Reviews: The Protomen


Perhaps the finest rock opera I've had the enjoyment of listening to. The first album's raw, throaty energy mingled with chip-hop tendencies was impressive, but it was the glory of Act II that truly sank the worthiness of the Protomen in this troper's mind.

Shall I continue? I shall.

The narrative stylings of the Protomen are cataloged well enough on their main page; I shall not gush about them here. The musical stylings? That requires some delving. The Protomen have an eclectic mix of influences at work, probably brought about by the vast number of musicians who have worked on the project, ranging from Johnny Cash to Springsteen to mariachi music and Makeup and Vanity Set.

The first album is nearly flawless. While the first track indulges in mostly-spoken narrative, it sets the stage well for the remainder of the tale. The buildup of tension through "Unrest in the House of Light" is delicious, and the ending is biting, while still short enough that it comes off as powerful without being melodramatic. The only real odd bit is the 'credits' song "Due Vendetta", which - while catchy - has no connection whatsoever to the narrative. If listened to in conjunction with Act II, it serves as a decent "catching ones breath" before the inevitable, unreleased Act III, but at present, it just feels a little off.

Act II, on the other hand, is a masterwork. The narrative is so crisp and clean that even without the liner notes, every action can be readily seen in one's mind's eye. The characters of Wily and Light are amazingly strong, and - and I promised I would keep this musical.

I could keep gushing here, going into depth about how "The Hounds" is one of the best villain songs, bar none, of all time. I could describe the number of times I've screamed along with "Light Up The Night" with the top down on my car on the way home from work. I could vomit praise forever regarding the innovative, brilliant blend of punk, arena rock, swing, and chip-hop that The Protomen bring to bear.

Unfortunately, I have only 400 words to spend on this review.

A must-hear. Period. If you have not, head over to their website and give them a listen. There's a reason that this group has such a rabid fanbase, and it's not just because of the spiffy helmets.

The Protomen: Depressing, Addicting, Thought-Provoking

Anyone who likes the classic Mega Man games, dystopian imagery or power rock should give The Protomen a try. Make sure you read the liner notes along with it so that you understand the story completely. It takes the very simple source material and weaves a story that's incredibly powerful, disturbing and philosophical. It raises a number of important questions: Are people responsible for the tyrants they put in power? Is keeping society free the responsibility of everyone? Should we trade freedom for security? Is liberty something we can be given, or must the people earn it? How much difference can one person make? In the face of insurmountable odds, should we struggle regardless? You may not find any answers in the lyrics, but you will certainly find a lot of great questions. Blended with music reminiscent of 8-bit video game soundtracks, it's an experience that any person born in the 80s can appreciate.

Act II; Falls short of greatness

The first half of this album is such a beautiful, emotive piece. It delivers a story through music so well- not since Tommy has a Rock Opera given me such a clear plotline and description of events. The second half, however, is too dependent on instrumental sections and liner notes to deliver the story it wants to. The gradual style shift from eighties-esque pop to electronic rock-pop also feels incredibly disjointed, despite the obvious thematic purpose.

The voice acting/singing is brilliant- Wily and Light's voices match their personalities and depictions on the cover so well. Shame Emily's sounds too whiny and pompous to match her character.

I loved the plot, dark though it was, but throughout it I simply couldn't get it to sync up with the Megaman mythos in any meaningful way. While not quite In Name Only, it changes so much and offers only passing continuity nods to justify the connection to its source material.

If only they had let it stand on its own instead of trying to shoehorn it into the Megaman mythos, and put the same effort into the music and lyrics of the second half of album that they put into the first, this brilliant album could be a true classic instead of fancy fanfic. A real masterwork instead of just another footnote in Megaman's long history. So much wasted potential... it makes me more than a little sad.

Sub-note: The fanbase may be the most grating I've encountered yet, Chamethrower squadron in particular. If there were pockets of resistance around, the whole plot would cease to work, and chamethrowers are the dumbest weapon ever ever ever. This from someone who enjoyed G Gundam.