As pointed out to me by my millions of friends, my poker face is absolute shit. No matter how hard I try, it’s more than a little obvious if I like or dislike a song based on the expression that forms on my ugly mug. Songs that please me result in a sharpening of my eyes, my jaw jutting forward, and my lower-lip protruding out as I gently bob my head in approval. However, for those songs that displease me, my facial expressions are present in an antithetical way. The bobbing stops, my lip returns to its post, my bright eyes turn to a sour black, and my jutting turns to a frown. Sadly, Protector‘s Cursed and Coronated is one of those instances when the frown dominates my face. Cursed and Coronated isn’t a “bad” album, but it definitely lacks the umph present in the band’s death-thrash gems of the late ’80s and the full-thrash transitions of the early ’90s. I don’t expect a time-warp to the glory days, but I do wish Cursed and Coronated had a bit more to offer.
Protector first hit the scene with 1988’s Golem; a crushing mix of Kreator and Possessed sound that straddled the line between thrash and death. This approach continued with 1989’s Urm the Mad until founder Martin Missy left the band. Missy was replaced with guitarist/vocalist Olly Wiebel, whose contributions brought a more thrash-focused sound to A Shedding of Skin and The Heritage. These two albums swung in and out of fast and mid-paced riffs, all the while delivering up some heavy-as-fuck Demolition Hammer and Sodom attitude. But after The Heritage, the band pretty much fell off the face of the earth until resurrected by Missy for 2013’s Reanimated Homunculus. While Reanimated Homunculus was a decent comeback release, it was neither a return-to-form or a progression from the band’s early ’90s thrash transition and, unfortunately, Cursed and Coronated does little to fix that.
However, excluding the unnecessary introduction of cathedral chants and eerie whispers, you’d most likely disagree with me after hearing “Xenophobia.” This track is a Vader-inspired steamroller, housing one of the more addictive choruses of the album. It’s simple, thrashy, and it crushes everything in its path. The wry smile is forming, the jaw is jutting, and the pleasurable inhalation of hate makes me simply giddy. “Crosses of Carelia” and “Six Hours on the Cross”—apparently they like crosses—also deliver some all-important savoriness. The riffs slay, the Angelripper-like vocals of Missy are venomous, the drum work is impressive, and the guitar solos are fitting. On top of all these elements, and the fact that the songs are kept clean and concise, the choruses of “Crosses of Carelia” and “Six Hours on the Cross” are so memorable they will be tumbling around in your head for days.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album falls just short (or very short) of the above-mentioned tracks. “Intro” is utterly useless, the title-track is a boring mid-paced plodder, and the bong-sucking on “The Old Boil” is so goddamn annoying that I’m tempted to head down to the local “water-pipe” joint with a fucking baseball bat. Another issue is the actual organization of the album. The first half of the album works well until we slam into the uninspired “Base 104.” There are still some post-“Base 104” highlights but the back-half of the album is disjointed. Standout moments in “The Dimholt” (with a riff ripped and thrashed from King Diamond‘s “Cremation”) and “To Serve and Protect” (with its Ghoulishly memorable vocals about the invincibility of the thrash genre) do their damnedest to smooth things out but, in the end, Side B is weaker than Side A.
Though Cursed and Coronated is a mixed bag o’ decent/indecent tracks, the thing that keeps it from becoming lost in the ranks of mediocrity is its production. The instruments are well balanced, the kickass drum work has a huge presence, and the dynamics are just lovely. I had hoped for better songwriting from Cursed and Coronated, but I cannot deny that the record sounds damn good. Diehard fans of the band will get something from Cursed and Coronated but, for those of us looking for a return to the glory days of Urm the Mad or A Shedding of Skin, it’s best to just stick to the originals.
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller