Review Summary: Make no mistake about it: Scurrilous is good. It's very, very good.
Operatic soaring vocals all-in, Protest the Hero
have returned to the fold with a tweedly, catchy affair named Scurrilous
. The transition from their current work and Fortress
displays a noticeable maturation with a hint of stagnation, but the fact that Protest
tend to be judged by their past works and not other peoples works shows the level of quality that this still-young band exudes, and their most recent release is no different.
Sounding more and more like Symphony X
on every album as the band continues to shed it's hardcore layers like snakeskin, this Canuckian fivesome have entered the dangerous territory of PROG
. Unlike their overly serious brethren of the genre, the playful attitudes and breezy songwriting of the band makes this a refreshing listen. The overwrought and tediousness of Dream Theater
will not be found here, heavy-handed and half-baked themes and all. Instead what we get is snarky, sarcastic, and even a bit juvenile. Yes, sometimes it can be too much ("She's as cold as ice!"), but I've always gotten the impression that Protest The Hero
has found what they want, are perfectly happy with it, and if you don't like it you can go f*ck yourself.
Opening with the closest approximation of an explosion you can get without beating a guitar or cheap samples, "C'est La Vie" sets the tone for the rest of the album, for better or worse. High-energy, high-octane, and volatile as all hell, you can tell the virtuoso two-some of Tim Millar
and Luke Hoskin
have been practicing: The guitar work here is astoundingly good. The sometimes choppy transitions of their previous efforts have been smoothed and flow into each other like a highway interchange. The core elements of their work are sparse and, when they are used, are like sniper fire: One shot, one kill. Effective as hell. The basswork from Arif "Everyone Uses Wikipedia to Spell My Name" Mirabdolbaghi
is both bubbly and solid, espousing a great warm tone and enough technical fireworks to not only not be left behind, but carve out his own niche in the group. Moe Carlson
has always been fast
enough to keep up with the rest of his band, a concrete lynch pin, but never outstanding enough to be seen with the same regard as his string-plucking bandmates. There is no change here, but it's not like he's bad enough you'll notice... but when in the company of three stellar musicians, his otherwise great drumming just seems pedestrian.
Of course, the sticking point throughout has and will always be Rody Walker
, the falsetto-tipped Rob Halford
larvae without the leather-lunged growl. His vocals are their strongest here than on any other album, and he's disposed of the passable status-quo screaming and instead opted for straight operatics, blustery and vibrato-lined. Sometimes he buckles down and goes for a bit of a gravely approach, but the death-howls of Fortress
are noticeably absent. And, to be honest, that's a good thing for the music. He's got a great voice and, still being a veritable spring chicken in the face of some of his peers and mentors, plenty of time to develop it. One thing he needs to develop are his dynamics, as he seems to return to the same phrasing and patterns often. And that brings us to the albums main problem...
, when taken in small bites, is amazing. All of the songs are rock-solid and feature some amazing displays and songwriting. However, it's all the same kind
of displays and songwriting. I would say that the album is front-loaded, but that's not exactly true: It's time-loaded. You could rearrange the tracks and come up with the same conclusion: It loses steam a bit by the end. To be fair, it is fairly new and, for such summery-feeling songwriting, is a very dense, detail-oriented, and jam-packed affair. There are some great moments in "Tongue Splitter", "Sex Tapes", and "Moonlight", for example, but they can all be similar to things you hear in "Tapestry" and "Tandem". Maybe time will shuffle out things in our minds, and listening to tracks individually on random really let's them breathe and stretch out. It seems that, while the pyrotechnics and skills being displayed are Protest the Hero
's greatest asset, when used in the saturation they are on this album, can also be their biggest weakness.
Make no mistake about it: Scurrilous
is good. It's very, very good. But like the regret you feel after downing too many sweets, alcohol, or amazing food, both the band and the fans need to get used to the idea of rationing.