Volition is the fourth full-length studio album by the Canadian band Protest The Hero. It was released in 2013 through Razor & Tie, and was produced by Cameron McLellan. Due to the departure of longtime drummer Moe Carlson, the drums on the album were handled by Lamb Of God’s Chirs Adler. He actually really suits the band and if you hadn’t been told you mightn’t realize the drummer had changed, although that being said, on some songs if you pay attention you can definitely tell that its Adler playing.
On the band’s previous record, the track ‘Dunsel’ had some pretty scathing lyrics about the music industry, and it seems that the band have followed through, as this album was funded by the band’s fans through a crowd-sourcing campaign on Indiegogo. Luckily relying on donations has not resulted in any noticeable dip in recording, mixing or packaging quality and the record was made well with no cut corners. Musically the band are just as strong as ever and there is similarly no dip at all.
If you haven’t heard the band before and don’t know what to expect, words won’t really do it justice. The band flits wildly between genres and subgenres at great speed and don’t fit neatly into any one category for too long. There are moments that will remind you of Math, Technical and Progressive styles due to the virtuosity, complexity or sheer speed, that are then interspersed with gloriously catchy radio-friendly moments, spiced with a few harsh death vocals, augmented by occasional riffs that remind you a little of At The Gates and many other things besides. You really just have to hear it to understand it.
The intro to ‘Skies’ sounds almost like Animals As Leaders, Scale The Summit or the post-millennial King Crimson works. There are moments on ‘Mist’ that briefly sound almost like pop-punk for a few seconds and there are heavy pounding metallic sections on tracks like ‘Drumhead Trial,’ ‘A Life Embossed’ and ‘Yellow Teeth.’ Its not just like they just sit around and pilfer other band’s styles however, Protest The Hero have a very unique and clearly recognizable style of their own. Its just difficult to describe succinctly and without comparisons.
With this album, as with the previous one, the band have concentrated hard on songwriting and making things more ‘instant’ and easily-digestible, without compromising anything in terms of virtuosity or heaviness. This record is a distillation and continuation of everything that has come before, with new and exciting approaches to the core Protest The Hero style and it does a great job of grabbing your attention right from the get-go. They never betray who they are, they just somehow manage to write new, memorable, stand-out songs in that same great style. It’s a testament to the skill and talent of the band that they can do something so stylistically identifiable without becoming stale or repeating themselves.
On top of that more ‘instant’ feel, the album still manages to be a massive grower that really rewards repeat listening. Not that repeat listening is a chore, I can scarcely help myself from listening to it twice in a row at times. The music, performance and vocal deliveries on this album are frequently absolutely captivating. (The sections containing the following phrases are particularly memorable to me: “And if the sun burst above at the end of the world I don’t think I would give a damn,” “Cough, gasp and splutter,” “A White Straight Male with two blue eyes,” “When you should look up the facts,” “Before the writing could be written, before the writing could be read” and “And your obligatory contribution to the community”).
Some fans preferred the more abstract and conceptual lyrics that the band displayed on 2008’s Fortress album, but I absolutely love their more personal or observational side as well. They handle both styles really well in my opinion. The band have a knack for phrasing things uniquely and avoiding the same old clichés that everybody else uses. The lyrics to “Underbite” for example are incredibly entertaining, dealing with bands who do the whole rockstar-persona schtick. The lyrics to “Mist” are a tribute to the band’s homeland which almost make me want to be Canadian and “Tilting Against Windmills” deals with prejudice and bigotry in an interesting way.
Overall; Volition is yet another phenomenal record from the band with thousands of hidden depths and magical subtleties. The more you listen to it the more it will give you. It is strong on every level and there are no weak tracks. It is an absolutely excellent addition to the band’s discography and there are some absolute gems to be found on it. I recommend this album wholeheartedly to existing fans and suggest anyone curious about the band should give it a shot as well. If you do try it and end up liking this album be sure to pick up the rest of the band’s exceptionally consistent and high quality studio output too.
**Oh, and if you found this review by search engine, when you discover it again on Amazon it is me posting it. It hasn’t been copied and pasted off here by a stranger, I post my reviews on Amazon as ‘Gentlegiantprog “Kingcrimsonprog.”’ So please don’t unhelpful-vote it because you thought it was stolen from me.**
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