Protomartyr – Formal Growth In The Desert

Sonically, the sixth album from Detroit-post-punk-quartet Protomartyr is one of their densest efforts yet, and features frontman Joe Casey's finest vocals

Album Review by Adam Turner-Heffer | 31 May 2023
  • Protomartyr – Formal Growth In The Desert
Album title: Formal Growth in the Desert
Artist: Protomartyr
Label: Domino
Release date: 2 Jun

It seems strange to consider the Detroit-post-punk-quartet Protomartyr as "veterans" of the genre, but just over a decade from their debut and five full-lengths under their belt, this is where we are. It is perhaps because their music has always sounded embattled and world-weary, despite having a timeless quality. Musically they have their clear influences but remain utterly unique. Joe Casey's ever-increasing confidence in his bitter delivery at the world around him has earmarked them as a talented group.

On their sixth album, they emerged from the dread of the pandemic-release Ultimate Success Today, with more fire and bite while textually creating one of their densest efforts yet. There are layers sonically here that go beyond their previous work, such as the interweaving guitars on The Author, while equally maintaining an angular edge to express their collective anger on Graft Vs. Host. Joe Casey, meanwhile, probably delivers his best vocal performance yet, especially on the opener and lead single, Make Way.

Formal Growth in the Desert is a terrific return to form, even if it's not the most approachable of Protomartyr's oeuvre. However, it is a record that dives deep into the listener's soul and unconscious, burying its soundscapes and frustration there, creating a rewarding progression in their sound.

Listen to: Make Way, Graft vs. Host, The Author