Protokult is Folk Metal band based in Toronto. The band has released their third full-length album, ‘Transcending The Ruins’ on the first of October. We had the chance to listen to the album and write a review about it. We also had the chance to chat with vocalist Ekaterina and talk about the new album and a few other things. Jump straight to the interview by clicking here.
‘Transcending The Ruins’ is an 11-tracks concept album over 1 hour and 8 minutes. This album shows the music depth Protokult has at their third major release. Here are four things we loved about ‘Transcending The Ruins’.
1. Great Vocals
The vocal duo of Martin Drozd and Ekaterina is one of the best features on ‘Transcending The Ruins’. The two are able to form a wonderful contrast at times, as well as both of them being ridiculously good at what they do, be it harsh vocals or operatic singing. In Mark of Thunder Martin was thunderous with his growling. And in Oy Kanada, Valley of Thorns, and Greet the Dawn Ekaterina was soaring high with her operatic vocals and magical tune.
2. Richness and Variety in Music
Being a Folk Metal, you’d expect Protokult to come up with a variety of elements from the folk culture. Their richness however exceeded the simple element aspect and went into the depth of the music itself. The pace of the music and the harshness was alternating all through the album, from one song to another and sometimes even in the same song. In Valley Of Thorns we heard a wonderful change in pace and tune in the middle of the song. Troubled Lad shows us how fast and brutal the band can go, while Rusalka built up from a slower pace into the band’s general sound. Wenches is another example of the variety of elements Protokult explored while Greet the Dawn took us on a slow trip into some dreamy world and back.
3. Those guitars
Whatever pace or power the band was going into, the guitar riffs and soloes were remarkable. I listened to some riffs back and forth just to appreciate the great melody in them. The guitar pieces were definitely my favourite part of the album, with riffs blasting here and there and soloes blowing my mind. Valley of Thorns has a majestic riff in the intro, while Troubled Lad had one of the best soloes I’ve heard for a while.
4. Favourite song: “Valley of Thorns“
When I look at an almost 8-minutes-song, I wonder if it will be boring or repetitive. Some bands tend to elongate their songs, because the Metal giants did that, some times adding parts to the song that make it of lesser quality, or repeating some part of it, over and over again. It wasn’t the case here. The 8 minutes felt like 3 minutes.
The song has an epic feels into it. Both vocals were astonishing. The riff as we previously said was mind-blowing and the song itself had a rich variety inside.
We recommend‘Transcending The Ruins‘ to all fans of Folk and Pagan Metal. If you enjoy element-rich music, and contrast of heavy and operatic vocals, this is the album for you.
And here’s the interview we had with Ekaterina before the release of the album. We hope you enjoy reading it.
Hello Ekaterina. How are you and the other members of Protokult?
Greetings! Thank you, we are alive and still kicking!
We’re going to talk about your upcoming album, ‘Transcending The Ruins’. But first, for our readers who are hearing about your band for the first time, how would you introduce Protokult?
Our music is often labeled as folk metal, but that’s not entirely true. It is best described as a mishmash of sub-genres that somehow manage to flow into one another. One song can start out as a classic rock ballad, morph into a polyphonic Eastern European motif and finish off with a doom metal outro. Listeners are often taken by surprise and probably wonder if it’s still the same song…or the same band for that matter.
You’re going to release your third studio album, ‘Transcending The Ruins’ next October. What are your expectations from that album as the release date draws closer?
No expectations really, just glad to finally release something that has taken a long time to produce.
What can you say is the difference between ‘Transcending The Ruins’ and your previous releases?
This time it is a different producer. We usually traveled to Windsor, ON to work with Glen Fricker of Spectre Media Group. This time we stayed in Toronto and recorded with Darren McGill at Union Sound. This also gave us an opportunity to feature quite a few guest performers on the album (something we often do live). I was excited to finally feature one of my traditional ensembles on the album. The ladies of Blisk sang on the track “Na Gryanoi Nedele,” which is a medley of Russian and Ukrainian folk songs. We also have all kinds of singers and instrumentalists joining us on various other tracks.
Your first release I believe was in 2010. So you’ve been in the music business as Protokult for more than a decade now. What are the changes you have witnessed in the industry between when you started your band and now?
Previously the main goal for many bands was to be picked up by a label but today it seems musicians can thrive on their own by catering to their audience online. A lot of time is spent doing everything BUT music these days. All you need to do is simply become proficient in video, photography, editing, marketing skills, social media, and management and you’re good to go! Now with the pandemic, we are also entering a very different era where virtual space will become the ultimate stage.
That’s so true. Did the pandemic the world is currently going through have any influences on the album, whether on the process of creating it or on some of its concepts?
The pandemic only pushed the release of the album further than expected and is also annoyingly in the way of throwing a big release party. We do have a song on the album called “Dead New World” – my favorite one – which talks about that big shift into virtual space and the anxiety that comes with it for all of us who were so used to everyday human contact.
To get our readers more excited about the upcoming album, and also because it’s so damn fun, how about we play a little game. I’ll give you a scenario or a task and you would have to pick one song from ‘Transcending The Ruins’ that best fits what I am talking about. Ready?
Let’s do this!
Which song on ‘Transcending The Ruins’ would you use to introduce someone who hasn’t heard of Folk Metal before to the kind of music you do?
“Troubled Lad” – it’s about our former member, a drunken Canadian-Irish lad, and it features a melody of a popular Finnish song “Ievan polkka,” which he couldn’t ever stop playing during rehearsals. He eventually went off to Harvard to graduate with a Ph.D. in Celtic studies and literature. So basically we have an embodiment of the folk metal genre – a drunken nerd that loves metal, Irish folk tales, and Finnish polkas 😛
That’s hilarious! Which song on ‘Transcending The Ruins’ would best work as a trailer for the rest of the album?
There is literally no song that would describe the vibe of the entire album, as we are all over the place, however, I’d say if you want to check out one song, go for “Dead New World.”
One thousand years in the future, an archeologist called Neutron Skydiver discovers a working CD of ‘Transcending The Ruins’ and is able to play it. Which song would he be most impressed with?
I think Dr. Neutron Skydiver would be fond of “Oy Kanada!” as he will learn a lot about a northern territory in the days of yore, that stretched all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific; a land of Northern gales and a thousand lakes that welcomed everyone under its wing and most importantly had superior beer brewing abilities to their arrogant, mouthy neighbors down south 😛
Brilliant! 😂 All the songs on ‘Transcending The Ruins’ come to life and change into humans. Which song would be your best friend?
“Rusalka”- She is a spirit of a drowned girl that dwells in rivers and lakes. I’ll gladly take her to one of the local themed costume events organized by the monster mutant vehicles like “Heavy Meta” or “Tarna the Art Car.” She’ll take the best prize for the epic costume with Hollywood-level special effects! Afterwards, I will introduce her to the most condescending character with a holier-than-thou attitude on the dance floor, and just watch her do what she does best – drag ‘em down into the waters, back where she came from! 😀
Aliens from outer space invade planet Earth. And though their tech is superior to ours it is found out that their weakness is that their brains malfunction upon receiving sound waves that are caused by heavy guitars. Which song on ‘Transcending The Ruins’ would you lead the charge against the aliens with?
“Unleash the Demons!!!!!” Second track, “Feed your demons.”
Thank you for playing Ekaterina. If you had the power to remove one problem our world is going through from existence, what problem would that be?
Hm…probably by removing all of the humans, we could technically fix a lot of things, but since I am part of the species that wouldn’t work out in my favour, would it? So I will go with better MANDATORY education in Sciences for the entire population. How can we expect to fix the problems in the world when we don’t have the basic current understanding of our surroundings and often rely on archaic dogmas for guidance in everyday decisions?
That’s true. Have you ever been treated in a sexist way? How would you face sexism and what advice would you give to young people who face any kind of discrimination in their lives?
Yes, of course, I have, but I tend to not dwell on it. I find that humour goes a long way as well as simply talking or asking questions. Overall it’s a complex topic and keep in mind I’m coming from a perspective of a woman and an immigrant living in a Western society and my experience might be very different from someone else living in another part of the world. Every situation is different and it really depends on what the goal is. If you just want to overcome that anxiety of facing discrimination, then remember that we were wired to think that expectations and opinions matter, but in reality, they are just a social construct and really have no meaning unless YOU make it so. In short, just keep on going – focus on your work and your creative process! Such is human nature that we tend to focus on the negative without realizing that there are way more positive feedback and support. However, if you want to challenge opinions, then perhaps try to approach it from the perspective that discrimination is a learned behavior and a person that is raised in a healthy environment won’t tend to have these views. I also learned from early on that rage won’t do any good and that patience is a virtue. We have to understand that it takes time for any change to happen and we are dealing with remnants of an ideology that was dominant for a big chunk of our history. I could even go as far as to say that I really feel sorry for people who were conditioned in thinking that way because they are missing out on forming interesting and meaningful relationships. Here in Toronto I’ve met so many different people from around the world and learned so much about their culture and the different types of music and customs – I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything! And so when I do come across close-minded people, I just question why and what led someone to think that way? Perhaps they were raised in a stressful environment or were not as lucky as I to have met kind, creative and intelligent people from various cultures (and sexes). And then all you can do (as an artist), is lead by example: create spaces and atmospheres for people from different paths to enjoy their time, intermingle and exchange ideas.
That’s a brilliant answer. Thank you for the interview Ekaterina. Good luck to you and Protokult in all your future projects.