Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

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Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by ItsAChiaotzu on Sun Mar 27, 2011 1:25 am

Scurrilous

So, it's finally here. Since the 2008 release of Fortress Protest the Hero fans have been waiting patiently for a new album, and now, in 2011, it's here, and hell was it worth the wait.




As I understand is the done thing, I shall review each track separately, so without further ado...

C'est La Vie

"Sing a song of living, before everybody dies"

When this song was released a few weeks ago, excitement for the new album began to buzz around the net. Beginning with a trademark brutally fast riff, the vocals come in perhaps sooner than usual for a Protest album, which definitely becomes a theme, in so far that there are less purely instrumental breaks, certainly not a complaint though, as the musicianship shines through as potently as ever. What struck me about this track when I first heard it was the fact that it begins in more of a Fortress style, with very technical riffing and aggressive vocals, and then seamlessly blends into a softer section, before bringing in an epic sounding half time chorus, complete with group shouting, (reminiscent of Kezia's Turn Soonest To The Sea), and the melding of the more complex playing and structures of Fortress and the more emotional, melodic writing of Kezia is in my opinion the albums greatest achievement.

Hair Trigger

"Her scent on my fingers, her taste is on my mind it constantly lingers"

This track definitely has the feel of their earlier work about it, (owed in part to the guest vocals provided by Jadea Kelly, as they were on Kezia) but also brings a more upbeat atmosphere to it. This track in particular keeps relatively strictly to the Aeolian mode, at least until the end, which separates it from the more Phrygian based riffs of their previous work, and it makes for a more melodic sound. This is the first track (of many) on the album with the lyrics written by the singer, Rody, as opposed to the bassist, Arif, who wrote the lyrics on the last two albums. Essentially this means the abandonment of mystical and conceptual lyrics and a far more personal take on the vocals. Having wrestled with myself as to to whether the lyrics are an improvement on earlier efforts, I think they are, purely because they have more of an emotional value to Rody, and therefore they're easier to connect to.

Tandem

"It's the hand that stills the other, that shakes like candlelight"

Alluding to a cancer sufferer, the lyrics of Tandem are perhaps the most poignant on the entire album. (Though among tracks like Sex Tapes, perhaps that's not saying much) This track is probably the most formulaic on the album, containing some pretty clearly defined sections, which serve to show the bands seamless transitions between Minor and Major keys. It contains one of the coolest drum parts on the entire album, in a little offbeat crash cymbal pulse that begins just before they break out into a powerful major section. In each of the aforementioned major sections is a short guitar solo (well, not quite, because there's singing over it, but it basically is) and they really show the development of Luke's playing. Breaking off around halfway through the song to play an extremely dissonant riff, allows them to bring a little of the heaviness of their older style back, and then they dive straight back into another melodic part, I can think of no other band with the fluidity of Protest.

Moonlight

"Tell a joke, take a piss, take a picture every mile"

As much as I could say about this track, I think that lyric says it all. Oh, and this song contains the best intro on the album, if not the best intro of any song Protest have ever written. (Though, for that to be the case it would have to be better than Sequoia Throne, so maybe I'm just dreaming). Also on show here is something that has been in very few Protest songs up until this point: a clean interlude. With a couple of jazzy chords and a little bass melody, this part really adds a layer of dynamics that most metal lacks. And as much as I keep harping on about the bloody guitar playing, the sweeps in this song are insane, as is the solo at the end.

Tapestry

"From where I sit now, on this rickety stool, none of that shit really matters"

Beginning in yet more new territory for the band, the first thing you hear of Tapestry is the very groove orientated riff, before the rest of the band enters in a style that makes it almost impossible not to bang your head a little bit. Rody's incredible vocal range is perhaps most on show here, although the rest of the album features not dissimilar vocal acrobatics, just in this song he shows his range without using his powerful falsetto, which is still very high. From the groove metal intro, through a screamed middle section, a soft breakdown and a mournful chorus, none of the changes sound forced, and while this is most likely the heaviest track on the album, it also retains a strong sense of melody and progression. It also notably brings the return of the prominent synth sound of Fortress, which proves a welcome addition to the mix in this song.

Dunsel

"I make music, for myself. Not for hand jobs from the upper tier or their undeserved wealth, here's to their failing fucking health"

Titled, as I learnt today, with an obscure Star Trek reference, Dunsel is my favourite track on Scurrilous. The song begins with some bass harmonics blended in with guitar swells, before breaking out into a furious verse. The guitar parts, while structured perfectly, have a feel of chaos about them, as they constantly mess with the metre and length of the riffs. The drumming, is equally brutal, at points it just seems like Moe does what he likes, but it all perfectly matches the guitar playing. Seemingly about Rody's feelings towards the industry, the middle section of this song really strikes a chord with long time fans as he sings about the songs that they "still believe in", during a half time epic section, with a fantastic guitar pedal lick played under it, before once again going back to the aggressive riffing, and then ending with Rody straight up shouting the lyrics into your ear. This track is, if nothing else, incredibly powerful, the feelings behind Rody's lyrics influence his style. And the again, more groove orientated riffs create a sort of off kilter feel which is brought back to centre during the melodic chorus sections.

The Reign Of Unending Terror

"Convention be damned, I know who I am and some words are just too fucking loud"

One of the fastest tracks on the album, occasionally just letting Moe rip on the snare, The Reign of Unending Terror is really unlike anything off of their previous two efforts. For large sections of the song it sticks to a pentatonic feel with the liberal inclusion of a diminished 5th, and sometimes dipping into Aeolian, basically making it sound heavy in every facet. The drumming here is fantastic, flowing from time signature to time signature barely even acknowledging a change, and going from half time to double time almost flippantly. The lyrics are practically snarled by Rody in a particularly aggressive section, and then in about a minutes time, he is belting high notes in a swung chorus. The main melodic guitar riff of this song is good, but what really makes it fantastic is the rhythm section laid out underneath by the bass and the drums as they synchronise with the snare and the bass rhythm. Speaking of the bass, Arif's playing on this track is amazing, he seems to know exactly when to stick with the guitar and exactly when to branch off, as opposed to the rigid mirroring employed by most metal bassists.

Termites

"The devil dogs and scorpions peel away and wear my skin"

Termites flits between speedy verse sections and almost melancholic chorus parts. It also contains what I would say is the closest Scurrilous has to an actual guitar solo, it essentially amounts to a sequential arpeggio riff, but definitely adds to the song. One of the shortest songs on the album, it certainly feels shorter than any of the other tracks, but along with them, still feels longer than the majority of songs it's length because of the huge amount of ideas that they pack into three and a half minutes. After Rody sings the line "Sing with the devils choir", a choir section comes in which, apart from being very appropriate, is also quite haunting and very unique in a Protest song. There's not that much else to say about this track, apart from the fact that it contains the "fuck you" riff of Scurrilous that there will no doubt be a billion covers of on Youtube, near the end is a tapping lick that is just, incredible, you just have to hear it.


It's around 3:20

Tongue Splitter

"Everybody thinks it's timeless, well time's running out"

Beginning with a sort of, unmelodious tapping lick, this track quickly descends into the fast riffing that you've come to expect at this point in the album, coupled with some of Rody's best lyrics as of yet. Tongue Splitter is definitely one of the most dissonant tracks they've written, (maybe not so much as Bloodmeat, but close) and it makes use of the octave harmonised shredding that was very prominent on Fortress. About half way through the track, it becomes very haunting and contrasting to the start of the song, before ending with maybe the best section of the entire album, a heavy, yet uplifting chorus with very powerful lyrics and a full rhythm section.

Sex Tapes]

"All the editors are hard, all the journalists are wet, and all the boys are jerking off in private on the internet"

The guitar melody at the start of this song easily elevates it above most, and the aggressive way that Rody spits the lyrics at the listener also adds a layer of power to the song. This is also as far as I'm aware, the only Protest song ever in which the vocals come in before anything else. Bringing in Chris Hannah from Propaghandi for some guest vocals, Sex Tapes is a change in direction from a lot of the earlier Protest material, this is extremely evident in a section near the end with some very odd major parts, but it still sounds natural and doesn't feel jarring. Until the end of this song, the choice of a perhaps more fatuous song for the closer to the album as opposed to something like Tandem might perplex you. But after an absolutely huge chorus at the end, a very chilled and melodic section comes in, and it closes off the album perfectly as it slowly fades out, the individual melodies almost cascade over each other, while the bass plays a solo.


Combining the technical musicianship of Fortress and the melodic feel of Kezia was always going to be a daunting challenge, but not only have Protest the Hero made their music more accessible and varied, they've kept it consistently as technically interesting and demanding as ever, and made a 44 minute album that contains more ideas than most hour long affairs.

If you are not yet convinced that you have to have this album, then allow me to convince you.


Yes, that is the band dressed up like characters from Star Trek and also inexplicably wearing a giant owl head. Deal with it.

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"On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero"

"This, is chemical burn"
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Re: Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by Dead Herald on Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:26 am

4 of them are red shirts.... Uh oh...

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Re: Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by ItsAChiaotzu on Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:26 pm

Dead Herald LXI wrote:4 of them are red shirts.... Uh oh...


You know, I've never actually learnt what to be a red shirt means. I'm assuming it's a bad thing?

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Re: Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by MilkyFresh on Sun Mar 27, 2011 2:31 pm

I think it just means an unimportant character who is likely to die at any second.

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Re: Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by Outright Villainy on Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:04 pm

Amazing album, probably contender for album of the year already. Though Devin Townsend is doing TWO this year, so who knows...

But yeah, good review; I liked how you went in the theory too, which I never see reviewers do. Hell, I don't even do that. I'm probably going to do a write up on it too at some stage as well.
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Re: Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by Dead Herald on Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:05 am

In the original Star Trek series, Away team members often included a minor character who was killed off almost immediately(and in often grisly fashion) and they almost always had a red shirt.

Hence "Red Shirt" is a now a term to denote a character who is expendable.

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Re: Scurrilous - Protest the Hero

Post by ItsAChiaotzu on Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:04 am

Outright Villainy wrote:Amazing album, probably contender for album of the year already. Though Devin Townsend is doing TWO this year, so who knows...

But yeah, good review; I liked how you went in the theory too, which I never see reviewers do. Hell, I don't even do that. I'm probably going to do a write up on it too at some stage as well.


Not to sound like a total elitist cunt, but I feel like to get the whole Protest experience, you have to kind of understand it on some kind of theoretical level. Just my opinion, but I feel like I would never have gotten into them had I not like, understood what was going on.

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