The Corps - Fractured Protocol (Cover Artwork)

The Corps

Fractured Protocol (2024)

Thousand Island Records

"Fractured Protocol" stands as The Corps' second full-length album with a handful of EP’s and singles in between. The evolution in musicianship since their debut album in 2018 and this new album is nothing short of impressive. This record maintains an unyielding intensity, punctuated by brief respites that swiftly yield to an unremitting assault, consistently captivating the listener's attention. Moreover, it delivers some of the most melodious and catchy tunes reminiscent of Fat Wreck Chords 90’s heyday.

Guided by Dan Garrison, who has recently toured with bands such as Belvedere and Econoline Crush further honing his craft, The Corps' latest release showcases some of their most diverse song writing yet. Producer Tim Creviston returns, bringing the same bombastic sound to "Fractured Protocol" that he infused into their last EP, "From Oblivion."

Musically, "Fractured Protocol" excels on all fronts, showcasing a heightened level of musicianship honed over years of touring by the four members. Dan Stenning's drumming particularly shines, showcasing his technical prowess. Tim Crevinston's production accentuates the powerful drums, reminiscent of the booming drumming heard on Pour Habit's debut, "Suiticide." The guitar synergy between Garrison and lead guitarist Andrew Pederson is impressive, delivering a blend of shredding riffs, crunchy chords, and occasional metal influences. Despite Ronnie Ellis's bass occasionally being buried in the mix, his contributions shine through. Garrison's vocal performance has kicked it up a couple notches, exuding heightened passion and pushing the boundaries of his vocal abilities. While still rooted in the skate punk lineage that inspires The Corps, Garrison elevates his delivery to new levels of intensity, showcasing a renewed vigor in his vocals.

The Corps continue the narrative that they are from Sector 2814, portraying themselves as a group of Green Lanterns affiliated with the Green Lantern Corps. While their songs may initially appear to be story lines drawn from the DC comics universe, a closer inspection reveals that these stories serve as a mere "mask" or veil for more deeply personal stories. Garrison's lyrics, inspired by real events, politics, and personal experiences, are filtered through the lens of DC Comics characters and narratives.

"Fractured Protocol" wastes no time in establishing its identity, opening with a blistering burst of melodic hardcore that clocks in at a brisk 44 seconds. The track "Tragedy" sets the tone for what's to come, serving as an introduction to an album that casts aside the poppier side of punk. While the record promises a few twists and turns, it remains steady in its vision, confidently asserting its identity from start to finish.

"I strip the bone of flesh until there's nothing left. It's chaos." The relentless assault continues with "Dog Of War," Dog of War, otherwise known by his true name "Orion," is the son of Darkseid, as per DC Comics lore. Knowing that particular storyline, this song could be about how different one could be from their own father. Regardless of interpretation, the song resonates with a blistering bridge that underscores The Corps' knack for elevating tracks with unforgettable bridges and breakdowns.

"Buried on a Sunday" seamlessly transitions into "Born on a Monday", their melodies blending so perfectly that one might mistake them for a single song. Interestingly, while the former was penned by Stenning and the latter by Garrison, their coherence suggests a unified vision in their songwriting.

Elsewhere, Garrison delves into themes of loss with "Thrown Away." The track kicks off with a robust bass line and thunderous drumming, once again culminating in an intense breakdown that segues seamlessly into a soaring bridge. On "Red Horizon," the tempo eases slightly, allowing for a moment of respite while tipping a hat to folk legend James Taylor with a nod to his 1970 song "Fire and Rain." Yet again, the song features a stunning bridge that takes a fairly paint by numbers pop punk song and elevates it to the next level. Each song propels the momentum forward, with even the more formulaic tracks delivering solid if not exceptional performances.

The Corps throw a curveball with "Jonah Hex," starting with a country-flavored intro before ramping up into high-speed punk rock, a fitting nod to the character's gunslinger back story. Garrison's vocals on this track occasionally channel the spirit of Propagandhi's Chris Hannah, showcasing his vocal evolution. "Personal Responsibility" provides a welcomed break from the intensity, offering something slightly outside The Corps' usual style, before plunging back into the mosh pit with "The Long Winter." This track narrates a tragic story through the lens of DC's Mr. Freeze, exploring themes of abusive relationships and ultimately culminating in suicide.

"Why choose goodness when embracing bad seems so much simpler?" This is the thought-provoking question posed by "New Gods," albeit cloaked in DC Comics mythology. The song delves into a narrative where Darksied ridicules Superman for his commitment to heroism and righteousness, highlighting the contrast between the at times difficult path of virtue and the seemingly effortless allure of indulging in one's desires.

The album wraps up with "Riddle Me This," a strong, emotionally charged and absolutely ripping final track that once again, uses a particular comic book theme to talk about relatable, real-life situations, like when someone you have feelings for chooses someone else over you, in this particular instance, a douchebag. Listen closely to the spoken word riddle at the end— perhaps the author is referring to himself.

This record marks the final set of songs featuring the line-up presented here, as both Ellis and Pederson departed after the recording of "Fractured Protocol." If this collection stands as their swan song with The Corps, then they certainly leave on a high note.

While "Fractured Protocol" may not forge new musical territory, it doesn't diminish the album's prowess. True, the elements here have been explored by numerous punk and hardcore bands. However, The Corps transforms their inspirations into a masterfully crafted, undeniably infectious, and lyrically rich album. Any band can play fast and tight punk rock tunes, but few can match the level of success achieved by The Corps on this record.