Style: Epic Metal
Label: No Remorse Records
Fire, Iron, Protean Shield
PROTEAN SHIELD from Athens, Greece, started their journey to the obscure paths of Epic Metal somewhere around the summer of 2019. I was there when it was happening as the band actually got together through the pages of the Forgotten Scroll forum.
From the beginning I was kind of waiting the usual and casual Epic Metal stuff of today which is not my piece of cake to tell you the truth. You know how it goes: A bunch of galloping riffs, a mediocre singer, some basic melodies and lots of hype. I was almost ready for the usual “keep it up guys”, until the day that they shared with me a rough demo of one song… Well, I was blown away… Now, almost four years later I finally can hear their completed debut album on No Remorse Records and I simply can point that here we got a unique case of a band.
PROTEAN SHIELD are delivering a very special kind of Epic Metal that combines a wide variety of different musical influences. From the riffing extravaganza of technical US Power Metal bands like, ONWARD and PHARAOH, to the epic complexity of SLOUGH FEG. And from there to the ecstatic, moments of agony that can be found on bands like PRIMORDIAL, SOLSTICE, MANILLA ROAD and WRATHBLADE.
PROTEAN SHIELD are approaching their Epic Metal through a particular mindset in terms of composition and song structure, delivering a narrative type of music, aiming to the perfect balancing with their story-telling lyrics that in many cases play an almost basic role into the overall installment of the songs.
The band’s adventurous, unorthodox and ultimately unconventional compositions are becoming their ultimate trademark. The song structures, the riffing and the basic lead guitar melodies are often based on specific patterns that did not follow the casual Epic Metal musical standards. However the above mentioned features are serving an overall result that sounds and feels as Epic as it can gets!
“When was the last time an Epic Metal song in its intensity, made your mind work too?” I am asking myself listening to the album’s material once again.
I already mentioned how important the lyrics are into the PROTEAN SHIELD realm. But I have to explain it a little more. In fact I would point that if you plan not to spend some serious amount of time reading the lyrics of this particular album, you would miss half of its magic. You may want to do it while listening to the entire release, or whenever, but you got to take the booklet in your hands and read the lyrics, end of story.
Especially for the case of this album I personally would love to hold a beautiful vinyl insert including the lyrics. Well I lately have started to hate vinyl and the overall hype about this format, but I got to point that the PROTEAN SHIELD needs a vinyl edition now (there is one more special reason that drives me to make this statement, I will analyze it later). Anyway, let’s get back to the lyrics.
Yes, the overall reading process of the lyrics would unlock many hidden levels and artistic dimensions of this debut album. Let’s take as a first example the band’s name:
Yes, you may wonder, what is a Protean Shield? Well it is actually a shield able to change shapes and forms, making the one who holds it practically unbeatable / undying (in Greek mythology, Proteus is an early prophetic sea god or god of rivers and oceanic bodies of water. He can foretell the future, but will change his shape to avoid doing so; he answers only to those who are capable of capturing him. From this feature of Proteus comes the adjective protean, meaning “versatile”, “mutable”, or “capable of assuming many forms” – Source: Wiki).
Well that kind of imaginary weapon was actually created / shaped / imagined by the band itself, leading their way as it became the band’s name. And one of their trademark songs (their same titled hymn which is the album’s first single):
No PROTEAN SHIELD are not referring to already existing myths and tales to give birth and breath to their songs. They are creating their own myths and tales. The band’s drummer Odysseas Pasipoularidis who is the writer of a great Epic novel called Ektoria’s Chronicles, is responsible for the lyrics in this record and he has done a magnificent job.
In fact one of my favorite songs of the album -the second single which is called “Mariner’s Dream”, is deeply based on the lyrics. Musically this particular composition is not following the casual structure based on the into-verse-chorus chain. The song is actually developed around the lyrics following a smooth combination of musical themes that would lead the listener from the beginning to the end of the song’s story. “Mariner’s Dream” is in fact one of the most epic songs of the album. A true masterpiece.
Deeper into the influences
The songs of this album actually reminded me of the personal identification and inclination I have as a listener with a handful of mind-bending Epic Metal albums and I would like to point two of them in particular, connecting them with the musicianship on PROTEAN SHIELD’S debut.
I will start with the third “Down among the Dead Men” album by THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG -yes they were using this full name back on the day before they change it to the sorter SLOUGH FEG-. I would point this one as a serious influence on PROTEAN SHIELD’s music: Yes I mean this adventurous, complex and heretic Epic Metal Metal that the band from Athens is delivering to the masses.
The second album that I would like to mention as a serious influence in here is the “An Age Undreamt Of…” debut album of the American-Italian project called HYBORIAN STEEL. Well the -often- impetuous and bellicose Metal of PROTEAN SHIELD which is -often- delivered through an almost obscure approaching, brought into my mind this particular release.
Important pieces of the puzzle
I would consider the album’s overall guitar work -riffs, lead melodies and especially the solo parts- as a key feature. Yannis Aktypis and Yannis Tziligkakis have delivered some amazing guitar parts on this record: solid and inspired.
The bass lines of Petros Vasiliadis are taking the songs to the very next level. I mean it. They are matching perfectly with the complex and adventurous drumming of Odysseas Pasipoularidis.
The vocals of Harris Stampoulidis are becoming a very important piece on this epic puzzle. He sings with passion, highlighting some really outstanding vocal melodies, offering a perfect balancing between the teutonic and the melodic vocal approaching. An ideal mix for a storyteller.
My song picks
“Protean Shield”, because it is their hymn and because of the lyric “Angel of Mayhem, Protean Shield”.
“The Pendulum” because it is an excellent example of narrative and complex epic art.
“Stormbringer” because it will become their “hit” (after the same titled song) and because it is followed by the small and beautiful minimalistic classic jewel called “Lament” -in similar musical form as the “Stormbringer” symbolizing the calm after the storm.
“Mariner’s Dream” because it is simply great!
“Sin and Dream”, because it is magical.
The album’s cover
The PROTEAN SHIELD imaginary weapon also gave birth to the album’s cover which is one of the best album covers I have seen lately. This cover -created by Yulia Zhuchkova– actually generated inside me, this very same feeling that I had as a teen ager while viewing some of the classic epic covers like “King of the Dead” by CIRITH UNGOL for example. Just take a look to the face of the fenale warrior as she holds the Protean Shield into battle. See the enemies standing in front her almost unable to defeat themselves. Actually the whole cover captures the overall agony of the battle. And yes a cover like this got to find its way on a vinyl edition. Someone take this album and press it on vinyl now. I need to put it next to the LP editions of classics like “The Deluge”, “King of the Dead” and “Irae Melanox” and not just because of the cover.
The production of the album -done by the band- is loud and clear. It does justice to the material offering raw power to the Protean Steel.
I am the kind of person that deeply misses the past flame and braveness of the Epic Metal music.
I honestly believe that the specific genre due to its nature and its basic elements, can give us new timeless hymns that will make us proud listeners again.
But unfortunately the standards of the new bands are gradually falling into lower levels. The most of newcomers are not interested -or are not able- to create music worthy of the genre they serve.
The exceptions are very few, but a bunch of bands and records is simply not enough to bring the genre in its new era of glory.
With all the above in mind I have to point out the importance of this new band that is called PROTEAN SHIELD. They are setting the standards in very high levels again, following a total unique way of their own in the terms of musicianship.
In my opinion this band have released the greatest record in the overall Greek Epic Metal scene of today. They can be Greece’s leading force to a new era for Epic Metal. An era of high standards and great songs.
Moreover I can add that this debut is already shining next to the big, important and great releases of the worldwide Epic Metal scene.
A new band, a debut album, a new hope. For Glory…
Hail PROTEAN SHIELD!
The album will be released June 23d on No Remorse Records. You can pre order it here.