It’s been a long time coming for Protest the Hero. I mean, in reality we’re not looking at a band that hasn’t released anything in a substantial amount of years, but following a departure from Vagrant Records and a more-than-successful Indiegogo campaign to support a new LP – you have to hand it to them. But tales of determination and perseverance aside, Volition marks the fourth LP from the Canadian metal outfit and in its wake are questions and answers of just where the band’s ever-changing sound would take them this time around.
Volition is, simply put, somewhere between the rhythmic underbelly of Periphery and Protest the Hero’s somewhat polarizing third LP Scurrilous. Not to say the boys have gone djent, but there’s a sense of groove on this record that reminds me a bit of what a band like Periphery does on a regular basis – or even partially of PTH in their younger days when spastic meter changes a la “Heretics and Killers” ran amuck. If you’re looking for technicality, the occasional hook and the often witty lyrical output of Rody Walker – Volition has it more often than not. However, the record fails in ways we wouldn’t normally expect Protest the Hero to stumble four LPs in, as Volition simply doesn’t seem memorable enough to hold weight with the rest of the band’s discography.
Listening to this record front to back is a very interesting experience. We find plenty of blazing riffage from all sides of the guitar spectrum, still rather impressive and engaging melodies and perhaps most importantly, a strong sense of energy to be expounded as the guys blitz through frantic leads and crunching rhythms. As per usual, Volition is strong from a musicianship sense, showing a band very much aware and capable of what they’re playing. “Without Prejudice” is shred-happy and full of exciting twists and turns, while “Tilting Against Windmills” flaunts jagged rhythms and hammering percussion that are almost hypnotizing.
Yet, there is a plague about much of Volition. Very little of this record seems memorable or, even worse, not foreign on repeated listens. While a song like “Mist” has some of the biggest moments the band has written, songs like “Yellow Teeth” and “Underbite” just don’t do enough to cement themselves into your head. In particular, Walker often seems to be blowing through lines at an unnecessary speed when singing, leaving the delivery a bit dulled and the end result all for naught. Either that or, as is the case with “Underbite” and the rather enjoyable otherwise “Plato’s Tripartite”, his lyricism is just downright bad and lacking subtlety. It’s a one-two punch that leaves much to be desired on a handful of tracks – leaving Volition missing a lot of things that previous Protest usually excelled at.
Much to dismay of the pedigree of Protest the Hero, Volition is definitely a step in the wrong direction for the band as they trek further away from their per se roots of Kezia and Fortress. While it probably won’t hinder most folks’ opinion of the group, including my own, Volition still feels like a bit of a disappointing effort from a usually on-point band.