Review by Rick Ossian
At this point I think it would be safe to say that I’m going to give these players top marks for form and content alone. If you’ve never heard Folk Metal, this would be a grand place to start.
On with the show!
Protokult are on their second full length album, their first being 2010’s Ancestral Anthems. The meat between the bread slices, as it were, was the Marzena EP in 2011. Now, here we have No Beer In Heaven, their third recording overall, which it seems began life as an EP as well. Protokult are a Folk/Power Metal aggregation from Toronto in Canada. Their illustrious members include Martin D. on vocals and guitars, Misha M on drums, Ekaterina on vocals and woodwinds, David Slowlak on bass and Vodrik on guitars. They have self-released this work through Asher Media and are ‘seeking global distribution’, according to their bio. Their apparent myriad of influences have netted them at least a few fans over the last few years. I am now proud to say that I include myself amongst them!
The title track appears to be a declaration of sorts. Or is it a joke? Once again, dear reader, I will leave it to you to decide. This is an uptempo number with accordian, flute, guitar, BIG drums and belching to boot! It may divide some of you, and the mere title may disappoint one or two of us, but let’s not dwell on that just yet.
Heaven Cast Me Out (mayhap for imbibing in the forbidden brew?) is amongst the several tracks here that feature both male and female vocals (angels and demons indeed). It is a heavy rock track, and mocks said genre at the same time, unless I’m completely insane… There is a cool main guitar riff that is echoed at times by the keys and the trippy, vampire-esque vocals.
My Father’s Word features more heavy riffage and the angel/devil juxtaposition vocally mentioned above. The male vocal counterparts are almost guttural at times. There is also a heavy-duty viking vocal vibe between 2:30 and 3 minutes in. The spoken word section at the end is nothing if not chilling: ‘No one in this world you can trust/Not man/Not woman/Not beast’.
Flight of the Winged Hassar wins cool points for its title alone. The female vocals are prominent here again, as is the cool Power Metal intro/vibe throughout. This is more of the same, Operatic Heavy Metal with the vocal accompaniment. Not slagging it, though – far from it – I am enjoying myself and the tunes!
Sol Intention features another cool guitar intro. A melodic exercise of sorts, then they put the hammer down at about 0:45. I was distinctly reminded of Type O Negative vocally (RIP Peter Steele). Some nice keyboard work here as well, then a guitar solo at about 2 minutes in. More of the vampire vocal work. There is an interesting musical metal mesh at about 3 minutes in. At 3:45 there is a tasty guitar solo. Some exceptional riffing here, and the instrumental work at the end of the track is nothing if not intriguing.
Edge of Time has a very cool lead guitar intro. It is again a heavy number with both vocal ranges interplaying with each other. The keyboard and bass interlude at 1:25 features some nice touches. More of the angel/demon counterparts vocally, until about 2:45. It is at this point that we hear a brief psych passage, then a guitar solo á la Uli Jon Roth or even Yngwie Malmsteen. The close features a snippet of choir and violin. Everything barring the kitchen sink, then!
Sanctuaries is among the shorter tracks here. It features, again, a very cool little guitar intro, with some psych/wah FX thrown in. The echo took me back a ways, I’ll admit. I was searching for a good word to describe the female vocals that appear at about 0:30, and ethereal, divine and celestial came to mind… anybody? Then, at the 1-minute mark, SLAM! You are at the back of your seat now, so enjoy the instrumental passage that ensues. Well, sort of instrumental – vocally. Some bizarre stuff at about 1:30.
Desert Scourge features a Power Metal intro, and screaming vocals again. More of the angel and devil juxtaposing mentioned earlier. Growling vocals, guitars blazing, etc. At 2:20 there is another weirdo bizarro section, then at 2:45 we are slammed into the back of our seats again!
Gorale is more of a folky number, featuring a spooky, creepy intro, then some guitar strumming and some whistles. Not necessarily a throwaway, but close. Summer’s Ode, on the other hand, is a sprawling epic of a track with the Type O- style vocals, an excellent keyboard/drum intro, guitar slamming again, and a growl-fest, to say the least! It seems mellow at first, but don’t let that ballad vibe sucker you in to much, or you will get slammed again! There is the female vocal presence again (1:45). It is almost domineering at times, but not necessarily in a bad way. There is another guitar solo at the 2-minute mark. Not your typical solo, though. You will know what I mean when you hear it. At 4 minutes in, there is more instrumental weirdness, and at 4:30 an exalted guitar solo. Lots of guitar work, then, and not for the last time, either!
Razbival Okovi Perun is a vocal interlude of sorts. Not much more to say on that one, really. Moving right along, then! The track immediately following more than makes up for it in terms of sheer time; at 8:46, the enormous Water of Life features an excellent main riff, a WEIRD guitar intro (but very cool nonetheless), and some heaviness, musically. There is also some whistling and some bizarre, WTF? moments, if you will. The bass at 1 minute in is noteworthy. The vocals that appear at 1:30 (growly) and 2:00 (female sublimeness) are also worthy of mention. The flute definitely adds to the weirdness factor. Is this Pirate Folk Metal? From about 2:45 – 3:00, it surely is! The guitar at 3:20 will make you want to stand up. There is double time tempo and more growl, then more vocals at 6:00. You will know why I deem it vocal weirdness when you listen for yourself! At 7 minutes in, the group double-time it again plus we get some drum shredding of sorts. At 8 minutes in there is another guitar solo, and we get more growlies and vampire vocals.
It is at this point that we evidently leave the ‘out in the open’ tracks, and move to the ‘hidden track’ section of the recording. Tracks 13 (Brotokult) and 14 (We Smoke the Ganja) are at the end and hidden for a reason. If you are a completist, you will listen, but if you aren’t, then I would advise against it. The former is a weird, trance -like blurb that is for raves only, and reminded me briefly of The Human League, but other than that, I’ve got nothing. The latter is a ridiculously sloppy reggae piece with a seagulls and bongos intro. This is perhaps a poke of fun, or a stab at wisdom, nothing more, nothing less. Musically, it is, as I said, at the end and hidden for a reason! I, for one, am slightly disappointed that there will be ‘no beer in Heaven tonight‘, but I suspect Valhalla will have ale for us! Some mead, perhaps?