Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent Review

Protomartyr unleash another post-punk dirge with their latest outing.

Protomartyr’s last effort was an accomplished, gloomy, take on post-punk. An irrepressibly danceable 40 minutes, The Agent Intellect was still the sound of a band in refinement. Standout tracks like “Dope Cloud”, “Pontiac 87” and “Why Does it Shake?” nestled throughout a listing of quality but forgettable numbers. Relatives in Descent is the morbid result of that refinement. Each track feels like it could be a single and the album is packed with memorable tunes right up to the fantastic closer “Half Sister”.

While retaining much of the discord from their previous albums, Protomartyr blend those jagged tones with a renewed focus on intricacy and melody. Spidery guitar leads drape over frisky, boney basslines. Where Agent Intellect might have been content with coupling hazy links between moments of raucous clarity, Relatives in Descent works hard to pack every second with noodley melodies and supporting instrumentation. Where before, Joe Casey’s vocals would play nice with the tune, sometimes plodding along in tandem with guitar licks, here he cuts deftly over, around, and in-between musical phrases.

Agent Intellect often had a vaguely shoegaze vibe that here gives way to a far more gothic sensibility, more Sisters of Mercy than Slowdive. This is only accentuated by a spattering of synthesisers and strings that give Relatives in Descent a grander feeling than its predecessor.

It’s not a perfect album and isn’t breaking new ground; a post-punk day out for fans of post-punk, but it represents a sharper Protomartyr than we’ve yet seen, the latest feat of might for a band that keeps going from strength to strength.

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