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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Protest the Hero turns it up a notch with new album

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

Earlier this year, Canadian progressive metal five-piece Protest the Hero took two big jumps in their career. First, founding member and drummer Moe Carlson left the band in order to pursue higher education, and he was replaced on their next album by Lamb of God’s Chris Adler. Second, said album was completely crowd-funded by an Indiegogo campaign. According to a YouTube video on Protest the Hero’s channel, working with a label simply put too much focus on paying off their recording advances and touring exhaustively, instead of their music.

They set a goal of $125,000 but claimed that they did not expect to reach it. However, thousands of fans contributed, raising the final amount to over $300,000. Now after months of waiting and tease after cruel Twitter tease, “Volition” has arrived, and it is worth every penny.

Like Protest the Hero’s first three records “Kezia,” “Fortress” and “Scurrilous,” “Volition” begins with a bang. “Clarity,” “Drumhead Trial” and “Tilting Against Windmills” are all fiery anthems with explosive drums, an intense layer of bass and amazingly complex guitar parts. The members are all in top form here, with time signatures and riffs that even the most talented YouTube guitarists will struggle to imitate.

But Chris Adler is the one who really shines, keeping up with the band’s speed and complexities despite his background in Lamb of God’s slower groove metal style. “Without Prejudice” and “Yellow Teeth” are equally intense, with special credit to singer Rody Walker. Walker’s voice transitions perfectly from death metal screams to gorgeous tenor melodies, using his voice as an instrument to great effect.

“Plato’s Tripartite” and “A Life Embossed” highlight Walker’s lyrical skills, addressing themes such as poverty, violence and even institutional sexism fearlessly and honestly. There are no fancy metaphors here—the songs get right in your face about the issues and never let up. “Mist” features more amazing drumming from Adler, and “Underbite,” a critique of image issues in music, has some lead guitar parts from Luke Hoskin that I actually had to rewind the song to convince myself they weren’t three people.

The final two songs, “Animal Bones” and “Skies,” are very different. “Animal Bones” is operatic in both Rody Walker’s vocals and its general scope, with constantly changing time signatures and instrumental parts that never repeat themselves. It’s the most pure showcase of instrumental skill on the record, and even gives bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi the chance for some funky slapping. “Skies,” a six-minute blast of anger and epicness, is pretty slow for the first minute and a half, before the volume suddenly gets turned to 11. The guitarists still sound like they have extra fingers, and the lyrics are outstanding.

Ultimately, “Volition” is not my favorite Protest the Hero album (that goes to “Fortress”), but I do prefer it to “Kezia” and maybe even “Scurrilous” at points. If nothing else, “Volition” shows how far the band keeps pushing themselves with every release, which can only be a good thing.