Protal - Chaotic Order Album Review and Band Interview - Modern Progressive Djent Metal from Townsville, Australia

Protal - Chaotic Order Album Review and Band Interview - Modern Progressive Djent Metal from Townsville, Australia
Protal - Chaotic Order Album Review and Band Interview - Modern Progressive Djent Metal from Townsville, Australia

Today, we have the privilege of featuring Protal, a promising young modern progressive djent metal/metalcore band hailing from Townsville, Australia. In this review, we will explore their latest studio album, "Chaotic Order," and delve into an exclusive interview with the band's founder and composer, Lewis Fowler.

Protal is an indie modern progressive metal/djent/deathcore/metalcore band that first caught my attention approximately two years ago. Now, they have returned with their newest release, "Chaotic Order," an EP album launched on January 28, 2021. For those who may be unfamiliar with the band's background, Protal embarked on their musical journey with the single "Inevitable" in 2019, followed by two more singles, "The Politician" (2020) and "Inheritance" (2020), along with their debut EP "Chaotic Order" (2021). I invite you to experience their music as you continue reading.

Djent, undoubtedly one of the most trending metal music styles, particularly among young musicians, has been a genre that I personally struggled to embrace despite my years of listening to metal music since middle school. Nevertheless, I acknowledge Protal as a highly talented band with great potential. It is remarkable to witness two individuals from different parts of the world come together in such an exciting project. I hold immense respect for the band, particularly considering the challenges they have faced during these trying times since March 2020. I often emphasize that individuals like these young gentlemen contribute to making our world a better place.

"Chaotic Order" stands as a powerful and progressive album, consisting of six impressive tracks. The album primarily emphasizes instrumentation, embracing a modern approach with an overall vibe that resonates with other notable examples in the genre. To provide an accurate review, I dedicated more time to listening to this album than I typically do. Surprisingly, it took several rounds of attentive listening for the pieces to align, ultimately granting me a clear perspective.

Protal represents the collaboration of two innovative minds. While some may argue, I firmly believe that anyone who not only appreciates but also performs this style of music cannot be considered "average" in any way. This level of proficiency is a prerequisite. "Chaotic Order" is not an easily digestible album. My initial impression was that the instrumentation drew inspiration from Meshuggah, the clean vocals resembled Tesseract, the brutal (death metal) vocals mirrored Jinjer, the black metal vocals echoed Cradle of Filth, and the solos channeled John Petrucci of Dream Theater. This realization further solidified my belief that this work could not be attributed to an average person or band.

As an artist myself, I can clearly recognize the creative process behind their work. Successful artists often begin by incorporating the best elements from their influences, as I mentioned earlier. However, in my opinion, this approach primarily applies to beginners. Over time, creative endeavors naturally evolve. Most creative individuals understand that their initial creations often fail to meet their own standards, and it is through continuous exploration that their work gains significance. In the case of "Chaotic Order," I perceive a powerful amalgamation of diverse influences, advanced musicianship, and an abundance of creative ideas.

On the flip side, the young band still has room to grow and improve. Firstly, the album displays a lack of experience, particularly evident in the vocal parts. It is apparent that the compositions are built around the instrumentation, with the vocalist engaging in seemingly endless improvisation. Personally, I am not a proponent of excessive freedom. When one does not set boundaries, the intended message may become diluted. In this case, I would have recommended revisiting the instrumental sections after completing the vocal parts, with the aim of creating a more cohesive and impactful overall sound. Unfortunately, most songs on the album exhibit an excess of freedom, resulting in a loss of direction. It feels akin to comparing one kilogram of rock to one kilogram of cotton. The album, while filled with numerous ideas, elements, notes, sections, and emotions, fails to leave a lasting impression. It is akin to reading a book that fades from memory shortly after completing it.

Secondly, in my opinion, the essence of good music lies in its ability to evoke a particular feeling or mood. I recall stumbling upon a comment about a Pantera song that read, "I want to punch somebody every time I listen to this song." The djent music style is currently faced with the challenge of creating distinct characters within its realm. Many people share the sentiment that every band seems to be treading the same ground, albeit with different notes. While "Chaotic Order" showcases impressive elements such as instrumentation, vocal lines, intros, and transitions, it lacks the raw energy that drew me to metal music in the first place. Regrettably, I did not find what I was searching for in "Chaotic Order" as a devoted metal fan.

Considering these aspects, I must acknowledge that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to "Chaotic Order" and maintain a positive outlook on the future of Protal. The album represents a significant step forward for the band, and I am confident that with each new record, they will draw closer to achieving their ultimate Protal character. This is merely the beginning—a warm-up session for Lewis Fowler and John Manning.

Please take a moment to explore the links provided below. They offer more information about the band, allowing you to follow Protal on social media and subscribe to their channels. By doing so, you can demonstrate your support, ensuring that you do not miss any upcoming releases.

In conclusion, the Metalhead Community Team extends its congratulations to Protal for their remarkable achievement with "Chaotic Order" and wishes them the very best in their future endeavors. Don't forget to check out our exclusive interview with Lewis Fowler.

Exclusive Band Interview

Q1- What does the name PROTAL mean? Can you tell us about the story behind the name?

Lewis: There's actually no deep and meaningful hidden word or message in latin or anything. It's just a slang word for "Prog" and "Metal". "Pro-tal". Which I think is hilarious but pretty cool seeing as that's all I try to write in my music.

Q2- Of course, the current situation, the pandemic. How does it feel to be an indie artist/band trying to make records during such a dreadful situation?

Lewis: Well the pandemic hasn't affected my music "career" in any way what so ever actually. I just continued to write music in my little home studio room in my free time as per normal. Thanks to the miraculous powers of the internet, John was still able to write and record vocals and send them through to me online. To top things off, my audio engineer Luke Snell @ was still able to reamp, mix and master the entire EP with files I sent online. So there was no real set back for me personally, thankfully.

John: I’ve had mixed feelings about the impact of the pandemic on my own career. In working from home during the day time, I do find myself being more flexible with my ability to schedule recording or writing sessions, for the most part, since I’m more or less stuck in the same room all day; in being stuck in the same room all day, though, I find the monotony is sometimes disruptive to my ability to think creatively and I have to remind myself to get out of the house from time to time.

Q3- What can you tell us about the pandemic's reflection on your new album?

Lewis: I'd say seeing as more people all around the world are spending more time at home to help prevent the spread of Covid, they have more opportunities to listen and discover new music. So I'd say its had a positive reflection and we're staying hopeful that more people will discover and listen to us.

John: To add to this, I’m hoping that the messages we’re trying to impart become more pertinent for people who find themselves feeling trapped or claustrophobic during these strange times. We have more time than ever to reflect on our development as individuals and as a collective, and I hope that these songs will serve as a reminder to some that complacency is the most dangerous response to the obstacles that keep us from realizing our potential.

Q4- About your latest release, CHAOTIC ORDER. What is the story behind this album? How did you come up with the album title?

Lewis: The title reflects the music being in such a literal chaotic order where there's no predictable mood and level of energy throughout the EP. An order of chaos. Theres parts where the music builds up aggressively and you're anticipating a brutal breakdown or something, but instead it progresses effortlessly into an uplifting and dreamy atmosphere with clean vocals and a pleasant choice of melody from the guitars and bass. It also happens visa versa - there's sections where you'll be completely engaged and lost in a peaceful, uplifting section then it will effortlessly break out of it and absolutely pummel your earholes with a violent and crushing section filled with plenty of brutal screams that really pumps you up.

John: I think many of the songs’ lyrical themes also focus around the uncertainty of life found in not understanding your purpose, and the way this feeling seems to contrast with the order and regulation imposed on us by a society that seems less and less interested in the exercise of free will each day.

Q5- What can you tell us about the thematic/lyrical approach in Chaotic Order? What influenced you the most to write about this time? Are there any differences from the previous releases in terms of writing?

Lewis: I actually didn't write any of the lyrics. Besides throwing some ideas to John about writing some sort of inspiring message, I had pretty much zero to do with the lyrics. John is the wizard and mastermind behind the lyrics. He's wrote lyrics, created vocal melodies and rhythms from day one. I believe his intentions throughout the EP were to express how no matter the struggles we all face in this world, we still have the choice of how to react to them. We can either accept defeat and let our struggles consume us and completely control our lives, OR we can accept what's happening, adapt in a constructive manner and move forward in life regardless of what pain we experience.

John: That’s pretty much it—originally, the lyrics to every song were, “Unfair,” screamed over and over with different degrees of frustration or annoyance, but then Lewis convinced me that people might want to know what exactly is so unfair. It just took off from there—the more I thought about it, the more I realized, “Hey, stuff really is unfair, maybe we should make it fair or be unfair back to that unfair stuff.” And then I wrote the lyrics we have now.

Q6- When you musically compare Chaotic Order (2021) with Inevitable (2019), what is the picture you see as the main composer? Where was Protal back then, and where it's headed now?

Lewis: Well I'm actually still super proud of the Inevitable release but the sound image has changed dramatically. Looking back now, I just see my first song as too much of a cheesy rip off the Humanitys Last Breath styled sound. I'm a huge fan of Buster and his work so it makes sense. However, these days I'm even more proud because I feel like I've established my own unique sound as a Modern Progressive Metal artist.

John: Lewis’ attitude about his compositions has gone from “humble” to “almost willing to accept the full extent of his talent” as his writing style has improved. It’s remarkable how little change his incredible attitude has exhibited when his writing has shown so much improvement.

Q7- Is this musical direction what you have always imagined in your mind, or is it naturally heading somewhere it's destined to?

Lewis: I wish I had the exact musical direction in mind I have now from the very beginning but it's actually evolved over time to a much more refined and clear styled sound with its own flavour. I think it's very important to offer something different with your own music with the ever growing competition out there of such amazing artists all around the world. Whether that's sticking to a particular niche of music and adding your own flavour throughout your writing, or just to completely change the game and do something like Twelve Foot Ninja do with their sound. Whatever floats your boat. I definitely chose the path of adding my own flavour to a particular niche. I'm definitely not trying to reinvent the wheel and I'm still proud to admit that. I'm more than satisfied with the sound that is Protal.

John: Musically speaking, there’s definitely been ongoing refinement of the sound on Lewis’ end which has led to song structures that, I think, are more adventurous than some of the earlier tracks we’ve worked on while still being accessible and musical. It’s been wonderful to experience a greater and greater challenge with each track that was sent to me as a result of this change and my ongoing efforts to whine about something other than oppressive governments as my writing style has developed.

Q8- Do you think that PROTAL has proved the world its true potential with these releases so far? Or is it still too early to talk about it?

Lewis: I honestly believe so at the moment. I think with future releases, things are only going to be better. For now, I would say DEFINITELY! A MUST LISTEN TO!

John: I can honestly say that this is one of the first releases I’ve been a part of that I wasn’t embarrassed to share for some reason related to production or composition quality—it’s definitely worth the listen and, I think, an incredible first release where my expectations were concerned. I can’t wait to share more in the future when everyone involved will no doubt have experienced even more improvement!

Q9- What can you tell us about the composing process. How does PROTAL write new music? And what are the main challenges?

Lewis: I just try to write interesting stories with my sound. With so much generic music out there already, I want to stand out as an artist and share how I do things differently. I'm pretty obsessed with polymetric pieces of music so having them through my music is a MUST. Even though I'm extremely inspired by relentless metal bands like Meshuggah, Humanity’s Last Breath and Vildhjarta, I really love clean and epic pieces of music too thanks to bands like TesseracT, Textures and Distorted Harmony. So having that said, I really tried to have a nice dynamic blend of heavy and soft sounds throughout the EP. The main challenges were things like "is it good enough to be interesting"? I countlessly listened back to the recordings and completely analysed note for note and thought "could this section be more interesting or do I love it exactly how it is"? So just refining the sound more and more was definitely one of the most challanging things through out the EP for me. That and having the patience to record the guitar riffs to what I was hearing in my head too haha.

John: I pretty much write every track with the same process—I first listen to the track that’s been sent and allow the music to facilitate whatever thoughts or images in my mind it will. Then, I choose an image or scene I’ve imagined based on the sound of the track, think of a one-sentence message that I want to convey, and then see how I can use the imagery inspired by the track I’m referencing to convey that message poetically. Lewis’ songs always sound fantastic even as drafts, so it’s easy to get inspired where subject matter is concerned but it can sometimes be challenging to have to adapt my natural cadence tendencies to three different time signatures at once, or to hear all the perfectly-recorded instruments and sing parts that don’t “suck real bad.”

Q10 – How was the recording process of CHAOTIC ORDER? Where did you record, and who was the producer?

Lewis: It was a super fun experience. I actually recorded with a long time friend who I went to school with. His names Luke Snell and he runs his own music production business by reamping, mixing and mastering clients all over the world. I got to record at his studio where he took care of me and patiently helped me achieve the almost perfect guitar takes. I say almost because I had the help of Jared Smith from the band Heliocentric to edit all my guitar riffs perfectly to really capture that modern prog metal sound. The Bass guitar and drums are actually all midi. It's absolutely insane how huge and real you can make midi samples sound these days. The production of this EP wouldn't have been possible at all if I had just settled with anyone else. I went to Luke with high expectations because of his impressive portfolio of mixes and masters. He blew my expectations out of the water in seconds of hearing the final mix and master. The dude is a freakin' genius! I wish my demos were a hundreth as good of a sound as his demo mixes haha.

John: The recording process was a bit hectic on my end with scheduling conflicts and my own body’s limitations (pro tip: ibuprofen works wonders if you take it ahead of time when you know you’re going to have a headache anyway), but definitely a fun and rewarding experience as well. This is also the first release I’ve been a part of that involved another engineer editing my vocal takes, so it was a positive challenge to ensure that everything was recorded as tight as I could record it with the understanding that I couldn’t rely on my own concept of the parts I’d written to translate in Jared’s head if I recorded a part poorly.

Q11- What can you tell us about the Short and Long term objectives of the band? What is the next checkpoint?

Lewis: Short term goals are to make my own website and have my own Merch for sale. Long term goals are to make plenty of good albums that I'm proud of, continuously build a fan base and community for Protal, make a sustainable income through Protal and lastly to be able to tour and meet my favourite bands.

John: My short term goals with Protal are to reach an audience that likes what they’re hearing, and to continue to make music that other contributors and I can be proud of. My long term goals are for Lewis to make enough money off of the project to sail to the other side of the world and pick me up in his yacht so we can be have a ball n’ thall.

Q12- How can you define the mission of PROTAL? Where would you like to see PROTAL in the end?

Lewis: Right now I just want to write and release good music and build a community that want to interact and let me know if they love or hate the music I release and why that's the case. If we're talking END GAME, I would really love to be able to make a living from this band, perform this music live, have a professional light show to go with it and to be able to meet as many bands as I can and share the stage with them one lucky day. Besides the obvious bands I love that I've already mentioned, seeing and meeting the Danish-Swedish rock quartet known as "VOLA" would be a dream come true. I'd love to see CarBomb one day too. That'd be insane!

John: I think that we’re probably both on the same page in that our mission is to make music that will let us inspire and engage with more people from all over the world. As far as long term goals, I’ve got some asthma to cure before I can tour for more than 30 minutes at a time, but once that day comes or we find a real vocalist and put me on bass then that’ll be the dream.

Q13 - What do you think about the current situation in the music industry? Do you believe up-and-coming bands have a better shot then before? or they have lost the charm to make the necessary impact on listeners because there are so many people making releases?

Lewis: I personally believe there's never been a better time in the music industry to have a shot at making a music career. With so many convenient exposure tools at the tip of our fingers, a little marketing research and writing good music, it's never been a better time to have a chance to make a name for yourself in the music industry these days. I'd really hate to live in the old days where the extremely narrow chance of getting signed was your only chance of making a music career. Thank you internet.

John: I think that bands absolutely have the opportunity to establish themselves without a record label now more so than at any point in the past, but because of that the competition to be noticed has left most platforms saturated, so it’s a two-edged sword I think. Ultimately, I’d much rather participate in today’s music industry than the industry people knew of in the 20th century.

Q14 - What can you tell us about the metal scene in your town/region? About the general mindset and approaches? Any successful acts?

Lewis: Well Pre-Covid 19 there were a few bars in town that held Metal shows for local bands and huge bands like Northlane and Make Them Suffer. For Townsville not being a big capital city, its really amazing that such big bands make the effort to come and add our town to their tour. The metal community here is all pretty friendly and most us of know one another in some way or another. A successful local band called "Forlorn" absolutely blows peoples minds. Their writing approach is creative and catchy. Their performances are always professional level and absolutely huge.

John: I lived here for 3 years before I ever found anyone that was willing to play prog metal but it’s finally happening—overall, the metal scene here in my current town isn’t great, but when I was living in Louisville I got to play with some awesome musicians and got to see some of my buddies blow up playing with Knocked Loose, so as a region I think we’re doing alright with our metal scene overall.

Q15 - What makes a band "Great," in your opinion?

Lewis: I think there's a whole bunch of things that make a band great. I believe in whatever genre/sub-genre bands write in or around, what ever they're doing, has to have their own character and be good at it. They need to be able to communicate with their fans. They need to be able to not be afraid of experimenting and trying something new with their sound. Not every style of music will please everyone so what ever it is the bands doing, have fun with it, be good at it and you're great in my books.

John: To me, a band is great when they sound exactly how they want to without compromise and the music is still good enough to move other people, too.

Q16- Top 5 underground bands and artists you have discovered over the last years?

Lewis: Aura Of Birth, A Social Abattoir, Heliocentric, Cymatics and Cheekbone.

John: Heliocentric, The Schoenberg Automaton, Painted in Exile, Edgar Red, and anything Lewis Fowler puts his hands on.

Q17- Top 5 albums influenced CHAOTIC ORDER?

Lewis: Dualism by Textures, Inmazes by Vola, Chain Reaction by Distorted Harmony, Polaris by TesseracT and The Amanuensis by Monuments. They're all huge influences and are also amazing bands.

John: Parallax II: Future Sequence by Between the Buried and Me, Apus by The Schoenberg Automaton, Rockin’ the Suburbs by Ben Folds, The Elysian Grandeval Galeriarch by Infant Annihilator, A Day at the Races by Queen.

Q18 - Lastly, what would you like to say to our readers?

Lewis: Thank you so damn much for making the time and having enough interest to read this interview. I really hope I've encouraged you to check out my music on any streaming platform you prefer and if you've enjoyed any of my music even in the slightest, please make sure to follow/like/subscribe to Protal on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and tell me about your experience with listening to my music. Whether you absolutely love it or absolutely hate it, feedback of all kinds is welcomed. Thanks very much for your time and have an awesome day.

John: Thank you for listening, for watching, and for taking care of yourself during these strange times. We hope to see you again soon.



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