Imagine if Rob Halford from Judas Priest and Cedric Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta became madly in love with each other, and despite the laws of science and nature, were able to produce offspring. (A gayby if you will.) Their son would certainly grow up to take the form of vocalist Rody Walker. Walker is sporting some serious pipes, and he's certainly not afraid to use them. His range as a vocalist is impeccable, from death metal growls (something not done anywhere on Scurrilous), to scales on par with the the most epic of power metal falsettos, to softer crooning of the Coheed and Cambria/Mars Volta persuasion. I take it you won't judge me for faulting him on the latter skill. The musicians backing him up are equally impressive in their own right. Moe Carlson doesn't certainly leave anything to be desired in his drumming. Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar shred with plenty of sweep arpeggios, tapping and speed-picking to satisfy even the most uppity of Steve Vai worshipping guitar douches. Arif Mirabdolboghi is as exceptional a bassist as his name is a chore to pronounce; with fast-paced grooves, an uncanny ability to match the flying fingers of the guitarists he follows, and a slapping technique that would put the most dexterous of funk masters in their place.
So we have these five dudes, each one exceptionally talented at what he does, and all of them very gifted in the art of metal music. Protest has all the precious ingredients to make a truly delicious prog metal dish, but it's how these elements are blended together that make them unfitting to a modern day metal head's critical palate.
Protest the Hero would be best described as a sort of Avant-Garde metal. It can at times be an obnoxious blend of heavy metal music with bits of jazz, blues and funk in pieces that are randomly thrown about each track. It mixes things up certainly, which isn't always a bad thing, and it shows off the range of each musician's talent; but if I wanted to hear different music in the middle of a metal song, I would just change the channel. (Not that metal gets played on the radio, but you get my point.) Metalheads like our metal metal. An Exodus song begins, remains, and ends, essentially as an Exodus song. It's just what we're accustomed to, and Protest is certainly going to alienate a good chunk of metal fans based on their tendency to jerk you around musically. Not to say that metal songs aren't entitled to their highs and lows, but there will be times Protest will leave its listeners feeling sort of awkward. Songs that started me off headbanging left me incredibly displeased by the end, and vice-versa from track to track. They're just not musically consistent, and someone who wants to pass themselves off as an open-minded, arrogant super twat with their musical taste might fully appreciate the originality and the backs and forths Protest offers. I'm instead a cynical, purist asshole. So I don't.
Another thing to consider is that these guys are still well within the grasps of their youth, and it comes through in their music. All original members, they grew up together in this band, playing with one another since 1999. Considering they're all only in their mid 20's, this means they have been doing this together since they were babies. I feel they still have a long way to go before they become truly haggard, road worn, pissed off old men like most of our favorite metal groups. Lyrically, Scurrilous is very "slice of life". Their themes are centered around what a lot of young 20-somethings concern themselves with: love, friendship, sex, drugs, alcohol, suicide, even a person they care about suffering from cancer, and the band sings a lot about life on the road and the difficulties of dealing with the music industry. There is no evil, fantasy, gore, demons, or battlefields to be found here. If other metal bands were The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Protest would be When Harry Met Sally. I don't take any issue in the way they put together these lyrics poetically. They're talented writers as well as musicians, but their chosen themes just seem very underwhelming in the context of heavy metal music.
As someone who can at least appreciate talented musicianship, I think Scurrilous and certainly their previous release Fortress might be something you want to give a chance. However, and here's the answer you've all been waiting for: Is Protest the Hero a true metal band? The best possible answer I can give you: sort of. Due to their unconventional musical fusions, their somewhat immature lyrical subject matter, and a fan base and overall attitude that teeters more towards the Vans Warped Tour persuasion, it's safe to say that most tried and true metal fans will turn their noses up at anything that Protest has to offer. It's certainly not for everybody, and Scurrilous would admittedly stick out in any metalhead's album collection like a sore thumb. I will tell you however, that Protest the Hero is at its core, good music, super proggy, and I'm not going to terribly hate your guts for listening to and liking it. If you're feeling adventurous, Protest the Hero might be worth a quick listen, but I doubt very much more.
Upcoming Reviews: Devin Townsend Project - Deconstructed, TBDM - Ritual, Black Veil Brides - Set the World on Fire, Red Fang - Murder the Mountains, In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading. Stay tuned!
- Brenocide \,,/