Protest the Hero
Scurrilous

I had no idea Protest the Hero was dropping a new album, so when this showed up in my mailbox, I was like a small child on Christmas. Now, I know that Protest the Hero are a like Between the Buried and Me, in that they are a pretty divisive act with one side thinking the band are a group of ADD young punks with skill no song writing ability and on the other side reside the fanboys like me, who think they can do no wrong. And even though the pivotal third album shows some very subtle changes to the band’s sound, it’s still a successful album that should see the division continue, though in a different way.

Ultimately this is still recognizably a Protest the Hero album, being a shredding prog/math metal album with oodles of super busy, proggy guitar noodling and nary a moments rest or respite (and to some nary an actual riff). But it appears the group has matured and developed somewhat. Not to say they are suddenly writing verse chorus ballads, but with singer Roddy Walker taking over lyric writing for 7 of the 10 songs and dropping all of his screams and growls , the visage is much more Coheed and Cambira and dare I say A Skylit Drive on crack than the pure metal core or chaotic tech metal of their first two releases

And that’s not really a bad thing as Walker’s real world, more personal and relatable lyrics, while not as epic as bassists Rif Mirabdolbagh’s more fictional, epic prose about slaughtered princesses and Persian mythology, do make for a catchier, easier listen at times. And that’s the balance that Protest the Hero are going for on Scurrilous; while still delivering uptempo, busy shreddage, there’s ample times where the band actually seem to have settled down and deliver something that could be construed as commercial.

Opener “C’est La Vie” (one of the Mirabdolbagh penned tracks) is a nod to the bands previous efforts being a busy, epic track that could have come from Fortress. But second track “Dunsel” is the first track where you start to hear Walker’s cathartic lyrics and the bands overall restraint, but the tracks almost 5 minute length and varied tempos make it an engrossing listen. The gorgeous female vocals of Jadea Kelly (who also sang on Kezia), makes the otherwise clichéd relationship song “Hair Trigger” a nice little ditty. But when you think the band might be calling it in and playing it safe, they deliver “Moonlight”, which features some sumptuous guitar and vocal melodies amid the scattershot percussion and riffs. It might be their most complete song.

However, it’s around “The Reign of Unending Terror” and “Sex Tapes”  where the album starts to lose some of its panache and has less ‘wow’ moments. “Tandem” is as radio friendly as you’ll hear, but is undeniably catchy, but catchy was never why I listened to Protest the Hero and the all too short teasing arpeggios leave me hanging. Even Walker sounds tame on this track. “Tapestry” sees Walker almost get back to his old self, but the track seems to be a hodge-podge of previous Protest the Hero tracks. I was really hoping the promisingly “Tongue-Splitter” would end the album on a high note, but again it seems Protest the Hero, skilled as they are, are recycling riffs a little. There’s just no “Bloodmeat”, “Sequoia Throne ” or “Psalms Read” here.

I’m loathed to call Scurrilous a disappointment, as at times I enjoy it immensely. But following up Kezia and Fortress, both albums that made my ‘best of’ for their respective years, is a hard act to follow. Add the fact that I’ve found myself returning to The Human Abstact’s Digital Veil and Journal‘s Unlorja more than Scurrilous for some reason. Both acts seemed to have toned down, but The Human Abstract’s revamped line up seems hungrier and more focused while Protest the Hero seems snarky and pretentious at times, welding their talent with a holier than thou skill, and a somewhat hollow sense of mainstream appeal. It just seems like the group of death metal, star trek loving kids I interviewed back in 2008 are all grown up and don’t want to play anymore.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
March 23rd, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Brandon Reinhart

    The delivery of the lyrics is weird on this album. I can’t tell when Roddy is delivering a line in honesty or when he’s being sarcastic. His tone of voice doesn’t always match the words. When he delivers the line “I hope she knows how much I respect her” I could have sworn (not knowing the lyrics at the time) that he was being sarcastic. Turns out the lyrics are pretty, it’s just that the delivery doesn’t capture the emotions clearly enough.


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