Oblivion Protocol – The Fall of the Shires (Atomic Fire Records)

Monday, 14th August 2023
Rating: 8 / 10

Best known for his keyboard work in UK progressive metal outfit Threshold, Richard West felt the story that started on Legends of the Shires from 2017 deserved a sequel. When his bandmates wanted to move on from the story, he felt compelled to develop this creative endeavor under the Oblivion Protocol moniker while assembling a killer group of musicians with ties to Devin Townsend, Within Temptation, Darkwater, as well as fellow Threshold guitarist Karl Groom to round out the lineup. That’s how we arrive at The Fall of the Shires, the story showcasing the protagonist becoming king, controlling the population by oppression, adding in real-life event elements to engage the listeners even more in the lyrics.

The record takes on a lot of seventies progressive rock meets pop sensibilities that may differ from Threshold’s melodic progressive metal style – lush keyboard sounds, acoustic guitars, along with Richard’s softer, reflective vocal approach obvious markers to the separation between bands. The alluring, dreamy opener “The Fall (Part 1)” contains some thoughtful lead pacing from Karl Groom in a David Gilmour/Pink Floyd-ish way, before kicking into more of a driving direction for “Tormented” – the propulsive electronic to natural drum groove of Darby Todd respectful of the quiet to bombastic movements which include distant vocal effects and a virtuoso keyboard/guitar break during the later instrumental sequence. Smartly weaving in narrative parts to keep the concept moving along briskly, you get the feeling throughout that you are partaking in this aural journey as it unfolds – musical and vocal aspects of Misplaced Childhood from Marillion next to current superstars Ghost prop up on the catchy “This Is Not a Test”, while there’s a bit heavier, aggressive guitar playing against the progressive musicianship to make “Forests in the Fallout” another highlight. At eight tracks in under forty-two minutes, The Fall of the Shires contains the proper amount of musical information without exhausting the consumer, which can be difficult to achieve in this genre.

Time will tell if Oblivion Protocol through The Fall of the Shires will be a one-off outing, or possibly be a side project for Richard to explore new terrain when inspiration strikes. Those who love a seventies-sounding progressive rock endeavor with aspects of pop and metal sprinkled in should find plenty to enjoy here.

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