With strong guitars and percussion reminiscent of The National, Detroit’s post-punk aficionados, Protomartyr, present the listener with a 44-minute project titled The Agent Intellect. Although difficult to digest at times, The Agent Intellect contains rewarding moments that delve into the deeper, more emotional side of punk rock.
Lead singer Joe Casey displays a vocal style that radiates an influence by the history of punk, especially heard on tracks “Clandestine Time” and “Boyce or Boice.” Casey’s verses remind one of a mix between spoken word poetry and David Bowie melancholy. “Cowards Starve” and “I Forgive You,” the second and third tracks on The Agent Intellect, are perfect examples of this whining expression of frustration.
Guitarist Greg Ahee embraces the angst of punk and continually barrages the listener with heavy, minor chords and riffs. Not all tracks on this album are downers, though, as the major key of “The Devil in His Youth,” the opening track, differs from the punk trend of slipping into the darkness.
Experimentalism is profound in several areas of Protomartyr’s approach on their third studio album. Airy, barely audible vocal samples that sound like they were ripped from an ancient spaceship, tracks that contain several different songs and spaces that are void of sound are abound on The Agent Intellect.
While not approaching the forward thinking of groundbreaking bands such as Deafheaven or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Protomartyr nonetheless incorporate several of the creative and abstract concepts that are becoming more popular in rock and metal today. With almost every song flowing seamlessly into the next, Protomartyr’s production on The Agent Intellect is quite possibly the most impressive and lasting feature of the album.
My own ear tells me this album is average—just another rock album. The ears that have been following Protomartyr and other punk bands for years would likely give this album a raving review.