiary

Label: Lacerated Enemy Records

Date of Release: 5 April 2024

I’m not sure what’s going on in Canada at the moment, but alongside encouraging pedestrians to use fake bricks in Vancouver in an effort to get cars to stop at crossings, there seems to be one hell of a steady stream of technical death metal bands coming out of the country of late. I always thought the Canadians were the mild-mannered northern neighbours of the US, but maybe I was wrong? Who knows. But what I do know is that there’s another Canadian band that deserves our collective attention.

The band in question is Protosequence, who hail from Edmonton. Unlike their Vancouver-based compatriots, the only bricks that this quartet are interested in throwing are metaphorical and music based, because their musical output is very much at the extreme and heavy end of the spectrum. At first, I was put off from listening to ‘Bestiary’, their full-length debut, because of the ‘deathcore’ tag that was used whenever a descriptor for Protosequence’s music came up. That’s generally one area of extreme music that I’ll tend to avoid as it’s not normally my ‘thing’. However, the atypical front cover intrigued me, as well as rumours that perhaps the deathcore elements had been toned down within this offering.

I’m pleased that I took the plunge, too, because these rumours have some merit, and ‘Bestiary’ is a very strong album indeed. Collectively, vocalist Josh Hahn, guitarist/vocalist Dylan Parker, bassist Jacob Teeple, and drummer Logan Vars are as talented at their chosen instruments as you’d hope and need to be to be able to pull off this kind of music. All members of the band are able to bring their talents to bear, including expressive bass gymnastics, insanely tight and fast drumming, sharp riffing, and vocals that flit between deep growls, raspy screams, and more frenzied pig squeals.

Importantly, however, all of the impressive technique and face-melting technicality is then supported by a collection of seven compositions that, by and large, all hit the mark and offer a listening experience that isn’t just an exercise in showing off; there are songs here that, with some perseverance, start to become ingrained and familiar. Thanks to occasional flashes of melody, powerful dynamics, and groove. It’s not perfect, and I honestly wouldn’t think that it’ll ever be my ‘go to’ style of music. But, for the thirty-three or so minutes it’s playing, I’ve grown to rather like it.

Protosequence - Bestiary

One of the most powerful and impactful tracks is the opening cut, ‘Sam’, which begins with a surprisingly delicate clean guitar melody before launching into their pummelling attack. Stop-start machine-gun drumming, barks, growls, dancing riffs and complex bass lines has the head spinning at first before the little embellishments and flashes of melody start to work their subtle charms. To my ears, there’s less deathcore to be heard than I was expecting too, which is a positive around these parts, as it the obvious and overt progressive tendencies, underlined by a few jazz-like noodles and the odd quieter interlude. But these never threaten the overall menace of the music.

‘Baroness’ is the next track or, to be more accurate, it’s the next two as we are brought ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’ as a pair. ‘Part 1’ is completely unhinged and is the musical equivalent of a Tasmanian Devil on drugs; it flits from one idea to another, with barely-controlled freneticism, offering some lurching, twisted deathcore groove one minute, vocals that verge on grindcore pig squeals the next, then somewhat surprisingly, slow the whole thing down to create more of a relaxed mid-section, before dialling up the crazy again to the finish. Some of the guitar, bass and drum work at the death is insane. ‘Part 2’ takes over with a more confrontational hardcore-ish beginning, all angst and attitude. For me, though, it’s that slow groove that leads into the nearest thing here to a bass solo which wins the song over for me. Plus, the more I listen, the more quasi-melodic the final stages become.

Just as you think things can’t get any more over-the-top or intense, ‘Imlerith’ pops up and bends minds with some of the most technical, fast, and extreme musicianship on the record. It isn’t my personal favourite as it does veer a little too close at times to the realms of being a gratuitous exercise in instrumental flamboyance at the expense of the actual song, but there is some impressive material here that many of you will no doubt really like.

The remainder of the album continues in a broadly similar manner, although ‘The Caveat’ offers a deliciously restrained and enjoyable extended intro before reverting to heavier climes. Even when it does, though, it carries some of the strongest and most immediate melodies on the album, almost skipping along with a gleeful exuberance. Naturally, I like this track the most as it’s the most melodic, but also because it demonstrates the strongest song craft for my money, too.

Oh and if you’re looking for more of those full-on grindcore pig squeal vocals, look no further than ‘Neither Fair Nor Equal’, which delivers them with aplomb. Mind you, the rest of the song is pretty impressive too, moving from slow, lumbering grooves to a much more frenetic closing sequence. All in all, this is a pretty impressive record with technical aplomb aplenty, but also with more than just one eye on quality songwriting. I’m not convinced that it’ll have huge longevity with me, simply because as I’ve said before, it’s not 100% my go-to style of music. Nevertheless, for those who like this sort of thing more than I, I think the popular phrase on social media at the moment is ‘it’s a bit of a banger’.

The Score of Much Metal: 85%



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