Album Review: Volition by Protest the Hero
Posted by RiffRaff
Trying to really nail down the unique sound of Canadian metal band Protest the Hero is quite a difficult task. In the past I would have called it ‘prog metal’ played with a lovin’ spoonful of methamphetamine and cocaine and called it a day. Sure, their brand of speedy prog metal was unlike anything out there and I’ve purchased every album from the band and enjoyed the spins I’ve given them. However, more often than not, I found it difficult to listen to entire records without reaching sensory overload or boredom. They had their stand-out songs and the stuff in between seem to just serve to keep the break-neck pace of the records up and showed minimal dynamics. Fast-forward a few years and a hugely successful Indie Go-Go campaign (Kickstarter for the non-Americans) later, Protest the Hero have unleashed unto the world an album that shows more improvements than I can shake a stick at. Needless to say, Volition is the realization from a band overflowing with potential and is brimming with dynamic, variety, and passion while not even for a split-second dismissing an iota of PtH’s core sound.
Remaining largely unchanged is the forefront ‘schtick’ that PtH is known for: Speedy and insanely complex instrumental composition and non-cheesy high-flying vocals. So if you happen to be an existing fan of the band for said reasons, none of the core elements have been changed up in the slightest. They have, however, ran them against a grinding stone and sharpened them into things that more resemble fluid and dynamic songs. No longer did I find myself petering out a bit past the halfway mark promising to return later or skipping ahead mid-track after all the serpentine riffs and balls out drumming started to blend together. I discovered that nearly every track featured not only multiple layers that forced me to give it repeat listens, but within the speediness there were many fluctuations between light speed, ridiculous speed, and ludicrous speed which kept me on edge looking forward to which turn any given song would take at any given moment.
In the mix also are more pronounced ‘influential’ moments. For example “Without Prejudice” has a definite speed metal meets power metal feel to it, “Drumhead Trial” takes a djenty, post-hard approach, and “Mist” features a touch of symphonic and pop punk yielding one of the most interesting and best tracks on the record. The list goes on and on and having certain styles more pronounced really helped me not let the songs blend together in my mind as well as give the band some much-needed variety. I also need to ask, damn, did they up the catchiness factor or what?
For those not familiar with PtH, I’ve found that a ‘make or break’ point on the band lies in the vocals of Rody Walker (which remain largely unchanged, but vastly improved), so I feel it’s worth making a mention of them. He tends to favor higher registers with his voice, but unlike a power metal singer, maintains a really raw feel to them. I would like to make some form of comparison to another singer, but unfortunately, his style is incredibly unique and incomparable. If you find yourself enjoying the vocal style of fellow Canadian Geddy Lee, you should have now problem with Rody’s voice. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t thing PtH would quite work without his voice accentuating the tone and style of the instruments and vice versa. You will find screams, growls, and gang vocals liberally strew throughout the album as well as a couple of occasions of well feminine voice, so to continue the theme of variety and dynamic, there’s another bullet point on what makes this such an outstanding and engaging release.
So, ya, if you’re an existing fan of PtH or a newcomer who enjoys some prog and speed metal you could do a whole lot worse than investing an hours wage into Volition. In a year where I’ve only found myself latching onto only a small handful of albums for repeat and continuous listens this record joins that small and exclusive club and will be a certain go-to album for when I need an injection of pure adrenaline to my veins. Peace Love and Metal!!!