Detroit post-punk quartet Protomartyr formed in 2010, slowly bubbling up out of a few bands in a tightly knit music scene. Delivering burly but intelligent music that played heavily on dynamics and physical impact, the group's wild card was vocalist and lyricist Joe Casey, who spun free-associative semi-beat poetry over the churning report of the musicians. After making an impression on the Michigan music scene with their 2012 debut album, No Passion All Technique, word about Protomartyr spread further when they signed with the Sub Pop-distributed Hardly Art label. Following the release of their third album, 2015's The Agent Intellect, Protomartyr began receiving enthusiastic press coverage in North America and Europe, leading to them signing with Domino for 2017's outstanding Relatives in Descent.
Guitarist Greg Ahee, bassist Scott Davidson, and drummer Alex Leonard started the caustic punk band Butt Babies in 2008, playing mostly dive bars and basements and eventually getting a practice space in a large industrial warehouse. Ahee was working at the time as a doorman at Detroit's Gem Theater and struck up a conversation with co-worker Joe Casey about music and local friends Tyvek. Casey had never been in a band but had accompanied Tyvek on a few of their tours. The two decided to jam; the first nebulous lineup of Protomartyr included Casey on vocals, Ahee and Leonard on their respective instruments, and Tyvek songwriter Kevin Boyer on bass. Boyer, often too busy with Tyvek commitments and a heavy work schedule, soon turned over his bass position to Davidson, opting instead to play second guitar whenever he could. The four- or sometimes five-piece Protomartyr played around Detroit and toured regionally, gaining attention on the strengths of two early 7" singles and riveting live performances. Singles "Dreads 85 84" and "Colpi Proibiti" were both released in 2012, followed by debut album No Passion All Technique later in the year. The album quickly sold out of its first pressing and continued to reach new ears in subsequent pressings as the band toured more and got more press.
By this point, Boyer was more or less out of the picture, and the four-piece band tightened up even more, signing to Hardly Art for the release of 2014's Under Color of Official Right, a more exploratory sophomore album. In October 2015, Protomartyr returned with a third studio album, The Agent Intellect, followed by an international tour in support of the release. As word about the band spread and they gained champions in the music press (in particular Greg Kot of the Chicago Public Radio series Sound Options), Protomartyr began playing high-profile festival dates and won fans in Europe and the United Kingdom as well as the United States. They signed a deal with the powerful British indie label Domino, and their first album for the company, Relatives in Descent, was released in September 2017. The group spread the word about the album with further international touring, kicked off with an ambitious hometown record release show held on a riverboat that cruised the Detroit River as the band played. A year later, Protomartyr returned with the Consolation EP. The four-track collection featured guest vocals from the Breeders' Kelley Deal, and was recorded at her R. Ring bandmate Mike Montgomery's Candyland Studios in Kentucky.
In 2019, the band reissued their long out-of-print debut, No Passion All Technique. In addition to the original track listing, they also added a handful of bonus tracks, including "King Boots" and "Bubba Helms." 2020's Ultimate Success Today stepped up the dark energy of Relatives in Descent, while also broadening their musical boundaries with guest appearances from free jazz musicians Jemeel Moondoc and Fred Lonberg-Holm, and vocalist Half Waif. ~ Fred Thomas, Rovi
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