If you have kept a keen eye on what is going on in German thrash these days, you cannot have missed the comeback of Protector, legendary thrash/death outfit from Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony. Formed in 1986, Protector lived through several line-up changes and phases of more or less activity, until they finally called it a day in 2003. That could have been the end of it, but if you scroll down a bit in the list of High Roller releases, you find Protector’s “Reanimated Homunculus” from 2013 – it was this album that marked the return of a band which today still is widely regarded as one of the most underrated outfits from the prolific German thrash/death scene of the Eighties. In 2011, Protector's old and new vocalist Martin Missy decided to reanimate Protector with the help of his all-Swedish crew, who had won their spurs playing in “Martin Missy and the Protectors” since 2006. The original plan had been to stay a cover band and not to use the name Protector anymore – but constant dripping wears away the stone, so Missy eventually gave in to the fans’ craving to see the real Protector playing live again. Now as Protector are back on the scene for good, it only makes sense to re-issue their back catalgoue, starting with this little thorny gem:
In 1987, Protector released their debut EP “Misanthropy”, after having scored a deal with the then still quite young label Atom H. Martin Missy remembers that this was a bit of luck for the young band: “It was our first release on vinyl, and we released it about one year after the band had been formed. We were really lucky to find a record company that quickly. Today, this is usually not that easy for an unknown band.”
Before “Misanthropy”, Protector had brought out their demo which already showed a lot of what this band was up to: uncompromising thrash metal, raw and fast, and with a strong feel of evil blackness. “Misanthropy” as the band's first official release laid the base for their reputation as “Germany’s most brutal band”, as some people called them. Protector? Really? A thrash metal band from Wolfsburg, some far out place in Lower Saxony? What about the German Big Four of Thrash? It’s true, Protector never rose to the same heights of fame as Kreator, Sodom and the likes, but back in the days, Protector made a name for themselves by playing not only fierce and sharp thrash metal, but always being extremely harsh, brutal and very very evil. “Misanthropy” is a perfect testimony for this: In its six-tracks-brevity, Protector’s debut-EP is a fierce, violent attack on the listener, giving you six razor sharp cuts and leaving you behind, crushed and bleeding.
“Misanthropy” was recorded in the summer of 1987 at the White Lines Studio in Braunschweig, where the band had already recorded their two-track demo the year before. It was during this time that Protector established their first more or less stable line up. Martin remembers how he first got into the band: “In the summer of 1987, the band consisted of Michael Hasse (drums), Hansi Müller (guitar), Ede Belichmeier (bass) and myself on vocals. Michael and Hansi had formed the band in 1986 together with Michael Schnabel (bass). The biggest change was on the vocal position. Michael had recorded the vocals on the demo, but in the beginning of 1987, the band started to look for a guy who would focus on the vocals only. I don't know exactly why they decided to do so, but my guess is that Michael wanted to concentrate on the drums.”
The songwriting process for all releases with Martin Missy on vocals usually worked more or less after the same pattern: “Hansi, Michael and Ede put together the songs, and I wrote the lyrics afterwards. We wrote the six songs for the EP in the first months of 1987.” These six songs were the first steps in the realm of professional recording, and they were conceived in a very special way. Missy explains how this worked, and goes a bit into detail on how the sound of “Misanthropy” was created: “We only had recorded one demo before the EP. The style and the sound of the demo were extreme black/thrash metal. On “Misanthropy”, the sound and the songs were also raw, but they leant more towards thrash than black metal. My lyrics also weren't as satanic as they had been on the demo. Regarding the sound: I remember that we took some albums into the studio, so that the guys from White Line, who hadn't recorded any metal before Protector, could get an idea of what we wanted it to sound like. I'm not sure, but I think those records were Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, Possessed’s “Seven Churches” and Exodus' “Bonded by Blood”. In the end, our EP sounded like none of these albums, but on the other hand it got a quite unique sound.” It definitely has, and isn’t it better to sound unique than to simply copy another band’s sound?
The reactions to “Misanthropy” were mixed: “We got a lot of positive resonance from the fans (by letters back then!) and the underground magazines. The bigger magazines were a little more sceptical about our brutal and aggressive style and sound.” Anyway: “Misanthropy” made people aware of this four-piece who lived close to the then still intact German Wall, far away from the Ruhr-Area, the famous heart of Teutonic thrash, so Protector made their first real footprint in the world of Metal: “We got ourselves a little bit known in the underground-scene. And it opened some doors for us so we could book concerts with Tankard and Messiah, among others.”
As Martin Missy is famous for his extreme vocal performance, which always bordered on the verge of death metal growls and thus added a lot to Protector’s unique evilness, it is all the more interesting to hear Missy’s special memories about the vocal recordings for “Misanthropy”: “I remember standing in the recording booth and talking to my band mates and the engineer between two takes. All of a sudden I saw through the window how everybody started to laugh in the mixing room. So I asked them what was so funny, which only made them laugh harder. After a while I realized that the engineer had manipulated my voice to make it sound like Mickey Mouse when it came through the speakers in the mixing room.
I also remember another incident, which was not as funny. When I started to record the vocals I suddenly realized that my voice didn't sound as brutal and dark as it had done on the rehearsal room-recordings we had recorded on cassette. Those recordings were done on a little cassette player, all the other instruments were superloud and I was singing over a box for a bass, so it was natural that the voice sounded totally evil on those old cassettes. Now in the studio, it was a completely different thing. Here everybody could hear my “real voice”, and it sounded fragile and weak. I remember the horror in our drummer's eyes as I started to sing, or better “squeak” in the recording-booth. Fortunately my voice changed after I had screamed for about half an hour. And the result (including some effects) was quite evil.”
For the High Roller re-release, nothing will be changed about the sound, which makes total sense given that “Misanthropy” is so very great just as it is: “The recording has been taken from a mint condition “Misanthropy”-EP. We had to do that because the original recording tapes don't exist anymore. I don't think that Patrick W. Engel from Temple of Disharmony, who does the mastering, has changed anything on the sound.”
That is right, the sound stays untouched, but the High Roller version of “Misanthropy” comes with a very special feature. Martin tells us what that will be: “To make the whole release as complete as possible, High Roller will also include the demo from 1986, which I think is a great thing to do. That way the fans can hear what Protector sounded like before the EP was recorded.”
Protector never got any more aggressive, sharp and shattering than on „Misanthropy”. Their following releases were no less evil, but more influenced by early death metal and with a gradually more doomy touch. Up to this day, “Misanthropy” still is Martin's favourite of all Protector releases: “Yes, it is still my favourite Protector recording. Partly because it was my first time in the studio, and partly because I really like the songs and the sound of the EP. We still play all of them live at our gigs with Protector today. And the layout for the front cover was drawn by me. I had hoped that the artist who painted our cover would make it look cooler and more powerful, but in the end it turned out almost exactly as my sketch, only in colour.”