Protest the Hero
Palimpsest


4.0
excellent

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
June 18th, 2020 | 610 replies


Release Date: 06/19/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Both a fresh start and a culmination.

Protest the Hero became a stronger band once Arif Mirabdolbaghi stopped writing lyrics. That might sound like a statement designed to court controversy, and I don’t mean to disparage the work that he did on Kezia, Fortress, and Scurrilous (where, lest we forget, he penned “Sex Tapes”, a song often misattributed to frontman Rody Walker). Mirabdolbaghi set the tone for the band’s music on those records, a tone that persists even years after he left. However, Walker was never truly able to come into his own in the early years despite the continued popularity of Protest the Hero’s first few albums. Trying to fit another author’s lyrics into music he did not write nor play, Walker repeated words nonsensically, crammed phrases together, and separated clauses into different sections of songs. That the results were as reliably great as they were is a testament to his ear for melody. However, now that many have decided that the band’s best years are behind them, Walker and the rest of the group have finally come into their own.

After several years of turmoil – the lack of a record label, the departure of founding members Mirabdolbaghi and Moe Carlson, vocal troubles for Walker – Palimpsest feels like both a fresh start and a culmination. After surgery and extensive re-training, Walker’s voice is fuller and more resonant, and he is now capable of hitting higher notes without sounding strained. No longer reliant on constant overdubs, his performance is more consistent throughout and full of a confidence that sees his voice sounding nakedly vulnerable one moment and explosively soaring in the next. He has proven himself to be an able lyricist, less prone to the dense allusions of Mirabdolbaghi and more willing to be open and at times even obvious. He expounded on his approach to writing with the closing track of Pacific Myth, saying that so-called “concept albums,” purported to be about something, are often meaningless. Some may not appreciate that Walker’s “write what you mean” method has led to songs about Newfoundland and pit bulls rather than fully-formed records like Kezia, but it is undeniable that he sounds far more comfortable singing his own words.

The rest of the band are still technical but less prone to flashiness. The music is not as outwardly complex as it sometimes was on previous records, and the riffs are chunkier than their typical lead-heavy approach. While Palimpsest takes the piano interlude approach of Fortress and expands on it, turning the interludes into named tracks, the band also finally found a way to implement Luke Hoskin’s skillful playing within the songs, making for a more varied listen that breaks up the potential monotony of constant guitar assaults. Orchestration abounds on many tracks, and the expansive production makes room for it alongside the typically packed songwriting of the band. Songs rarely tread the same ground twice, and Walker’s lyrics – about the early 20th century that supposedly made America “great” – are perfectly complemented by the alternatively chaotic and restrained music.

Though the title of Palimpsest is intended to describe the way Americans rewrite their history in favorable ways, it can be applied to the history of Protest the Hero as well. They have consistently reinvented themselves from seemingly blank slates on which the past is faintly visible. Mirabdolbaghi is gone, but his progressive politics have echoes in Walker’s writing. The breakneck leads and spastic riffing of Kezia and Fortress have been refined and molded to better suit an older, wiser band. Whatever comes next, traces of Palimpsest will hopefully remain.




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user ratings (404)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JayEnder
June 18th 2020


7768 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds spectacular so far, and I never got into this band prior to this album. All Hands is so freaking awesome.



Great review as always Chan!

Digging: Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

Dissonant
June 18th 2020


628 Comments


Great review, and album cover.

Unfortunately, I'm 99% positive the music will be shit brown, so I will not bother listening to this.

Digging: Testament - Titans of Creation

unclereich
June 18th 2020


6306 Comments


There’s something missing on this album. Not sure what i would rate it as of yet. It isn’t disappointing but im left wanting more i guess. Hard to put into words but a 4 right now feels slightly generous. Though I’ll need a lot more time with it. Thanks for getting this out so fast.

Digging: Fishmans - Long Season

Odal
June 18th 2020


499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Happy to hear that the album seems to be better than the singles suggested. Something isn't really clicking with me about them the same as their last efforts, but I wasn't too crazy about Pacific Myth apart from Caravan. Will definitely be spinning as these guys are low key one of my favorite bands. Excellent review

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 18th 2020


1704 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is way less immediate than their other stuff, including Pacific Myth, which I think is pretty underrated. Part of it is Rody's new style. It took a few dozen listens to the singles until I felt comfortable with it.

GreyShadow
June 18th 2020


4184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

i feel like it's been years since I've enjoyed a new album this much. leave it to Protest The Hero

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bloc
June 18th 2020


62200 Comments


I just realized all of their proper albums are titled with just a single word

Digging: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Dazzle Ships

Gyromania
June 18th 2020


30314 Comments


thought the singles sucked so this probably isn't for me

Tw1ster
June 18th 2020


187 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The album gets stronger with each song. Was kind of worried about the vocals in parts of “The Migrant Mother”, but those worries quickly disappeared. Very impressed on my first two listens.

GreyShadow
June 18th 2020


4184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

the singles are growers. if you like the band, there's no reason to skip this

JayEnder
June 18th 2020


7768 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The growls are a welcome addition here

GreyShadow
June 18th 2020


4184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

twas just thinking that

Calc
Contributing Reviewer
June 18th 2020


16627 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i keep hearing this is a grower so lets see if it grows. It was certainly better than I thought it was going to be. before this came out I was thinking this was going to sound stale.

Digging: Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas

ExhaleTheLight
June 18th 2020


1094 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Possibly my favorite thing about this album is the concept and it’s lyrical themes.

hxciluvatarhxc
June 18th 2020


482 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really, really good.

flancexander
June 18th 2020


37 Comments


Extremely enjoyable!

Mythodea
June 18th 2020


5071 Comments


very good so far, really enjoy it! Awesome album cover as well, and general theme. And review as well. Everything's nice!

The small voice cracks and squeels on The Migrant Mother are welcome as well, perfect imperfections

dante1991
June 18th 2020


742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Where are people hearing this? Thought it was out tomorrow or is everyone just discussing a leak?

BigPleb
June 18th 2020


60857 Comments


Be impressed if this is better than Volition, that album is so solid.

Mythodea
June 18th 2020


5071 Comments


@Dante I have a leak



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