Protomartyr: Formal Growth In The Desert [Album Review]

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Formal Growth In The Desert
Domino [2023]

The Fire Note headphone approved

Protomartyr, the Detroit-based post-punk band, has returned with their sixth studio album, Formal Growth In The Desert. The record contains waves of emotion that confront the inevitability of loss and the necessity of finding joy through it, persisting in the face of adversity. This emotional drive sets Protomartyr apart, and combined with their distinctive blend of gritty guitar-driven melodies, thought-provoking lyrics, and Joe Casey’s evocative vocals, Formal Growth In The Desert stands tall as a poignant triumph.

From the opening track and lead single, “Make Way,” Protomartyr plunges listeners into a realm of sonic dissonance. The piercing guitars, explosive call-out vocals, and thunderous drums set the stage for Casey’s captivating lyricism, best captured when he sings, “you can grieve if you want to, but please don’t ruin the day. Make way for tomorrow.” The album’s next track, “For Tomorrow,” is a standout high-energy song that showcases the band’s signature intensity. With its infectious beat and catchy chorus, it delivers a poignant note of pushing forward despite having nothing left in the tank. This burning emotion lingers long after the track ends, especially with the line, “Tiredness kills much more than they let on.”

Throughout the album, Protomartyr demonstrates a remarkable ability to balance raw energy with nuanced musicality. Tracks like “Elimination Dances” and “We Know The Rats” exemplify this duality, seamlessly blending aggressive guitar riffs with atmospheric textures. The band’s tight instrumentation and intricate arrangements create a sonic landscape that is as immersive as it is disquieting. One of the album’s greatest strengths lies in Joe Casey’s lyrical prowess. His words cut through the noise with razor-sharp precision, dissecting contemporary issues with a poetic sensibility. Tracks like “Polacrilex Kid” and “Fun In Hi Skool” showcase Casey’s ability to weave vivid narratives, painting haunting portraits of aging and despair.

In an era where apathy and indifference are prevalent, Protomartyr’s Formal Growth In The Desert serves as a resounding reality. It confronts listeners with uncomfortable truths, challenging us to reevaluate our complacency and take a closer look at life’s fragility. The album’s sense of urgency is heightened by its harder edge and flawless production, courtesy of co-producer and guitarist Greg Ahee, alongside Jake Aron (known for his work with Snail Mail and L’Rrain). Through its unwavering commitment to honesty and its unapologetic intensity, this album solidifies Protomartyr’s position as one of the most important voices in contemporary post-punk.

“Make Way” / “For Tomorrow” / “Polacrilex Kid”

shame / The Fall / IDLES

Ultimate Success Today (2020) / Relatives In Descent (2017)

Official Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Bandcamp | Domino

Thomas Wilde

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