Sound — 8
The Protomen are an independent (indie) rock group from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. But you wouldn't be able to tell it from their sound. Formed from recording majors at MTSU. The analog recording techniques used in this album vividly compliment the album's tracks, giving a more raw, rock-oriented sound. Mixing (primarily the vocals being covered up a bit too much) could have been better, but didn't take away much from the album's enjoyment. The group takes on subtle influences of 8-bit, Country/Western, and sometimes Metal influences, incorporating them into the magnificent rock opera that is this album. Possible band influences can be identified in Queen, Styx, and Radiohead. Being a rock opera (part of a trilogy of a rock opera, at least), the flow from song to song should be taken into consideration, and luckily The Protomen did well in doing that. In terms of musicianship, the band plays in a very simple, punk rock-esque style. The singer, Raul Panther III (they all have odd names) has, and this coming from a huge Queen fan, the stylistic voice of late '80s Freddie Mercury but with a lower bass range, which complements the varying moods that occur throughout the album.
Lyrics — 10
This is where The Protomen go from "typical indie rock act" to "elaborate conceptual rock band." Based on works such as Orwell's "1984" and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism, The Protomen have created an Orwellian dystopia that integrates characters from Capcom's "Megaman" video game series into the mix. Starting off with "Hope Rides Alone" the track tells of a city controlled and actively monitored by Dr. Wily (antagonist), an evil genius who took control with his army of robots, formerly used for intensive labor. The (co)protagonist, Dr. Light, is introduced as having built Protoman a "perfect man, an unbeatable machine, hell-bent on destroying every evil standing between man and freedom, built for one purpose, to destroy Wily's army of evil robots." Protoman sets off for Wily's fortress, ready to take on the robot army. Having been created for the liberation of man, Protoman is followed by a mob of civilians to the fortress. However, once the mass arrives at the stronghold they are too frightened by the army to fight, and flee, leaving Protoman to fight alone. Fast forward many years (no exact number is given) and there is now talk of rebellion in the city. Light builds another robot, Megaman (co-protagonist) in an attempt for self-protection, rather than a full-fledged killing machine like his brother, Protoman. Light tells Megaman about his brother's story, and urges him not to avenge Protoman ("Unrest in the House of Light"). He argues with Megaman about the will of the townspeople, and how they will not fight for their own freedom, and therefor Megaman should not fight for them ("The Will of One" and "Vengeance." Megaman goes against Light's advice, riles up an army of townspeople, and leads them towards Wily's fortress. Once Megaman arrives, he looks to a person hovering in the sky. Much like himself in appearance, he comes to a somber realization: This person is his brother, Protoman. Protoman speaks to Megaman, trying to convince him that the people are not worth saving, as they will not fight for their own freedom. This is best described by the lyrics, "They don't want a hero. They just want a martyr, a statue to raise. I've given everything I can, there are no heroes left in Man." He gives Megaman a choice, join him and Wily's army, or fight for something nobody else will/wants to ("The Stand (Man or Machine)". Megaman chooses the people. Megaman and Protoman clash ("The Sons of Fate") and Megaman delivers a fatal blow to Protoman, knocking him to the ground in an earth-shattering force. He approaches his brother's dying body, holding him in his arms, and listens to his final words. "If these people... Tell this story... To their children... As they sleep... Maybe someday... They'll see a Hero... Is just a man... Who knows he is free." The townspeople go into a chorus, proclaiming the weakness of Protoman and that there was no use for him in the human rebellion, "How could he save us? He could not save himself!" Megaman gets up, reminding himself of Protoman's programmed goal, to destroy anything preventing Man from freedom. He realizes that the only thing keeping Man from his own freedom is Man himself, and opens fire on the crowd behind him, killing everything in sight. He walks away, out of the city, never to be seen again. I would highly suggest reading the lyric sheets when listening to the song, as more liner/background notes are given, giving the album much more of an atmosphere.
Overall Impression — 9
This album is definitely in my top three favorite albums of all time. If you are looking for a rocking album with an amazing conceptual theme then I very highly recommend this album. The "Megaman" influence is very subtle, as the plot doesn't rely at all on the characters from the Capcom canon, but rather takes liberties from it. It has a very strong Objectivist message and gives a great perspective on the individual vs society. The analog production complements the dystopian universe very well, to the point where I couldn't imagine the album produced any other way. Fantastic album overall.