Review Summary: Prog-metal’s Heroes come back more vigorous and aggressive than ever.
When you stop to think of all the great bands that have made an impact in the metal-core music scene over the past 10 years, few are as brave and fearless as Protest The Hero. Capable of leaping genres with a single bound, faster than a Lindsay Lohan rehab stint, more powerful than Chuck Norris…you get the picture. Protest seriously kicks ass and they’ve made a living off of kicking such ass while ridding the modern pop underworld of crappy music since their first EP dropped in 2002. But while up until now they’ve let their dangerously epic music do the talking for them, Scurrilous is a record that contains more hilarious cheap shots than a David Letterman monologue. In every sense of the word, the album’s title is very appropriate
Last time we heard from the band, they were hiding out in their musical Fortress of solitude tinkering with their sound and working on a new album. That album was of course, 2008’s Fortress. Now it was definitely good, some would say it was great, but it left something to be desired. The album’s final track, “Goddess Gagged”, sums the whole record up perfectly. From its carefully composed electronic guitar breaks to the excellent writing that one has come to expect (hell, demand) from their multi-talented bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi, “Goddess” was the kind of song that any Protest fan would appreciate. However it didn’t possess the same tenacity or passion of their brilliant debut and when it ends very abruptly on that final note, you can’t help but feel cheated that our Heroes would choose to retreat so quickly. It’s like going to see them play live, suddenly having them leave the stage after 40 minutes and being stuck hanging around, waiting in confusion for them to come back out for an encore. Well their idea of an encore is Scurrilous and lucky for us, the encore was well worth the prolonged wait.
From the opening riff of the opening track, Protest makes a very early statement that they’re definitely going to be kicking some more ass on this record. “C’est La Vie” (one of only three songs on Scurrilous written by Mirabdolbaghi) takes everything that is awesome about Protest The Hero, puts it all into a musical blender and condenses it down to three and a half of the most epic minutes of your life! Well…maybe not, but it sure is a hell of a way to make an entrance after a three-year absence. This song was a perfectly obvious choice as the lead single. While there are stronger tracks on this album, this one’s as well put together as anything they’ve ever done as Walker effortlessly weaves through Arif’s sarcastically optimistic lyrics.
Now, sarcastic lyrics are nothing new to Protest The Hero, but they crank up the roaster to about 400 degrees on Scurrilous. “Dunsel” sees the band reflecting on the manipulative nature of the music industry, pointing out that "some assholes hands ain't worth shaking", while taking aim at musicians who’ve sold out at the expense of their fans: “all the s**t we keep feeding, to ourselves and you believing that no money could change us/but then a door opens up and a devil persuades us”…I don’t care what planet you’re from. That is f**king genius. They continue on a frantic pace throughout the duration of this album, leaving a trail of hurt feelings lying on the road behind them. Even the apologetic “Tongue Splitter” takes some time off from Rody Walker’s self-loathing to take some shots at Down With Webster: “I’m not asking for your pity, 'oh woe is me' sarcastically”. Making fun of their uninspired single “Whoa Is Me”, while complementing them on their poetic prowess? Well done guys…God knows they deserved it.
You know how no matter how obscure or enigmatic the lyrics appear to be on any Protest The Hero song, you just always kinda have a really good feeling that it’ll turn out awesome? Well our Heroes pull through in a big way on Scurrilous, borrowing themes from all across the board. The subject matter ranges from the touchingly honest…“Tandem”, which is sung with such genuine emotion by Walker, about a man who’s lost his lover to cancer…to the viciously cheeky on songs such as “Hair Trigger”, which describes a typical relationship between a man and his “sweet little redhead”. The man sees their partnership as something strictly casual, but wants to get out of it once he finds himself in over his head. It’s a satirical look at a cigarette addiction, where Walker compares his struggles with his habit to the struggles of modern relationships. The song also features a stand out vocal from their friend Jadea Kelly (who we last heard from as the condemned Kezia), playing the sweet little redhead, begging for Walker to come back. The boys keep it cheeky on “Sex Tapes”, a smart little tune about the modern phenomena known as the celebrity sex tape. The song focuses on how much media attention these little “accidents” receive and how ridiculous it is that such an irrelevant story receives such attention. They also take some time to pick on the Jonas Brothers: “the Jonas generation’s got rings wrapped round their dicks, the whole world waits patiently for one them boys to slip”…time well spent.
While the interesting subject matter and the lyrics are two of the album’s more noteworthy highlights, I can’t go any further without mentioning the band’s resident guitar-gods, Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar who shred and tear throughout every song with a natural fluidity. The guitars intertwine beautifully on songs such as “Moonlight", its successor “Tapestry” and “The Reign of Unending Terror” with the ridiculously precise drumming of Moe Carlson and the jarring bass lines provided by Mr. Arif (who is solid on this album, if not overshadowed by his louder counterparts) to create the most epically fullest sound that Protest has ever produced. They triumphantly combine the raw, edgy racket of Kezia with the electric, methodical concept of Fortress to create the sound that you knew Protest The Hero was going for all along.
Every song on Scurrilous contains the quintessential ingredients that make up another 10 excellent Protest The Hero recipes. Tasty guitar riffs, battering drums and fruitful bass lines are thrown in the pan, drizzled with some of Rody Walker’s creative juices, while baked overtop of crisp music beds, before stirring everything together with a big metal spoon. The results range from heavenly to enjoyable to downright stomach-turning. Scurrilous punches you in the face over and over again with its heavy, belligerent metal while letting up just enough for you to enjoy its beautiful handiwork. All four instrumentalists sparkle throughout the whole record, capturing the best possible sounds out of each of their respective instruments. Complimented by Walker’s powerful, operatic voice (that seems to get even stronger with every album), Scurrilous is the band’s response to our cries for help. The bat-signal has been seen and our Heroes have come back once again to save the day, while serving a monumental helping of humble pie to lame pop bands, lazy journalism and slutty celebrities everywhere. Justice has most definitely been served.