New record from local folk metallers starts off cheeky and riotous, but becomes increasingly grand and spooky.
One of the most charming things about heavy metal is how it can both take itself very seriously—becoming the very embodiment of brooding earnestness—and become completely, joyously ridiculous. The line between these two aspects of the broad and varied genre is often very fine, and many bands refuse to pick a side. Toronto folk metallers Protokult, though, have unabashedly decided to pick a side—and the result is the cheeky, glib, and over-the-top full-length No Beer in Heaven.
In the past, and particularly on its 2011 EP Marena, Protokult opted for a more measured, modest approach, fusing Slavic folk-song structures with heavy instrumentation. Its work tended toward the plaintive and haunting. No Beer in Heaven, however, does away with these more nebulous qualities and firmly anchors itself somewhere far more raucous and less subtle. Another drinking record is arguably something the folk metal genre needs like a hole in the head, but there is some progression from the opening track “Get Me A Beer!” to the album’s later, more exploratory songs.
On first listen, it seems as if Protokult has decided to reinvent itself as a party band, in the spirit of Blackguard or pirate boozers Alestorm. But as No Beer in Heaven unfolds, it drifts from brawling buffoonery back toward something more epic and occasionally diaphanous. “Edge of Time” evokes some of the grandness of Blind Guardian, while “Summer’s Ode” has a faintly spooky quality haunting the edges. Caught between aesthetics and identities, No Beer in Heaven is a jarringly transitional record, and evidence that Protokult is on the verge of either a reinvention of its sound or a renewed dedication to its past work.