2013’s Volition is layered, melodic, and jam-packed with more riffs, ideas, and flourish then most bands will produce within five albums. Protest The Hero, another glorious Canadian import, released this exhaustive, 11-tune behemoth, sure to please fans of modern, technically-oriented metal. For rock and jazz, there’s fusion: an eclectic genre which fuses elements of rock and jazz. Bands like Protest The Hero seem to fuse the genres rock, metal, punk and ‘modern’ shred. While usually called ‘math metal’ for lack of a simpler term, a thorough listen reveals so much more then a band who’s good at multiplying and dividing up their notes. These guys have serious chops and aren’t afraid to put them on show.
You’d expect this from a band signed to a Universal subsidiary: Volition has a modern, digital, crisp production with tracks presented in true stereo. The band excels at what sounds like a stream-of-consciousness writing style woven through a ‘tech metal’ or ‘math metal’ framework. It seems like a band who’s got 500 ideas, but they don’t know which ones are best, so they indulge all of them. The album, songs, and lyrics ramble – it’s a great aural and cerebral adventure. Everything is fleshed or well developed, and each tune has it’s own flow. The band isn’t too choppy, but the songs have a definite idea – idea – idea presentation. The entire album has a nice balance: instruments are presented neither too high nor too low in the mix.
Bass guitar seems to follow rhythm guitar, which is pretty typical for metal. The rhythm guitar is a riff factory of substantial heaviness, matched only with the flash and brilliance of the lead guitar. Lamb Of God‘s Chris Adler contributed drums to the album, and he continues to shine, even in a band with much more complex structures. Check out some of the neat syncopations and fills he pulls off, especially in “Tilting Against Windmills” and “Underbite”. Most outstanding on the album are two factors: the wide variety of vocal genres tackled successfully and the sheer volume of notes from the guitars.
Throughout the album, the complexity of the instrumentation and the consistency of vocalist Rody Walker continue to ‘wow’. Vocalist Walker has a good range through many genre types – hatecore, metal “clean singing”, rock & roll crooning, “emotional” modern metal, and a technical ‘lots of words’ to match up with the guitarists’ ‘lots of notes’. Lyrics seem to encompass a variety of messages, but sometimes flow by so quickly that first-pass integration is impossible. It’s nice that he’s intelligible even at low volume.
With so many ideas intertwined with so many riffs, this becomes one of those albums that are experiential: you really have to just sit down and listen to it to appreciate it’s breadth and scope. Not for the faint of heart, listeners are treated to everything from acoustic guitar & piano (“Mist”), to fusion-inspired legato (“Tilting Against Windmills”), to aggressive metal (“A Life Embossed”), to modern emotionally-sung rock (“Clarity”).
A criticism would be that the music is so complex that it’s not something you can really integrate right away – it takes a few listens to appreciate the depth and arrangement. Some may call this ‘video game music’, but by including a vocalist, they nicely sidestep that broadside.
With a $341,000 crowdfunded budget, this record had better be close to solid gold – fortunately, the band does deliver the goods, and it is. Incredibly tight, crisp, dynamic, and fresh, this is everything the crowd who paid for it hopes for. Geared to an audience who enjoys music filled with twists and turns, who might not enjoy pure ‘commercial’ rock and pop, Volition excels at delivering songs just shy of insane.
Tilting Against Windmills
A Life Embossed
Rody Walker – Vocals
Luke Hoskin – Lead Guitar
Tim Millar – Rhythm Guitar
Arif Mirabdolbaghi – Bass Guitar
Chris Adler (Lamb Of God) – Drums