REVIEW: Protest The Hero – Scurrilous

Protest-2

Artist: Protest The Hero
Album: Scurrilous
Genre: Hard Rock
Label: Vagrant

There’s something about Canadian bands that just screams good times. Even when they’re singing about more abject subject matter, it’s housed in raucous, uproarious cheer. Protest the Hero are a case in point. Scurrilous is a beautifully executed lesson in breakdowns, hardcore bombast, and taking life and music head on. It’s rousing, frenetic, filled with stunningly freewheeling guitars and chiming vocals, and a comfortable, rewarding listen.

PTH are a progressive metal band, but unlike many other bands of this experimental persuasion, their ambition never outstrips their reach. The songs feature cascading and prolonged solos, but always as an accessory. The band have refined their technique and found an exhilarating way to introduce novel elements into straight-up metal songs so as to enhance and improve their appeal, without tipping into delusional territory. Rody Walker’s vocals are exemplary – perfectly pitched, they complement the more restrained musical elements, yet assuage the technical parts. All in all, it’s a very endearing package.

“C’est la Vie” takes no prisoners, launching straight into breakneck, metallics from the off. It’s rhythmic, the histrionics mostly minimal and decorative. The vocals do most of the work thus – cutting back the occasional burst of flair and setting a vivid tone for the thick discourse between drums and guitars. There’s a gorgeously assured latter act, with some haunting piano thrills and heartfelt lyrics that transform the tone entirely and bathe the final explosion of noise in depth and poignancy.

“Hair Trigger” takes an instantly more prog outlook, opening unsteadily, with seismic-like riffs and rolling drums. The choruses are almost poppy, evoking more melodic tendencies with a gleeful vocal line. The appearance of a female vocalist (Jadea Kelly) gives the song a softer, more beguiling feel before the final flourish. As is perhaps par for the course with music of this kind, there’s an urgency and immediacy to the band’s efforts that sweeps the listener along, barely leaving time to discern the ornate intricacies that have gone into crafting these songs. Yet, this prowess is dazzling – even after five listens there are still new delights to be tapped.

“Tandem” is a passionately enthralling affair, powering mercilessly through jigsaws of sprawling guitar work in pursuit of a sharp and risqué conclusion. It’s the longest song on the album, and it shows in experiments with structure and technique, feeling more like three songs in one than a single cohesive recording. “Moonlight,” despite a relatively subdued opening, manages to veer into Avenged Sevenfold “City of Evil”-style excesses as it plays out. This, however, piques excitement for what yet lies ahead, and injects a bit of chutzpah into an otherwise relatively token affair. Evidently, even PTH need a breather sometimes.

“Tapestry” showcases some impressive instrumental dynamics, as a solo verse picks a shrill course through swelling strings. Sporadic and grandiose it may be, but it’s intriguing. It sets a certain magisterial tone as Dunsel pores in. The latter is a masterclass in refined headbanging. The breakdowns, particularly in the final third, are unrelenting and ferocious, but the build up is deft and foreboding. It opens almost meditatively, the vocals central and striking, before unfurling more zealous intentions.

“The Reign of Unending Terror” is a terrific jam. It’s ceaseless in its energy, infectious, and pulsating. The tirelessness of these offerings can become a little overwhelming at times – indeed by the time Termites arrives with its prolonged instrumental overture, one is nigh exhausted – but this is certainly not an album to be absorbed on its first listen. As detailed elsewhere, one of its most prolific charms is its ability to be endlessly revisited. PTH have done enough to sell their undoubted technical flair, while also weaving together something spunky and static enough to keep a live audience roaring.

The superhero style pyrotechnics on offer here won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but they’re an exciting leap of faith from a band at the very top of their game. PTH’s ardour and infectious brawn will win over many newcomers and surely enthrall existing fans, upping the stakes with these entrancing glimpses of mastery. Overall, Scurrilous is a triumphant affair, vivacious, bold, and quite shameless in its attempts to be bigger and more brazen than all out there. It’s an example of experimentation at its hair-resting best.

Score: 8/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Excellent review. But I’m surprised there’s no mention of my favorite song tongue-splitter?!

  • Jay

    One of the great things about PTH’s albums is that just about every song on the album will be someones absolute fav!

    Personally, I can’t get over Sex Tapes – what an outtro! And finally a song that captures some of the bands crude but always welcome good humor!

    Sex Tapes and Tandem for me! What an absolutely rad album

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