One thing is crystal clear: Protector from Wolfsburg, Germany, are one of those bands that never really got the attention they deserved. How could it ever happen that such a great band with a sound uncompromising and aggressive like burning sulphur already on their first demo could be so neglected in the common histories of German thrash? Vocalist Martin Missy tries to find an explanation “I think the reason was that we released our demo and first records ‘too late’. At that time, around 1986, 1987, the big German thrash bands like Kreator, Sodom and Destruction were already established, and it had become more and more difficult for new thrash bands to make themselves heard. If we had released our demo in 1983 or 1984, we might have become as big as ‘The Big 4 of German thrash metal’.”
There surely is some truth in these words. Listening to Protector’s recordings of that time, one is instantly captured and excited by their raw power and innovative spirit. “Protector of Death”, “Misanthropy”, “Golem” and “Urm the Mad” are counted among the milestones in the history of death/thrash.
Back in the days, the heart of German thrash beat in the famous Ruhr-area, where the sullen monuments of an era of heavy industrialisation provided a perfect backdrop for music that expressed juvenile power, insecurity and cold war angst at the same time. Protector however had their home base in a different part of the country, quite close to the then still intact German Wall. Protector were thus a bit isolated, though they did have some bonds with the furnaces of thrash that were glowing in the west: “Our drummer Michael had some contact to the Ruhr-scene because he ran the Sodom fan club for a while. He also had been the vocalist of Wolfsburg’s first extreme metal band "Death Attack". When he started "Protector" together with Hansi Müller, they wanted to become the most brutal band of all, at least in Germany.” That definitely was an ambitious goal, and judging from Protector’s aural legacy from the 80’s, they weren’t far from achieving it. Still, Protector never really grew beyond their underground status. How does Martin define the role Protector played in the early German thrash scene, especially with regard to their sound slowly progressing from thrash to death/thrash? “I think we were just an underground band all the time, so it was difficult for us to make a real impact on the scene. But we had quite a few devoted fans, and that was reason enough for us to keep on going.” So Martin keeps his focus on what is most important about metal: the fans. He is right about doing so, for it was a group of ardent fans who played an important role in the resurrection of Protector after they had disbanded in 2003, as we will see later.
For what reason did the guys in Protector decide to call it quits, in the early years of the new millennium? Missy, who had been replaced by Olly Wiebel before moving to Sweden in 1995, can’t really tell: “Well, I would say that the band rather dissolved than split up. Between approximately 2001 and 2003 the band played no more gigs. First the guitar player and then the bass player left, and in the end it were only Marco Pape (drums) and Jacek Zander (vocals). I don't know the reason why the band stopped playing live. Maybe they got tired of it all, I don't know”
Protector had ceased to exist, but they had not been forgotten. Didn’t I say something about the importance of the fans in the band’s history? Here we go: After having lived in Sweden for a while, and though being out of the game, Martin eventually gave in to fans’ craving to see Protector playing live again. Together with a couple of Swedish musicians, namely Mathias Johansson (bass), Carl-Gustav Karlsson (drums) and Michael Carlsson (guitars) Martin formed a band quite similar to, but not quite like Protector, called “Martin Missy and The Protectors”: “In 2005 a metal head called Jonas Svensson came up with the idea of a Protector cover band with me on vocals. He put together the band in his hometown Uddevalla (about 500 km from Stockholm, where I live). In 2006 we started rehearsing together and did our first gigs. We played live more than 20 times, and our biggest gig was at the Chris Witchhunter tribute festival in 2009.” Choosing the name “Martin Missy and The Protectors” was a clear sign that the idea had not been to reform the “real” Protector. Missy even proclaimed in public that he would never put the name “Protector” on a new record again. Yet sometimes things work out differently than from what the intentions had been, especially if they develop a power and dynamic of their own. “In 2011 we had played with Martin Missy and The Protectors for five years. The intention had always been to play only the old songs, but then my band colleagues came up with the idea that we should write some new songs. I thought it was a good idea, on the condition that the old band members of Protector wouldn't have any objections to this, and that the songs should be written in an old school style”. All conditions were met, and the songs that were produced made Missy change his mind immediately. Decisions were made to release the new material on CD and Vinyl, starting with a demo and a split single, before a new full length was decided for. Now what do you need to put out a proper release? A proper record label. Protector luckily ended up with High Roller: “We were looking for a ‘medium-sized’ record company with good connections and a worldwide net of distribution. I had already heard about High Roller Records, and Tormentor from Desaster, who is a friend of mine, told me to try and contact Steffen. All the guys at High Roller were really easy to have contact with, and a couple of weeks later we had signed the contract with High Roller.”
Now we got the band together again, the deal is signed, next comes… the new album of course! What can we expect from the new Protector? Will the band turn back to its roots in the 80’s, will they be more deathy, like they used to be in the nineties, or did the relocation to Sweden have a big influence on how the new Protector will sound? “It will be a mix of brand new songs (two of them are actually written by me - the first songs I have ever written for the band), some songs that have already been released on the demo and the split between 2011 and 2012, and an old Protector-song from 2000 that we have made our own version of. We have tried to write all our songs in the old Protector-style, and we hope that both our old and new fans will like them.” And what about the sound? “The new record will have its own sound. We've tried to keep it old school, to keep the raw feeling of the songs. It will
probably sound a little bit more like the Protector-recordings from the 80’s
than the recordings from the 90’s.” Also, living in Sweden did not have any unwanted effects on the Protector sound. Missy and his band mates decided from the start that they didn’t want their songs to sound like the Swedish death metal bands from the early nineties: “We wanted an 80’s thrash metal sound, and I hope we have succeeded with that.” Have they? You be the judge!