Review Summary: Protest the Hero release another tight and unique album that is sure to please both hardcore fans and newcomers.
After a more than successful crowd funding campaign to finance Volition
, it was made very clear that fans of Protest the Hero loved the band enough to put up their own money in faith that they would produce a quality product. Success of this album is very important for both the band and the current flux we are seeing within the music industry. It is officially safe to say that Volition
more than delivers on the bands promises to dish out a stellar album after receiving almost triple the amount they had asked for.
Let’s get this out of the way first: the biggest change most fans are aware of coming into this album is that Chris Adler from Lamb of God stepped in to track drums for the band after the departure of their previous drummer, Moe Carlson. While Moe had a lot of input in most of the earlier songs, a lot of the burden fell on Adler to help shape an album that still sounded like Protest the Hero, while maintaining his own creative integrity. For all of you worried about this, breathe a sigh of relief. Adler really plays this album straight, giving the album the same familiar vibe fans of the band are used to, while having his own moments to flex his muscles. It’s a blast to listen to him play the punkish sounding "Underbite", a sort of reverse instance of the band’s recent comments about how they themselves came “to heavy-metal through punk.” Line up changes can be scary, but this one was deftly handled by a band who clearly knows what they are doing.
Secondly, those of you who missed Rody’s screams in Scurrilous
, your prayers have been answered. But more on that later.
Technical competence, whether it's shredding guitar solos or the extreme highs and lows of Rody’s voice, is the first thing that slaps you in the face when firing up a Protest album, and this record is no different. The band reached deep into the bag this time around, pulling punk beats from Kezia
, chaos from Fortress
, and soaring melodies from Scurrilous
, all while giving Volition
its own special sound. The guitars hand out stuttering rhythms and off-beat leads to no end while the bass grooves and swells around them. They prove with "Mist" that they still know how to write a catchy, fun punk song and "Skies" is book-ended with a clean, soft guitar that sounds like nothing the band has written before.
Rody’s vocals somehow manage to improve with each record. He builds on previous screams, growls and melodies, employing every trick up his sleeve that keeps the second half of the album in particular varied and interesting. A common criticism of Scurrilous
was the toned down vocals, and while he holds back on a few tracks towards the beginning, Rody delivers screams of all kinds in spades as the album marches on.
While the melodies and screams are all excellent, some of the lyrical choices might put off some listeners initially. This is the most political album they have written since their EP, A Calculated Use of Sound
. Rody’s subjects cover everything from the surprisingly nostalgic "Mist", to the disdainful critique of the music industry on "Underbite", to recent Canadian legislation involving the banning of pit-bulls in "A Life Embossed". There is nothing wrong with these varied topics, but some lyrics can come off almost too blatantly, bordering corny.
There’s a lot to digest within Volition
. The first half of the album hits like a brick wall as the band pulls no punches. Screams, hooks, choruses, soaring bridges and face-melting speed pound your ears to a pulp before letting you breathe at the end of "Plato’s Tripartite". After that, the band nose-dives right back in, saving most of their hardest hitting songs for the latter half. Rody screams his lungs out on a handful of these later tracks such as "A Life Embossed" and" Animal Bones", providing an excellent contrast from track to track.
Variety is king in Volition
. All Protest albums require an almost exhaustive amount of listening to get the most out of, and while this one is no exception, tracks like "Animal Bones", "Mist" and "A Life Embossed" are distinct right off the bat, grabbing your attention and holding it for the four-plus minutes the tracks run. Also, note that this is the first time a Protest album has exceeded ten tracks - clocking the eleven-track Volition
in at around fifty-four minutes. While this is the longest record by the Canadian troupe to date, it still feels like it goes by in a sudden rush, ready and waiting for you to spin it all over again with an even more attentive ear. The variety also means Volition
makes for a good proving ground for people who want to get into the band.
There is not a single wasted track on the album. What excites you initially will keep you coming back to explore more, and initial tracks you might have glossed over suddenly become your favorite for no discernible reason. Volition
is, in a word, infectious. The band is clearly having fun with their craft, and that translates easily to the listener. Expect to have both the opener "Clarity" and its follow up "Drumhead Trial" stuck in your head for days.
A very interesting twist with the album is the contribution of a plethora of outside artists, many of them high-rollers that contributed a substantial amount to the album funding. These moments are small and often subtle, and it works well ninety percent of the time. The dueling solos within "Drumhead Trial" brings a style never before heard on a Protest record that fits like a glove and breathes fresh air into the soundscape. Also worthy of note is the blistering bass solo in "Without Prejudice". The only time I didn’t like a contribution was the ending vocals to "Underbite". The song is such a powerhouse track up until that last moment, where a very amateurish yelling yawns out the last line of an otherwise stellar song.
The formula here is quite simple. If you love any of Protest the Hero’s previous releases, you are going to love Volition
. Protest has somehow managed to release four studio albums that all sound distinctly Protest, and while you can hear the influences from previous releases, no two sound exactly alike. It really makes you wonder what kind of album a record label would have made them put out, had they not decided to crowd fund. With the amount of money they made for the funding alone, this album puts a bit of faith in the future of the music industry and raises some flags about album funding that demands further investigation and critique.
+ Rody never sounded better
+ Seqouia Throne callback on Animal Bones
+ All killer, no filler
+ Lots of variety...
+...but still sounds like Protest the Hero, and all that entails.
- Some off-lyrics
- Some unsuccessful contribution
If you can only listen to 5 tracks:
A Life Embossed
If you should skip any songs: