Review Summary: A solid release for any fans of power metal, progressive metal, technical metal or just Protest the Hero in general.
Ahh Protest the Hero. This is such an odd band. I say this because they're the one and only time I've ever come across the meeting of power metal, progressive/math metal and punk/emocore that actually works. When I first heard this band, I had heard an earlier demo that was mostly a purely punk song, with a few technical flourishes. It's amazing to hear this band really evolve into something more than that.
So anyway, enough of the waffle, let's get to the riffle. Oh, that was bad. I'm sorry.
From the opening track "C'est La Vie" it's already clear that this isn't going to be a straight up sequel to Fortress. Where Fortress sounded like a technical/progressive metal album with touches of punk and an undercurrent of power metal, it seems that now the band have opened up to the power metal side of their sound more. Sure, the heavier, thrashier sound is still there, but definitely takes a step back to the "cheese" that seems to divide fans.
Firstly, vocalist Rody Walker seems to have almost abandoned the hardcore screams that were scattered throughout previous efforts and opted for a more melodic approach. To some this may be offputting, but if you overcome the need to have heavier vocals, he really has improved. His seamless blend of power metal and punk vocals has evolved nicely, resulting in a very original sound that can scarcely be heard anywhere else. His vocals provide a very upbeat alternative to the screamers and growlers out there that seem to be dime-a-dozen these days.
With a more upbeat vocal approach must also come an upbeat musical approach. Nowhere in these songs will you find a dark or downbeat sound. This may throw off some potential fans, but I like this as it's definitely a fresh take on the genre. Well, genres I suppose. The lead guitar riffs are still manic but less in a Sikth style mathematical chaos and more in a focused progressive form. That's not to say you won't find parts that remind you of this earlier sound, but as I said earlier if you're looking for a sound that carries over from Fortress as a faithful sequel, you may be disappointed.
The drums are as technical as ever, with a confident use of double kick blasts and interesting punk fills. But this time it's less about being "METAL!!!" and more about complienting the music. Having said that, I did find the drumming on Fortress superior, but each to their own I suppose.
Overall the album seems to have definitely taken a cheesier approach. Personally I would have liked some more songs akin to what you'd find on Fortress but that doesn't mean that this album isn't good. It's just...different. If anything it's possibly closer to the sound found on their debut album, Kezia. It;s a solid album, but personally to my tastes not quite as good as Fortress.
Still, better than a lot of music out there by miles. You certainly won't find many bands that sound at all similar to their blend of styles.