The Protomen - Act II - The Father of Death (Cover Artwork)

The Protomen

Act II - The Father of Death (2009)

Sound Machine

Let's be straight up here: If you can take the characters of an old video game from the late '80s and turn it into something good, let alone an INDIE ROCK OPERA, you've scored a huge accomplishment. Make no mistake though--this is a band by geeks, for geeks. For anyone else, it would probably just come off as corny. One of the songs is titled "How the World Fell Under Darkness." Take that as you will.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's get to the music itself. Act II - The Father of Death is the second of a proposed trilogy of albums about...well...Mega Man. Yeah, that blue guy who shoots robots. That Mega Man. But what makes the Protomen so interesting is that they can take such a simple concept and manifest it into something so much more, taking the original story and placing it in a dark, gritty urban atmosphere. What makes it so enjoyably gripping, however, are the narratives in liner notes in between the song's lyrics that basically tell a story as the music plays--almost as if watching a movie.

The album serves more as a prequel to their self-titled 2006 album, telling a story of how a man, Albert, rises to power by taking over the city with an army of robots through betrayal and manipulation. The album starts off fairly slowly, setting the story with the first three songs before kicking into gear with "The Hounds," an almost rockabilly tune that gets fleshed out with a nice horn section.

The eighth song, "Breaking Out" switches the story to a different perspective: a 20-something man name Joe with what we can only assume is a pretty sweet motorcycle. A human choir sings while the band switches gears in what's an incredibly well-played scene that paints a vivid picture through very simple writing. The song fades into "Keep Quiet," which depicts a fight scene with Joe against a robot. It's exciting to say the least, and it builds up into probably the album's main event, "Light Up the Night." Deliciously catchy with a definite element of '80s pop music or new wave (complete with synth), it really ties all the emotion garnered throughout the story ("I've got this burning like my veins are filled with nothing but gasoline / and with a spark it's gonna be the biggest fire they've ever seen"). Instrumental "The Fall" that follows is delightfully powerful and concludes the climax of the story before one last song to end the album on a more somber note.

The Father of Death is a fun album to say the least. It's certainly not for everyone--that's a given--and, of course, it has its share of flaws (count the amount of times "this city" is said throughout the album. Play a drinking game with it and you'll be dead.). The rest of us, though, who enjoy a little fiction and can look past the hilariously cheesy concept will find one thoroughly enticing album. And if you've got a good half-hour to spare to read along with the story and lyrics along with the music, this little piece of geeky culture is definitely an enjoyable experience.