Album Review: Protomartyr return with sinister Ultimate Success Today (2020 LP)

Post-punk Protomartyr return with their anticipated fifth album, Ultimate Success Today. Whilst the band wrote and recorded their album last year, the Detroit band eerily foreshadowed the ongoing battles the world is currently facing. Gracing our ears with a flair for enigmatic and avant-garde chords, their new album doesn’t disappoint with important philanthropic messages.

Their fifth studio album begins with the lead single, “Day without end”, striking a sombre and brooding opening. On the Apple Music Editors’ Notes, Joe Casey reveals, “This song is about a day when the sun never goes down—quite disturbing.” He also speaks about his inconsistent sleeping patterns which are emphasised in the lyrics, “This is the dawning of the day without end when fear steps into light.”

Meanwhile, “Processed by the boys” is a powerful track with a political dimension targeted at corrupt governments. Amidst police brutality and marginalised groups across the US, the lyrics “A riot in the streets”, and “In their tatterdemalion uniforms”, summon the idea that there is too much power. Guitarist Greg Ahee and Scott Davidson creates intoxicating riffs amplified throughout the track, whilst Alex Leonard creates a powerful and dynamic rhythmic beat. The jazz elements bring a subtle radiance – although fading as the blaring noise increases.

The standout track “June 21” features artist Nandi Rose whose elegant vocals contrast with Casey’s. Although it may seem lively in the beginning, the music intensifies with an eerie edge and energetic riff. The lyrics, “Summer in the city. Bring me low” initially suggest nostalgia for summer but quickly darken with the idea that summer is the most brutal season.

Although “Bridge and Crown” is an ode to medical professionals and the diverse traits of patients, Casey makes covert references to his father. It is known that Casey’s father died of a heart attack before the band was formed. The lyrics, “a doctor killed my father, so excuse me if I write this out alone”, touches on his continuous fear of doctors which he stated in an interview with Last Donut of the Night.

Closing the album with “Worm in heaven” conjures up the overarching theme of a harsh reality we live in. The track emphasises the idea that all things come to an end, the world doesn’t wait for anyone and eventually death catches up to you. This slow composition is paced beautifully with Casey’s vocals and maintains a melancholic feel, creating a perfect end to the album.

Ultimate Success Today continues some of the recurring themes that have been displayed in previous albums. Embracing their classic ominous presence, the album surpasses our expectations and was worth the wait.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Ultimate Success Today is available now. Grab yourselves a copy HERE.

Danica Jones

Writer for the AU Review, a lover of books, poetry, good food, travel and adventure. Follow her personal instagram @x3danicajones or her poetry instagram @danicajoneswrites

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