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Protean Collective have been active members of the Boston prog scene for over a decade, and Collapse is their third full-length.  Their bright, nuanced blend of progressive rock and metal has been finely honed over the band’s career, and their stable lineup leads to tight and natural chemistry.  Taking cues from genre giants while maintaining their own distinctive sound, Protean Collective crafts hook-filled melodic rock songs with the complex instrumental flourishes of flashy progressive metal.  On Collapse, they’ve released their most focused batch of songs yet.

This is a band that has learned to play to their strengths.  These songs have simple backbones that emphasize typical rock song structures, and center around intense, catchy choruses.  The vocal melodies are memorable and infectious, and you’ll find yourself humming them for hours after listening to Collapse.  That simplicity in songwriting, overlaid with expansive and cerebral details, make this an album full of surprises.  Flickering guitar leads, storming drum fills, and proggy, head-nodding grooves infest every song with interesting moments.

In terms of individual performances, the band places the emphasis on several important elements.  Drummer Matt commands the kit with agility and precision.  Smoothly transitioning between styles, he spends time evenly split between grooving beats and following the rhythm of the guitars, while constantly maintaining time with crashing cymbals.  Guitarist Steph’s languid, laser-sharp leads drip from every seam in the album.  Her ability to make extremely difficult runs sound effortless and supernaturally tight is central to Collapse’s appeal.  Vocalist/guitarist Graham’s emotive, often vulnerable voice delivers Protean Collective’s heartfelt lyrics in a smooth tenor.  His vocal delivery is the key to the band’s catchy ethos.  Finally, Dan’s bass performance, while more understated, provides beefy grooves and tasty fills when called for.

Early highlight Under Siege demonstrates their abilities perfectly.  Opening with a verse which trades two riffs, one stuttering and progressive and the other triumphantly melodic, the track then bursts free with one of the album’s most unforgettable choruses.  Precise double bass work underpins the verses, and pounding toms give the soaring hooks a pulse-quickening boost.  A fleet-fingered guitar solo sets off the final movement of the song.  Later, Collapse’s lengthiest track Shadows delivers a satisfying buildup.  A vocal-centered opening passage transitions into a metallic, angular conclusion with, yes, a very catchy chorus.

One of the many appealing aspects of this album is its excellent production quality.  The band sounds massive and fantastic.  Not overly compressed but still loud and punchy, every instrument is clearly audible.  The bass bubbles pleasantly up for fills and grooves, the drums are bright and clear, and the seven-strings have a very satisfying crunch in the low registers.  The vocals sit perfectly atop the mix without excessive use of effects, and sound clear and distinct.  A high-quality mastering job by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Symphony X) clearly paid dividends as well.

Clocking in at a weighty 57 minutes, Collapse nevertheless avoids dragging with deft shifts in tempo and feel.  While one or two tracks may be a bit weaker than others, there is not an ounce of filler to be found here: no intros, no instrumentals, and no time wasted.  This album is a legitimately fun listen, as equally suited to being played on repeat during an ill-advised drive in the silent hours of early morning as it is to immersive bedroom listening sessions in the privacy of headphones.  Protean Collective have delivered a progressive metal journey that is not to be missed.

 

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Wyeth Holman I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and I've been a musician, music fan, and avid writer and reader from an early age. I work in a sheet metal shop during the day, and am currently a graduate student in Biology. I am a huge fan of black metal and death metal, with a particular ear for the progressive and avant-garde.