Review: Oblivion Protocol – The Fall of the Shires
This record acts as a follow up to keyboard player and vocalist Richard West’s other group Threshold‘s 11th full-length record, the concept piece Legend of The Shires (2017). The UK-based progressive and alternative metal act tread and wax poetically on classic topics like societal degradation and dystopia, and blend multiple sound palettes together to give them new life. Taking inspiration and broad strokes from groups like Pink Floyd, Ghost, Queensrÿche, and Rush, there is a lot here to please fans of many different kinds of rock and metal. Whether it’s bits of psych, echoes of electronic, segments of arena rock and a healthy serving of prog, Oblivion Protocol prove they aren’t just a side project but can stand on their own with this solid first impression.
Richard West acts as the nucleus of the group. His vocals and spacey key work generate a great atmosphere, bolstered and textured out by the rhythms of Simon Andersson’s multifaceted bass work. Drummer Darby Todd brings a needed edge to the project and meshes expertly with Andersson. The pieces that tie it all together come from Ruud Jolie’s guitar work along with additional solo work from Karl Groom (Threshold).
The structuring of this record is fittingly cinematic. “The Fall (Part 1)” is a fantastic opener. It’s a slow burning number that’s very effective in retrospect. With its otherworldly guitar work it evokes memories of Pink Floyd with an apocalyptic coat of paint. “Tormented” is an interesting tone shift from the prior cut. It’s not an especially thrilling number and is a bit messy, but it’s a direction that piqued my interest. The progressive elements work well, especially the drums and keys and how they mix with the guitar. The vocals are a little hit and miss however. “Public Safety Broadcast” as a concept works super well. I initially scoffed at it as overly tropey on the subject matter but its build-up and pay off won me over. Admittedly it still does drag a bit.
The heavy guitars and ominous keys of “This Is Not A Test” make the 4th entry of the album one of its best. Something doesn’t fit well with the verses vocally but the chorus works excellently. Putting it bluntly, it sounds like a crossover of Ghost and Queensrÿche, and that’s a good thing. “Storm Warning” is where it feels like the band are treading on the same material a little too much. The status quo is reset basically at the beginning of every song and it’s really felt here. It is a well written piece though. One of the better vocal performances is found here. The atmosphere, stunning production and well-constructed solo do save this track in the end. “Vertigo” is a fine song on its own. It’s got a solid chorus and lyrics, but it’s slightly devoid of energy the album needed at this point. Bonus credit for another good solo.
“Forests In The Fallout” displays a lot of the band’s strengths—namely their catchy choruses, well written solos and thought-provoking lyrics. Some of the bits in between just don’t work sometimes. The synth key solo that builds to a triumphant refrain of the chorus is super effective. “The Fall (Part 2)” of course still muses on the tropes the record has been exploring. While the concepts have been overused and explored especially in the last few years, it’s still a very well-made track. The guitar work is so moody and atmospheric it’s hard to not get swept up in it. The ending solo is downright fantastic. The incorporation of auxiliary bird sounds and bells are a nice touch, and having this serve as a direct continuation of the first track is a good bookend.
The Fall of the Shires is not a perfect product by any means but it succeeds in its conceptual endeavors. Not every track stands out or warrants a second listen, but the performances, production and arrangement of the music itself is very well done. The solos and choruses of most tracks are outright impressive. While it might not be the most revolutionary release out there, Oblivion Protocol’s newest record is a satisfying collection of well put together tracks about topics many people might relate to in this day and age.
Standout tracks: “The Fall” parts 1 and 2, “Public safety broadcast”, & “This is Not a Test”
3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
The Fall of The Shires will be released August 18, 2023 via Atomic Fire Records.