We saw Protest The Hero live for the first time in April of 2012 at The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. They were the first band that we caught as we walked in the door. Bill and I both immediately had the same reaction: “Holy shit, these guys are good!” For those of you that haven’t seen the progressive metallers live, make sure you do. Their albums are excellent, but believe it or not their live shows are even better. After seeing their set, I immediately went out and got all of their albums. Each one is excellent.
Next Tuesday PTH will be releasing their fourth studio album and thanks to the band’s free stream, I was able to take a listen ahead of time and man am I glad I checked it out. Once again they have released one amazing album. Volition brings their signature style of progressive metal with influences from thrash, hardcore and punk rock mixed in. Tim Millar and Luke Hoskins are at the top of their game with unbelievable guitar shredding and complicated arrangements. They scale up and down the neck of the guitar with ease. Chris Adler of Lamb Of God completed drumming duties on the album as the band was in between drummers with the departure of founding member Moe Carlson. Adler fits in perfectly giving the music some extra oomph. I wish he was staying with PTH permanently. Rody Walker is one of the better vocalists in the new heavy metal scene and once again he brings his crazy range. Walker can go from high pitched Geddy Lee style vocals with rasp to death growls and low register vocals. Not only does the music have strange time signatures, but so do the vocals.
Volition does not contain one bad track, so any complaining that I do is going to be super nit picky. One miniscule complaint that I have with PTH on all of their albums is that sometimes the higher tuned speed riffing can sound a bit redundant. If you’re not fully paying attention to the entire breadth of the of the song, some of their songs can sound similar. Now this only happens very occasionally. It never happens across an entire album, so like I said I’m just being really overly critical. The first three tracks on the album “Clarity”, “Drumhead Trial” and “Tilting Against Windmills”, although all very good, fall a bit into this category. One of the times I listened to the record, I was driving so I was concentrating on other things around me. It felt like the three songs ran together a bit and I thought I had listened to one really long track. Once I listened a few more times and caught all the elements of the songs, I noticed the differences in each of them. “Clarity” is the perfect opening track giving you a heavy dose of the PTH style. “Drumhead Trial” is a bit of a heavier track with strong thrash influences, some harsh vocals and an amazing scaling solo. “Tilting Against Windmills” has a really different and well done bridge riff. All three of the songs are excellent (in fact “Clarity” is one of the best songs on the album) and certainly have their differences, but there is no denying that the lead shred guitar riffs were still very similar. Make sure, just like with any other progressive metal album, that you dive into Volition with your full attention. There is a lot to digest here and it is all really awesome.
From here, the songs on the album begin to really differentiate themselves. “Without Prejudice” is a thrash driven track with even faster shredding than the fist three songs. Adler’s drumming on this particular track is ridiculously superb and the bass work from Arif Mirabdolbaghi is heavily featured. “Yellow Teeth” also has a strong thrash influence with a great opening riff that flows into more of a hardcore musical style. Although it is still a part of the song, there is a bit less emphasis on three octave guitar scaling.
“Plato’s Tripartite” and “Mist” have more of a heavy progressive punk rock feel to them. The former even has some slower catchy grooves mixed in with a nice finger tapping bridge. The latter is an excellent tune, but is certainly radio friendly with Walker’s very clean vocal performance.
Two of the heavier songs on the album include “A Life Embossed” and “Animal Bones”. Both tracks feature more harsh vocals and heavier guitars. “A Life Embossed” begins with one of the best intricate guitar riffs on the album. It is more down tuned than the album’s other fast tempo riffs and the minimal clean vocals on the track are at a lower register giving the song a really different dynamic. On “Animal Bones” Walker moves seamlessly from growls to the melodic chorus and back again. The song’s odd time signatures are amongst the best I have heard in progressive metal as they flow together perfectly.
Beyond the excellent music and vocals, Volition also boasts some very well written lyrics. “Underbite” and “Skies” are the best examples of how great the lyrical writing is. They only add to what are already excellent tracks. “Underbite” begins quietly with a acoustic guitar and piano before flowing quickly into a thrash and hardcore style arrangement. There are even some cool hardcore yells at the end of the song. “Skies” is one of the catchiest songs and contains some of the band’s best guitar work and probably one of Walker’s best vocal performances.
There is really not much, if anything, to complain about on Volition. I had to really dig deep to find any weaknesses and the ones I did find were really not much of anything. Yes the first few songs had similar lead guitar, but the songs in themselves were still really amazing in their own right. This album is amongst only a handful of progressive metal albums that have seamless timing changes on every single track. Each song can go from fast to slow and include a wide vocal range and the songs never sounds strange. Every change in speed, timing and sound fits perfectly. With all this said, it would be impossible to pick the best songs on the album. They’re all great. My personal go to favorites include “Clarity”, “Without Prejudice”, “Yellow Teeth”, “A Life Embossed”, “Underbite”, “Animal Bones” and Skies”. In my opinion, this is Protest The Hero’s best album so far and considering how great their first three albums were, that’s saying a lot. There is nothing else out there that connects the old school and the new school together better than Volition. Be sure you go out and get this one.