Review Summary: the fortress has been breached
Beginning with ‘Bloodmeat’, Protest the Hero’s Fortress
shows incredible promise. Asides from Rody’s terrible vocal performance, which unfortunately persists until the very end of the record, ‘Bloodmeat’ is the amalgamation of all that makes Protest the Hero good, and bad. Particular licks in the song are undoubtedly catchy, and often contrast with my overall distaste for the band’s sound. Nevertheless, a small selection of catchy moments do not make up for what is an annoying, falsetto driven circle jerk of an album; Rody’s vocals are the ‘icing’ on said circle jerk’s cake, and while he does show promise as a singer who could perhaps do poor imitations of Blind Guardian or Lost Horizon, his attempts at harsh vocals are laughable and destroy any musical appeal the album might have been scrambling for.
As already mentioned, any moments of engagement that the album has are quickly destroyed by the band’s utter miss at writing a coherent song; ‘Bloodmeat’ does well at the beginning, but its rapid changes in tempo, going from riff to riff, connected by inane and ultimately meaningless shred, leaves one scratching his head in wonder as to why or how that was included. This exact same formula is repeated in almost every song; under the guise of ‘progression’, disjointed and illogical musical ideas are linked together with absurd technical wankery that most probably makes your average fifteen year old explode in his jeans, but leaves vast quantities to be desired on a compositional level.
From the embarrassing, rapidly delivered dat dat dat datdatadat
in ‘Bloodmeat’, to the ridiculously lame introduction to ‘Spoils’ and its completely out of place and twenty-years-too-late melody, to the rambling shred that leaves the entire album lacking any continuity whatsoever, the only possible commendation that can be given to Protest the Hero is that they can play their instruments well; to say that they can use their talents in writing a somewhat articulate piece of music however, is a completely different commendation, one which Protest the Hero all together does not deserve. Distinguishing between the songs is nigh impossible; I’m sure the aforementioned fifteen year olds who have listened to the album more times than there are school days in the year would be able to pinpoint every single note, cat noises withstanding, but on a purely objective basis it’s hard to find marked distinctions in any of the songs. This is a result of the band’s complete rejection of memorable song-writing, rather than any supposed ‘diversity’; it’s difficult to find footholds in such confusion.
The album’s misplaced technicality aside, Fortress
would be almost tolerable had it not been for Rody Walker’s unfortunate placement behind the microphone. From his unbearable falsetto to his sub-par screams and growls, he makes the album so much worse than it could have been; it’s obvious his growls, which on the odd occasion sound pretty impressive, are forcefully manufactured, and his throat wrenching screams not only sound abysmal but do the album absolutely zero favours. Along with his forgettable vocal performance, the album’s concept plays its part. I’m sure many an opinion has been given regarding Fortress
’s concept, and there’s no real point in elaborating on it further other than saying that it results in the album’s lyrical substance being relatively low quality. Hearing Rody scream and then reiterate in his falsetto somebody’s little girl dreams of the things she’s read
is but one example of atrociously written lyrics to go with atrociously written music.
I often wonder if my sentiments regarding this album are misplaced; there is some
enjoyment to be had, if only on the rare occasion. Nevertheless, repeated listens in order to give it a fair review has proven yet again that my initial thoughts of Fortress
’s confused and uninviting mish-mash of technicality and unmemorable vocals were spot on; the revulsion that comes with the album is almost immediate, and there is no mistaking its complete lack of fluidity and compositional failure.