With the disbanding of THE MARS VOLTA, a void has been left that Canadian prog-core artists PROTEST THE HERO seem more than willing to claim. Instrumentally, PROTEST THE HERO is just about as mind-blowing as VOLTA and they represent the next evolutionary leap forged by THE FALL OF TROY, CHIODOS and QUELL. Every nook and cranny of their fourth album "Volition" contains spiraling notes, uber-wired tempos, breathtaking interchanges, pounding rock modes and swarming virtuosity. Rody Walker is a tremendous vocalist in clean mode, wielding a strange but effective concoction of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and ex-FOREIGNER vocalist Lou Gramm. On this album, none other than LAMB OF GOD crusher Chris Adler takes the place of the departed Moe Carlson. Carlson does leave songwriting imprints upon the new album as "Volition" falls short of a masterpiece.
For everything that's incredible about "Volition", it's the aggravating death growls and screeches that do this band a disservice. Rody Walker is so gifted a singer, Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin are spectacular guitarists and bassist Afir Mirabdolbaghi is nearly as stellar as THE MARS VOLTA's Juan Alderete. Having the golden trip hammers of Chris Adler who spearheads the constant speed of "Volition", all of this is plenty enough arsenal without the numerous contributions from the band's friends. Not every song on "Volition" contains hard vocal plants, but when they manifest frequently, they cheapen the sweltering energy and sublime harmony found all over this album.
For the production of "Volition", PROTEST THE HERO took the unorthodox route of raising their own funds through Indiegogo, which they well-surpassed their goal of $125,000.00. For those investors, "Volition" yields a monster payout. If THE MARS VOLTA had some weird, expressionistic artwork for their catalog, Jeff Jordan's gratuitous vulture rape depiction is something altogether different. The packaging is but a taste of the manic brilliance to emerge upon the album.
Every song on "Volition" is sent out with full thrusters flaring. Although the opening number "Clarity" rings like a prog-chopped take of LAMB OF GOD's "Redneck", this is the only spot where Chris Adler's presence holds influence over PROTEST THE HERO outside of his amazing grooves. "Drumhead Trail" afterwards features some of the fastest beats on an album that rarely slows down and contains some well-timed guitar skids cropping up amidst the fluid shredding. The sweaty moshes on the bridges of "Drumhead Trail" sets up a blazing guitar solo sequence (aided by WATCHTOWER/SPASTIC INK guitarist Ron Jarzombek) and some back-end melody that constantly swells behind a cavalcade of vocal exchanges ranging from growls to gang choruses to a quick duet between Rody Walker and guest singer Kayla Howran.
The relentless speed continues on through "Tilting Against Windmills", "Without Prejudice" and "Yellow Teeth" as PROTEST THE HERO valiantly thrusts and lavishes their compositions with zero compromise. Listen up for a quick LED ZEPPELIN acoustic interlude during "Yellow Teeth" that's perfectly embedded as the song swells between heaving crush and a sweet gasp on the outro. Then classical scales wave throughout "A Life Embossed" as if PROTEST THE HERO has turned a conservatory on its ass with arresting method and trouncing velocity. Unfortunately, the interrupting growls here are once again a pisser, no matter the intent to emphasize the accelerating aggression at midpoint.
Afterwards, Rody Walker speed-scats through "Mist", raising his pipes to sensational climaxes as Chris Adler drives the song on a steady zoom and Hoskin and Millar detail their gusting furrows until changing tempos on a perfectly-timed breakdown and bridge sequence with even more flair. Chamber strings, acoustic guitar and piano lace through "Mist"'s exquisite outro. Hang on, because any illusion of respite will be gone once "Underbite" blitzes forward with thrashing verses and panting choruses as Walker jibes about pretentious pop and rock stars. After guest vocalist Todd "The Rod" Kowalski from Canadian punkers PROPAGANDHI barks "Underbite" home, the pace hardly settles on the hardcore-laced "Animal Bones" that somehow manages to loft from its pulverizing pace into appositely quaint choruses. Otherwise, "Animal Bones" rattles like a maniac in need of a bloody fix and chuffs to its finish with muscular riffs.
For the future, the hard vocals need to be flushed out of this band, plain and simple. Their loyal fans are likely to disagree, but the numerous strengths PROTEST THE HERO has to offer get frustratingly undermined by the interjecting yelps and woofs. They are a gross distraction when there is so much electrifying technique to savor with this band. Otherwise, "Volition" is a complex and mostly awesome rip through sonic kaleidoscopes that dumps PROTEST THE HERO's listeners on a proverbial tarmac after hurling them airborne track after track. Chris Adler is to be commended for lending his talents here as he is called upon to deliver the fastest licks in his repertoire. It's moot to say he's a beast on this album.
All being said, PROTEST THE HERO has the potential become one of the greatest bands of their time.