There’s a line on the new Protomartyr record, ‘Relatives In Descent’, that proves that no other band can rival their ability to conjure such bleakness – but inject hope all the same. “In the old city/In abandoned shells/On a desolated edge,” croons frontman Joe Casey on ‘Night-Blooming Cereus, “amid the death of all things/Not under the scornful eye or the corporation’s hand/Only in darkness does the flower take hold/It blooms at night.”
It is a stunning and vivid description of finding hope in darkness, something that stands out so brightly during the album’s pile-driving 44 minutes. Their third album, ‘The Agent Intellect’, was an assault on the senses – a relentless, gritty punk triumph that still made room for catchy hooks aplenty. ‘Relatives In Descent’, then, is the obvious sequel.
Stand-out moment ‘A Private Understanding’ provides a clattering start, and does ‘The Chuckler’ – where stinging guitars work in tandem to generate an atmosphere that is oh-so-doomy. But it’s when the Detroit group really dig deep, like on the twisting, textured, ‘Half Sister’, Casey proves himself as an elite wordsmith – one that clearly becomes the driving force behind the record.
As America crumbles, Protomartyr have proved that they can be that cereus, blooming in the dark times we inhabit – and continue blossoming into a formidable and vital band.