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Music Review: The Protomen – Act II: The Father of Death

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Robots and evil scientists battle for world supremacy.   A mechanical messiah stands forth to rescue oppressed humanity.  It's not a cheap sci-fi flick, it's pop-rock based on a video game story.  The video game is Mega Man, an old Nintendo title.  The band is The Protomen, ten men who share an ardent need to spread the gospel of Mega Man.

Video games lost my attention after Space Invaders or thereabouts — no, I think I remember playing Super Mario 64 or something similar.  Anyway, I'm no aficionado on games, so I had to actually research this Mega Man game.  Here's what I could discern about the story.  Two scientists, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily, begin designing robots to alleviate mundane tasks for humanity.  As his name subtly indicates, Dr. Wily goes bad and decides to use the robots to take over the world.   One of the robots, Proto Man, opposes Wily.   But, after receiving quite a beatdown by Dr. Wily's robo-army, he falls to the dark side.  Dr. Light creates Mega Man to replace Proto Man and forbids Mega Man to join in the battle to save humanity from the oppression of Dr. Wily and company.  But, of course, Mega Man must make his stand and all.

The Protomen have begun a rock opera to flesh this out.  Their first recording, self-titled, was about the Mega Man vs Proto Man battle noted above.  Their second record is Act II: The Father of Death.  It's a prequel, really, which would make George Lucas proud.  It tells of the two doctors and their ideals, of Wily's betrayal and rise to power and Light's construction of Proto Man.  There's what I know of the story.  What's known about the band?

I couldn't find much.  They don't like to divulge much about themselves.  They operate under code names, i.e., Commander, Turbo Lover, K.I.L.R.O.Y, etc.  I read somewhere that they do all their interviews in costume.  This approach reminds me much of Gwar, though Gwar tend toward the vulgar while the Protomen aim for enigmatic.  They've created an wonderful adolescent fantasy world — a fantasy story, costumes, code names, fans who join their brigade — and they get paid for it.  Honestly, that's just cool.

The music is interesting, to be sure.  In keeping with the embittered, lone warrior motif, the opening song of Act II is a schizophrenic delight infused with the spaghetti western theme music.  The doctors are talking to each other and over each other during the song.  It's very well written and well performed and definitely has operatic elements.  It reminded me of Savatage's Streets — A Rock Opera  and the song "Chance" from Handful of Rain.  By that I mean the structure of the song and lyrics and the vocals, not the music itself.  Savatage plays intelligent power metal and that's not what this is.  This is like 80's pop-rock, ala Duran Duran, A-ha and the like — with some Queen and Styx thrown in the mix.  There are little squealing guitars, keyboards, electronic drum kits.  It sounds like 1985 or thereabouts.  But The Protomen have a good take on that style: a big story on fluffy music.

It's not all fluffy, really.  Some of it borders on impressionism, creating sad, uplifting, determined and lost moods.  The Protomen are dedicated to their story, no doubt about that.  If you're a Mega Man fan and you like music with an intelligent story, your band has just arrived.

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