Best Albums of 2017 #4 Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent

There’s a huge sense of catharsis around all your worst fears being realised; like an electric shock or vast jolt of adrenalin, our fight-or-flight instincts kick in the moment the consequences of an awful truth are realised. For many Americans that absolute feeling of horror came at the news that Donald Trump had been given a political mandate by some of their countrymen, an election which in some circles is still perceived as an attack on the principles of democracy and the future of the country’s civilisation.

Protomartyr are a punk band from Detroit, a once proud city which has had its heart ripped out by drugs, corruption and the merciless bore of predatory capitalism. Up until Relatives In Descent singer Joe Casey has been unwilling to infer their music as having a social conscience, but aghast at Trump’s rapid descent into King-ship, he went on to describe the consequences of his victory as that of “A new dark age”.

The quartet have been steadily building to this crescendo over their four albums, each more honed, more discordant and more musically fertile than the last. Where it’s predecessor The Agent Intellect was filled with a pregnant sense of unease, now Casey and friends are cranking up the anger and frustration to 11, grappling with a regime that uses patronage, religion and wealth to justify its privileged status.

This isn’t mere tambourine-rattling routine protest music however: The Chuckler for example deals with the environmental time bomb left to future generations, but it’s not the sound of weepy, liberal hand wringing, more the jagged, desolate contempt of a man who cares about everything but can fix nothing.

There has always been an America within the America we see, one where refusing to conform has left people alone, victimised and abandoned. Relatives In Descent sees Protomarytr mutate into a human shield for them, it’s songs written as a howl for the voiceless, those state-despised wretches with their backs pressed right up against their government’s arcane fantasy of a wall. The fight back could do worse than start from here.

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