Saturday, 14 December 2013

Protest the Hero "Volition"

Reviewing any Protest the Hero album is a near impossible task, but I’m going to try it anyway. Anybody who has listened to a Protest the Hero album hopefully knows what I mean. The entire “mathcore” movement is a heck of a subgenre but Protest the Hero is in their own league. “Mathcore,” for those who don’t know, is a subgenre of progressive metal that essentially requires some of the most tightly and precise playing of instruments out of any genre. It has odd time signatures and out of the ordinary music breaks, just like general progressive metal, only the intensity and complexity is raised through the roof.

Protest the Hero are different from fellow “mathcore” bands, most notably The Dillinger Escape Plan, because there isn’t as much hardcore punk influence in their sound. Vocalist Rody Walker’s undeniably distinctive voice was something special right from the band’s debut, Kezia, when he mixed elements of screaming and singing well in front of layers upon layers of guitars and drums.

Protest the Hero has recently released their fourth album, Volition. Much like their previous albums, this album has changes in song writing that differentiate it well from the previous three albums. Much like their previous album, Scurrilous, the song structures aren’t as all over the place. The album’s opener, Clarity, manages to stick through roughly the same structure throughout the first three or so minutes, waiting until the end to change progressions; nothing completely out of the ordinary, especially for a band such as Protest the Hero, who are transitioning well into the frontrunners of progressive rock.

Drumhead Trial picks up in intensity to the top speed metal that Protest the Hero have shown they’re capable of time and time again. While musically the song goes through its changes, the drum beat stays roughly the same, save for a few points of the song. Lamb of God’s Chris Adler stood in behind the set for Volition in the absence of the bands departed original drummer Moe Carlson and did a terrific job at coming in to a progressive metal environment such as this (as opposed to the groove metal drumming he is best known for playing). With an album as filled with great musical talent coming from all members, this song is Chris Adler’s highlight on the album.

The album continues with their matured progressive metal. I could go in to detail with all of these songs, because each song is very different from one another, but that would take you days to finish reading this article (remember when I said reviewing a Protest album is a near impossible task? Well now you know why).

In fact, I’m not going to waste more of your time with the rest of the songs. I’ll just get straight to the point. With Protest the Hero’s third album, Scurrilous, the band tried to become more or less just a progressive metal band and less so a “mathcore” band, with a maturing sense of song writing and all around intelligence. While they definitely succeeded in changing their identity, their effort could have been slightly better. While that album has its moments, I’m not sure I’d classify it as their best. However, with Volition, I feel they released the album that they intended to release with Scurrilous. They simplified things slightly more than they did on Scurrilous, but still managed to turn up the intensity on tracks such as A Life Embossed.

An interesting fact about this album, for those who don’t know, is that the album was completely funded by the bands fans. Protest the Hero were tired of relying on other people’s money to record albums, only to have those people tell the band what to do. Anyone who knows the music business well enough to know how albums are made will know what I mean. So instead, the band put up a fundraiser for fans to donate money toward the new album and give the band free say in everything they do on the album. The result is, what I would consider, the bands finest album to date.

The bands future is as bright as ever. They are already an internationally renowned metal band. Hard to believe that not ten years ago they were once a band from Whitby, Ontario, not too far from where I live, making their rounds in the Toronto area. Protest the Hero has changed standards for progressive metal by doing things their way, and they continue to show they won’t stop any time soon.

I have decided, for the first time ever, to not choose a highlight. There isn’t one song on their album that best exemplifies the album as a whole. Some songs may have similar aspects, but every song is just too different. I could make suggestions though, such as the previously mentioned Clarity and Drumhead Trial. There is also my personal favourite track Mist and Without Prejudice. The albums closing track Skies is a big step forward for the band as well.

9 (Out of 10)

Track List:
"Drumhead Trial"  
"Tilting Against Windmills"  
"Without Prejudice"  
"Yellow Teeth"  
"Plato’s Tripartite"  
"A Life Embossed"  
"Animal Bones"  

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