Review: The Protest - Death Stare [EP]

Zachary Tyler Van Dyke
Zachary Tyler Van Dyke   Follow

Band: The Protest

EP: Death Stare

Genre: Rock

Record Label: Rockfest Records

Release Date: August 27, 2021

EP length: 20 Minutes

  1. Paper Tigers
  2. Greater
  3. Show Up to the Showdown
  4. Voices
  5. Hell to Hold You
  6. The Mountain

At what point does a band become a considered “veteran” band? Having been around for 10 years, with 2 EP’s and 3 full-length albums, The Protest certainly deserve to be in that conversation. Having just released their 2nd EP, Death Stare via Rockfest Records, the hard-rocking fellas show that they haven’t lost their edge. In fact, mirroring the cover art for the EP, the group flexes an aggressive muscle that would feel at home on their albums, Great Lengths or Game Changer. Undoubtedly to please fans from across their tenure, Death Stare appeals to both lovers of their more aggressive tone while also embracing their more melodic elements.

“Paper Tigers” opens the album with a ferocity which excels that of their song “Legacy”. It’s an in-you-face anthem that bares the teeth The Protest set out to show with this album. Vocalist, Josh Bramlett sounds like he is mad and ready to take on an army. His energy is perfectly matched with the energy provided in the riffs provided by Adam “Sarge” Sadler and T.j. Colwell and the perfectly punctuated drumming of Jarob Bramlett. Lyrically, this song drives home the significance of a sound mind, and the defiance that can be required to take on the negative thinking that dominates so many minds. Ultimately, those thoughts are nothing more than tigers that crumple like paper. As the name might suggest.

“Greater” was the first single that the band released for this EP, and it really set the stage for what to expect. It served as an excellent way to bridge the melodic and heavier moments with one of their chunkiest riffs and, arguably, one of their most impressive breakdowns. This is a fantastic track that does such a good job of showing off how skilled and comfortable with one another this band has become. Nobody outshines anybody and the arrangement of the entire song feels so organically fluid. Everything fits so perfectly. From a lyrical perspective, it is refreshing to see a band pointing to the fact that what they do isn’t for the fame. “This is all for something greater than me!” Oh, that more could echo that sentiment.

“Show Up to the Showdown” was the second single that was released for this EP. It is reminiscent of the defiance of “Knockout” with the confidence of “What Else You Got?” but done Death Stare style. It’s a touch more on the aggressive side, but still has the same kind of swagger about it. What sets this track apart is that it speaks to the pressure that life itself can pile on. Josh holds to the biblical principle of rejoicing in the trials that life brings our way (James 1:2) with the words, “Trials won’t make me run; pile on the pressure – I’m my best when I’m under the gun.”

“Voices” is an interesting exploration of becoming someone we don’t recognize. Ripping into eardrums with a nearly southern-rock vibe, this track is incredibly easy to sink into and that ease makes it somewhat easy to overlook what the song is about. Struggling to reconcile the fact that often times, when we’re honest, our ending up in a low place is a result of our own choices. The bluntness with which Josh admits this is palpable: “All the times that I failed you, I looked for someone to blame. But the fault was my own.” Much like “Greater”, they point to an outside source of success by admitting that they can’t get out of their own way on their own power – they need something greater.

“Hell to Hold You” is the token ballad. That said, it is, arguably, the strongest track on the entire EP. Of these 6 songs, this one is the one that displays some of the greatest strengths of this group. Tight guitar playing, including a phenomenal lead throughout the choruses, extremely precise drumming, and vulnerable and wholly felt vocals. There is a humility within this track that is consistent with the rest of this album’s lyrical content, but it is matched here with the entirety of the instrumentation. This song is great.

“The Mountain” immediately brings to mind some of the work from label-mates, Random Hero—particularly from their album, Tension. Listen to this song, and then listen to “White Flag”, “Public Enemy”, or “The Sound” and you’ll likely hear similarities. However, this feels 100% like something that belongs with The Protest. Filled to the brim with searing guitars, driven and engaging drums, and absolutely stellar gang-vocals, there is a massive feel to this track. Lyrically, this song faces, once again, how we are often get in our own way. After pursuing everything the world may have to offer and acquiring more and more, only to find it isn’t enough and there is still a desire for something that can’t be satisfied by what the world gives.

With the music industry continuing the shift to EP’s over full-lengths, releases like The Protest’s Death Stare make a solid case for that shift. This is the most consistent and cohesive work that The Protest has released yet. They absolutely nailed everything with this offering, and there’s not much that could be said in terms of need for improvement. Top notch, quality music here.

High Point: “Hell to Hold You”
Low Point: If I had to pick, it would be “Show Up to the Showdown”
Personal Favorite: Tied between “Greater” and “Hell to Hold You”

Rating: 10/10

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