(c) 2021 Rockfest Records
- Paper Tiger
- Show Up To The Showdown
- Hell To Hold You
- The Mountain
Josh Bramlett--Lead Vocals, Guitars
Adam Sadler--Lead Guitars
TJ Colwell--Rhythm Guitars
Jarob Bramlett--Drums, Percussion
Indiana's The Protest come roaring back with an EP of new material that follows up the band's 2018 Rockfest Records debut, Legacy. This new release features six new tracks (two have already been released as singles), with five of the six being up-tempo rockers, with the sixth being something of a ballad, although don't expect slow dancing and big-haired power balladry here.
The band picks up right where they left off on Legacy with the ferocious "Paper Tiger", which comes off every bit as heavy and aggressive as the previous album's title track. Some buzzing guitars intro the track (followed by a tiger's roar), with Jarob dropping a big drum rhythm that sets the song off on a mid-tempo-but-crushingly-heavy track that chugs toward Josh snarling and barking his way through the first verse. On this song about letting go of the fears that hold us back, Josh does everything in his power to abuse his vocal cords, especially on the seething chorus as he exclaims...
"You're just a paper, paper tiger!
Nothing more than a silver-tongued liar!"
The chorus is packed full of backing shouts and chants, none of which are credited here, but there is a lot of energy packed into this 3 minute...ahem...rockfest! A solid breakdown is also incorporated in this fun, punchy kick off for Death Stare.
"Greater" has already surged its way up the charts for many Christian rock stations (and some forward-thinking modern rock stations, as well), and is definitely one of my two or three favorite tracks from the band at this point. Programmed elements lead the churning guitars and drums into the mix, with Josh utilizing a much more controlled vocal style here as he explains to the listener why The Protest does what it does, despite the long hours on the road and the lack of acceptance among their secular peers.
"I don't do it for the money,
Don't do it for the fame,
As long as someone listens, don't care who knows my name.
I don't do it for the glory
Don't do it for the game,
I do it all to make them see that this all for something Greater than me!"
A truly powerful message about self-sacrifice, not only for doing what you love to do, but also doing it for the One who loves you! The video is a solid performance piece, as well...check it out...
The EP's current single, "Show Up To The Showdown" is up next, and the band takes a bit of a different tack here, utilizing a sparser sound in the verse sections, followed by a big fist-in-the-air chanting chorus, complete with gang-shouted "heys" scattered throughout. Jarob's drums have a huge presence throughout this track, as does an uncredited bass line on this thick rocker about standing up to the challenges put in your path. The band recorded a really fun video for this track as well, which can be seen below...
From here, the band launches into another high energy rocker, this one a bit more uptempo and more straight forward than some of the others, with "Voices" tackling depression, negative thoughts, and self-doubt that creep into our minds from time to time. The longest track on the EP, "Voices" still clocks in at just over four minutes, and is just straight-forward, guitar-driven hard rock from start to finish. Some excellent guitar work from Colwell flashes through the track, and once again, an uncredited plaer lays down a rumbling bass line that really establishes a solid structure for the rest of the guitars to grind across the top of. Once again, Josh spends more time singing than roaring here, especially on the verse sections, while he does get a bit more aggressive on the chorus. There's a very cool vocal bridge that showcases the angrier side of his vocals, when he starts off in a controlled-but-snarled whisper that builds to a full-on scream as he intones...
"I've got this sickness,
It eats me to the bone...
I'll never make it if I try to do it all alone!
I've got this sickness,
It's poisoning my mind...
I'm climbing out of this and now I'm taking back my LIFE!!!"
A tough, tough chug-chug breakdown follows before the band revisits the chorus again. A really, really good song that I find myself returning to a lot.
"Hell To Hold You" is the ballad of the EP, but again, don't think Homecoming slow dance material here. A thick, bouncing bass line really drives the verses, with Jarob's drums keeping pace, before the guitars jump into the pre-chorus and chorus sections, with some big "whoa-oh-ohs" accompanying the chorus lyrics...
"Never knew I needed You 'til now...
A part of me was missing.
There's nothing that can keep me from You now.
As long as I'm still breathing,
My heart is in Your hands.
I'm alive again...
No matter what we've been through
I'd fight hell to hold you."
While the first section of the chorus seems fairly obvious, I find myself asking if that that last part Christ making a statement to the singer. Hmmmm..... Some programmed strings are subtly woven into the mix, with them being the most obvious as the song fades out at the end. This song really surprised me, honestly, but I like the band taking the chance and throwing the curveball when the rest of the record was nothing but heat (sorry...baseball references are what I do...).
"The Mountain" is an absolutely quirky rocker that I can't help but love. I would imagine it will be very difficult to pull off live due to a lot of programmed stops and starts with the guitars, but Jarob's drums are an absolute treat to hear on this track as they bounce and prance throughout the song. There's a big arena rock feel to the track when the guitars punch you in the gut, but those sparse moments in between are what really gives this plucky song its true feel...at least for me. This song has a lot of Skillet styling to my ear, but it is fresh and definitely not some sort of rip-off track. This is still purely The Protest, throwing back to some of their earlier, pre-Rockfest Records material. I will be massively disappointed if this song isn't released as a single, as I absolutely love what the guys pull off here and they sound like they had a blast doing it.
Not even 21 minutes in length, the EP should seem much shorter than it does. However, the high quality of the songwriting and the top-notch performances keep you so engaged you really don't realize how wrapped up you become in each and every track and, at least to me, the EP doesn't feel as short as it actually is. Maybe that is due in part to the high amount of energy the band pours into each track, wiping you out as you listen! Very, very well done overall!
I do have a complaint, but it isn't lodged so much at the band as it is at Rockfest Records. Let me preface this by saying I love Rockfest Records, I buy all of their releases, and I am in awe of their line-up of artists. That being said, I have to admit to being upset about the way this EP was handled, for a couple of reasons. First, it is packaged about as simply as anything I have ever received from anyone, with no lyrics, no credits, no thank-yous, and no band info. Nothing. It is a simple cardboard slipcase with the cover art on one side and the track listing on the other. Period. And, yeah, I could live with that, if I wasn't charged more than $11 for FORCED Priority shipping (there was no First Class option) for this practically weightless CD (there is no jewel case or digipack, so seriously...this thing weighs next to nothing). That means I paid nearly $20 for a six song EP that isn't signed or anything. Normally, Rockfest does an amazing job with the packages they put together, and yes, there was a big package with a shirt and trading cards and other things, but the people who only want the CD shouldn't be charged a ton on shipping to make up the cost of the bigger packages. Trust me when I say this CD did NOT cost $11.50 (or whatever the exact cost was) to ship, even with the bubble mailers factored in. Hopefully the goal here is not to drive even more people to digital purchasing because I will always be a CD-first guy.
Regardless of that issue (which I really hope was a clerical error), Death Stare is well worth tracking down and is an incredible effort on the part of The Protest! I have thoroughly enjoyed it since I received it, and if I have spun it fewer than 30 times in the past two weeks or so, I'd be shocked. If this was a hold-over project as the band works on their next full release, I can't wait to hear what they have in store for us next!
Rating: Definitely crankable! Crank Death Stare to a powerful 9, even at only six songs! It really is that good!