Review Summary: One-dimensional. The dimension is ill, but its getting redundant.11 of 17 thought this review was well written
Scurrilous is tight. Noticeably, though, the band seems to have hit the point of career when one's signature sound has been identified and is ready to be wrung for all its worth.
The instrumentation is the best of the three big studio releases, as is to be expected. The mix is well-done, free of the too-loud small-radio mixes plaguing recent efforts from other bands, and even the band's signature noodling is improved upon.
Worse than being no different than Fortress, though, each song on Scurrilous is no different than the one before.
One-dimensional is the term I can't stop coming back to. Protest has identified their signature sound, and that sound is floated from start to finish. Its an excellent sound, and the band is still largely original in the landscape of modern metal. However, they have created a sound which now pigeonholes 'Protest the Hero,' and Scurrilous can't get out of its way.
Take Killswitch Engage. They sound nothing like Protest the Hero, but the example is well taken. If I told you Killswitch was to release a new album, you could guess, very accurately, what the songs would generally sound like, couldn't you? Screamchorus, singverse, done.
Scurrilous brings Protest to the railing of that bridge. Whether they jump into the river below will depend on the next album, but for the sake of Scurrilous, don't expect to be surprised.
The album is impressive, no doubt, but its missing the extra oomph - the kind that Fortress had when it punched new listeners in the gut for the first time. (I heard Kezia once I'd burned up my copy of Fortress. Maybe old listeners didn't experience it that way, but it worked for me).
This isn't a pure thumbs-down on the album. I like Scurrilous (but I only
like it). The music is still very impressive. Rody gave up on true metal screams, and to no fault. His screams on Fortress were merely passable. Those who can't stomach the operatic style that runs start to finish on Scurrilous probably couldn't stomach the better part of his work on Fortress. The operatic sound plays to his strengths as a vocalist.
The drumming, too, is much improved. Kezia was filled with the punk-metal beat (smashing the double pedals and snare in the AB, AAB, AB, AAB pattern - the cubic zirconium of double-bass drumming). The work on Scurrilous is much improved, every bit of it matching the output of the rest of the band. The guitars are what you expect. Super-tight, well-performed, beautifully mixed, if not all that inspired.
Make what you will of the lyrics. C'est La Vie featured some great lines. Protest is at least thoughtful in their lyrical approach. Other lines will leave you scratching your head. Or vomiting. This is still one of the band's sore spots, especially if you're looking to have your thoughts provoked.
Eccentric for the sake of eccentricity is a polarizing trademark with the band, one talked about to no end. I hate it. The near-spoken word passage in the middle of 'Sex Tapes' is one egregious example. That, along with some questionable duet work early on, seems out of place.
In other works, the band sporadically fell victim to employing some eccentric tactics for the sheer sake of being able to. Listeners predicted they would only increase with Scurrilous, and they have. People often misdiagnose this as the band 'just not taking themselves too seriously,' or 'having a sense of humor.' Bull***. It adds nothing to the songs, and distracts the flow of listening from otherwise good music. It's what some call 'cheese,' and it sucks.
Gone, thankfully, are the pretentious piano interludes and chapter-style song taxonomies.
All said, the album feels like one big song. That could have been good. It isn't. Each song is about the same tempo, features mostly the same sonic qualities - the songs are very anonymous. For the polish Scurrilous possesses, it sounds like one song cut ten ways. If it's going to feel like 'one big story,' or all come back to one central theme, vary it. Scurrilous has no ebb, no flow, no deviation from the sound.
Bloodmeat had a distinctly different flavor than Bone Marrow, and The Dissentience had a distinctly different flavor than Goddess Gagged (which genuinely sounded like a coda to a bigger work. Not so with Sex Tapes.) Scurrilous maybe strives to create a more focused theme that prevails in each song, but its done to a fault.
Scurrilous is vanilla. The best, craziest, most technical vanilla you've ever had, sure, and in the context of all metal, there's nothing vanilla about it.
In the context of Protest, its too much.