Canadian progressive metal band Protest the Hero has always delivered the goods and satisfied fans with each release. There are always a few tweaks in the overall sound from album to album, but it’s always just enough to keep things fresh and never too much as to alienate the consumers. Kezia
was an earnest concept album that mixed progressive metal, punk, and post-hardcore influences, crafting a unique and catchy blend that stuck with a lot of people. Fortress
saw the band successfully become heavier and even more absurdly technical. Unfortunately, Scurrilous
, while still objectively was a great album, was seen as a bit of a low point in the bands career with questionable lyrical choices, a complete lack of harsh vocals, and songs that generally weren't as immediately gratifying as before.
2013 marks the release of our heroes’ fourth record, Volition
. Lamb of God’s Chris Adler sits in the drummer’s seat for this album and fits in with the rest of the outfit near-flawlessly, and doesn't steal the show by showing off too much. Vocalist Rody Walker’s harsh vocals make a welcome return this time around, albeit in small doses. The songwriting here is more dynamic and engaging than Protest the Hero has been in years, bringing elements and sounds from all the previous albums together to craft something truly special.
Anyone would have a hard time discussing this band without talking about the guitar playing. Solos, difficult riffs, sweeping, harmonies, pinch harmonics, intertwining parts, it’s all
here for the musician crowd to eat right up. The abundance of mind boggling guitar parts make Volition
quite the musical joyride almost the entire time. From the blistering lead work in the beginning of “Without Prejudice”, to the Neoclassical playing in “A Life Embossed”, and the absolute turn it up to 11 in “Underbite”, the listener will never have a dull moment with this record.
Most of the music here is still undeniably textbook Protest the Hero. However, the band still takes a few opportunities to get creative and throws a couple curve balls at the listener. “Drumhead Trial” sports a soft break with guest female vocals, which builds up and crescendos into quite the heavy ending where Walker does a bit of a duet with the guest. “Without Prejudice” gives the bassist a chance to shine at the song’s halfway point and steal the show with an awesome solo. “Mist” is a decidedly happier and more upbeat song, being played almost exclusively in major keys, and has a beautiful outro featuring acoustic guitars and piano. Lastly, “Underbite”, seems like a nod to the bands more punk-influenced sound on Kezia
, which hardcore fans of the band will love.
Rody Walker has stepped up his game ever so slightly since Scurrilous
. The harsh vocals make a welcome return and are used in all the right places, giving the album an aggressive flavour that has been missing from the band in the last few years. He also really brings out the vocal hooks in opening tracks “Clarity” and “Drumhead Trial” that were oddly absent from Scurrilous
. Unfortunately, the lyrics can still be a little ridiculous, including some unnecessary profanity and coverage of baffling topics such as the Star Wars vs. Star Trek rivalry, and laws regarding pit bulls. Luckily, his vocal delivery is top notch, and the songs are fun enough for most of the vocal gripes to be forgiven.
is truly the sound of a rejuvenated band. The performance from everyone is remarkable (as always) and the songs and riffs haven’t been this catchy since Kezia
. Protest the Hero featuring Chris Adler should be proud of this stellar accomplishment, since it puts them above nearly every other band in their scene/niche/whatever right now. One can only wonder where these drunken virtuosos will take their music next.