The Protomen–Act II: The Father of Death
In an age where CD’s and records have become obsolete in order to make way for the sale of individual songs, it is rare to see a band release a full album that tells an overarching story, rather just being a collection of songs about numerous unrelated subjects. The Protomen’s recent release entitled “Act II: The Father of Death,” does just this, creating a compelling story over twelve songs.
The Protomen are a band that took the plot of the original Mega Man games for the NES, changed it into a 1984-esque world and turned the whole thing into a rock opera. Some details are changed from the original source material, the biggest being that Wily is actually successful in his attempts to take control of the world, and he oversees everything from a tower while his robots create a dystopia where Big Brother is always watching.
The band themselves consists of eleven people who dress up in costumes on stage and speak in code-names, never breaking character when appearing in public. Even in interviews, they are only referred to by their code names, so little is known about the men themselves, aside from the fact the band was created by a few Middle State Tennessee University recording program graduates, who only came together to meet deadlines for assignments. They market themselves as rebels against Wily, playing their music to help spread the message of hope of one day bringing the world out from under his control.
Their first CD, merely titled “Act I,” told a story of two robot brothers who were forced to fight each other. It had a rock feeling to it, with a definite 80’s influence mixed in with some of the music from the games themselves. Overall, it was a solid album, but left me wanting more in terms of variety. This problem is clearly fixed in “Act II.”
While certain songs do stick to the rock feel, with one song, “Light up the Night,” sticking especially close to the 80’s theme, there is a lot of variety depending on the mood of the story. The songs get slow and quiet when the characters lament their actions, like in the title track, “Father of Death,” where Dr. Light wonders about the consequences of his actions. The next song can quickly change the mood and become an upbeat rockabilly song when a character addresses an excited crowd, as in “The Hounds.” It all mixes together in a way that keeps the narrative flowing and does not bog itself down in any one specific genre.
This album is a prequel to the first story, dealing with Wily’s rise to power. It starts with the creation of the first robots in society by Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Eventually, Wily betrays Light and frames him for murder, running him out of the city with an angry mob. As time passes and Wily becomes more oppressive, it’s up to Light to come back and stop him by creating his own robots.
The story itself is told in a much more subtle manner than my explanation and there are a few twists along the way. If I didn’t know the back story of the band going in, I would never think to connect these songs to a series of games that started in 1987, making it an experience anyone can enjoy, even if they’re unfamiliar with the source material.
The only complaint I would have is that some of the story is told though the official printed lyrics in the liner notes, rather than the songs. These can easily be found online, and it fills in some of the smaller details during the instrumental parts.
It’s clear that a lot of effort was put into the production of this album. The songs flow together perfectly, the story is well crafted and the whole thing has a very satisfying feel to it. The album is available in both physical and downloadable format, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. For fans of the original games, it’s a must listen. To everyone who didn’t grow up with Mega Man, it is still a solid album that tells an interesting story of love, betrayal and robots.