Protest the Hero – Volition
Release Date: October 29th, 2013
“The faculty or power of using one’s will:” The definition of the album title alone defines the journey that Protest The Hero have traveled up to the present point in their career. After finally paying off their debt to Underground Operations/Vagrant Records, the band decided to take matters into their own hands and try to release their newest work independently. Now, they didn’t decide to do this out of their own pockets per say, instead they figured they would reach out to the fans and give them an opportunity to become a part of something amazing and fulfilling. Their IndieGoGo campaign ended up being a huge success, much more so than they anticipated. They ended up raising $341,146, all from fans contributing various amounts for all sorts of different “perks.” This total obliterated their original goal of $125,000.
Volition marks a turning point in the band’s career for many reasons. Some would say this is the best music they’ve made to date while others would say that it is because of the statement they’ve made with the label vs. independent argument that has been a hot debate for a few years now. I can say that I agree with both statements above. Volition could end up being a huge influence on what happens in the future with labels and the other related parties of the industry. Why? Well, probably because the album ended up surprising many people, including myself.
“Clarity” was the first track to be released and when my ears first listened, they weren’t disappointed. As you dig deeper, you’ll find the common Protest The Hero imagery that forms as you uncover more characteristics with each listen. From the technicality of Luke Hoskin’s amazing guitar talent to the incredibly well layered addition from Tim Millar’s rhythm guitar, the melody is more than solidified from this point onward as these two never let up for a second. Arif Mirabdolbaghi’s bass performance adds a beefy element that can be considered somewhat lacking within the tone of the guitars. Chris Adler joins the ranks for this record (session only) providing the “backbone” with his drumming abilities. I do consider Chris to be a talented drummer but I’m not sure how much of his skill is well suited for a record like this. More on that later.
Although I’ve spent quite some time on the first track, I’d like to describe more on it as it has quite a bit going on considering it is just the first entry to this great record. The vocals provided by Rody Walker completely blew me away. He has definitely increased his range and power since the band’s last release, and that is saying a lot considering he was at the top of his game with that. Another vocalist joins the fray with some serene and angelic additions that can rarely be matched. Jadea Kelly also provided vocals on previous albums Kezia and Scurrilous. The fragility and essence of her voice in this piece is just awe-inspiring. Add in the atmospheric violins and fiddle by Raha Javanfar, completing this lineup for a massive first impression.
Moving further into Volition, “Tilting Against Windmills” was a track that immediately caught my attention and became one of my favorites. Rody takes complete reigns of the vocals (as well as the backing vocals provided by the rest of the members) which gives the listener a chance to take everything he has to offer all at once. “Tilting Against Windmills” screams emotion like no other. The technicality showcased from the guitars is astounding and again provide you with a performance along the lines of jaw-dropping. This can also be said about the drum work, as the composition for this section was written by the band’s former drummer, Moe Carlson. If you remember what I mentioned up above about Chris Adler and the work he provides on the record, you can figure out which songs he wrote compositions for and the others that were already done by Moe. Sadly, this creates a bit of breaking up throughout that I’m not really into. If you’re going to check out at least one song from this album, this is the one to check out first.
“Yellow Teeth” proves to be one of the more hectic, energetic, yet contrasting additions of the record that keeps your ears on their toes, so to speak. Jadea and Raha make another appearance and add in an unsuspecting guest, Wyatt Schutt who provides some guitars which are easily identifiable compared to the band members. Another favorite that deserves a listen.
Being halfway through, I have been completely blown away by the consistency, variety, production, technicality, etc. Volition reaches the fine line of being an easy captivation piece but also coming off as a grower album that needs to be listened to multiple times to receive the necessary effect. Protest The Hero have accomplished so much in just one release, it is unreal.
“A Life Embossed” is another hard hitter. The theme behind the lyrics is powerful and meaningful, as most of the band’s lyrics are. I like to leave it up to the listener to interpret the lyrics for themselves, but Protest The Hero just outright spill it all over the place. This is what I like to hear from bands. Sure, metaphors are fun and dandy, and I do like figuring out the meanings behind the writing, but straight out telling what you’re talking about, fighting against, or fighting for screams bravery. “A Life Embossed” features Mark Iannelli and AJ Kolar of Pterodactyl King, who I haven’t heard of until now. They add in two additional vocal styles, one considered somewhat “screamo” with a high shrill of sorts, while the other consists of a growly, metalcore or even deathcore-ish sound. Again, I am wowed by how well these three vocalists are able to make it work. Also note that the former drummer wrote the drums for this song as well.
I commend the group for incorporating new people into their works that are both musicians and fans. Bands of this caliber should do stuff like this more often, as a kind gesture as well as experimentation. Of course, this won’t work with everyone but hey, it’s worth a thought.
Volition, as mentioned before, has qualities that immediately speak out to the listener but also has hidden gems with every listen you give it. The catchy hooks and choruses, mixed with complex musicianship, should draw in a broad spectrum, even if this music isn’t their preferred style. Volition lives up to its definition.