Mixing the complexity of progressive rock with the raw power of hard rock and heavy metal is not a new idea by any stretch - bands like Rush, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath explored this idea upwards of forty years ago - but Boston's Protean Collective aims to put their own twist on this well-established style. Unlike many contemporary progressive metal acts, Protean Collective focuses on mixing the gritty intensity of heavy rock with frequent progressive rock flourishes. Technical acrobatics, crystal-clear productions, and polished melodies are not at all what Protean Collective is about, and the band's raw sound is a refreshing change of pace from the very different intentions of most other acts in this style. Divided, the band's third full-length album, is a solid recommendation to folks who miss the days when rock music was less about genre tags, and more about being adventurous and taking risks.
That's not to say that Divided is an album void of modern influences, however - alternative metal appears to be a big part of Protean Collective's sound, and the riffs can get much heavier than anything we would've heard in the seventies'. The band's raw, stripped-down approach is really where their retro stylings shine through - the progressive tendencies on this album are in the form of jazzy guitar licks and challenging riff structures, and it's a refreshing reminder that there's much more to progressive metal than just Dream Theater and Opeth followers. Although Protean Collective may not sound terribly new to anybody familiar with Rush, Fates Warning, or Black Sabbath, they do come across as one-of-a-kind on today's music scene.
Divided does suffer from a pretty lifeless production, but the album's biggest flaw is the general lack of memorable songwriting. The entire album tends to lean more in the direction of 'average', rather than 'great', and the absence of any truly standout material is what ultimately keeps this observation from getting a higher score from this reviewer. I think the arrangements in particular could've used a bit more attention, as the entire album sounds pretty similar from a stylistic point of view, and the songs often feel a bit empty and lack dynamics. All in all, while Divided may not be an essential addition to your music collection, it is still worth a listen for fans of progressive hard rock. With a bit more refinement, I see a lot of potential from Protean Collective.