It has been almost 1150 days since the last time we had a new album from Canadian shredders Protest The Hero. The quintet have been notorious for providing little update as to their future plans. After dropping off the face of the earth at the end of 2010, they re-emerged with their highly anticipated follow up to 2008’s Fortress. Scurrilous picks up right where Fortress left off. Everything you want and love about Protest The Hero’s signature sound is back, and it is as technically proficient as ever.
Luke Hoskin and Tim Millars’s dueling guitars are impeccable yet again. Both guitarists navigate their entire fretboard throughout the album (maximizing the awesomeness.) They shine particularly brightly on “Tandem” and “The Reign of Unending Terror”. Arif is heard louder than ever (literally, you can actually hear his bass throughout the album), and slays just as hard as his six-stringed band mates. Drummer Moe Carlson keeps pace with the rest of the band with his erratic, yet refined drumming. While strong, the drums seem a bit relaxed compared to their role in Fortress. Rody Walker’s signature voice is back, but his melody has improved greatly since we last heard him. In fact, Scurrlious sheds much of its -core past, focusing on voice and melody over aggressive screams.
The biggest change on Scurrilous comes with the lyrics. Fans of PTH’s previous works are accustomed to bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi taking them on epic journeys with his words, whether it be the story of Kezia, or tales of goddess worship. This time around, there is no central concept behind the album. As Rody Walker said in an interview, “It’s basically lost ramblings of ideas and us trying to make them rhyme.” This is obvious on the first listen. Unlike previous efforts, this feels more like a collection of songs than a fluid album, something both Kezia and Fortress did effortlessly.
Arif takes a step back, only writing lyrics for 3 of the album’s 10 tracks, which include “C’est La Vie”, “Moonlight” and “Sex Tapes.” For the first time, vocalist Rody Walker picks up a pen, writing lyrics for the other 7 songs. Surprisingly, Rody was able to stay in the ring with Arif in terms of lyric quality. While themes on this album may be a bit more forward, and less abstract compared to previous albums, the lyrics are quite strong overall.
“Tongue-Splitter” gets a bit personal, with Rody writing ‘So I apologize/mostly to that four or five guys/who stand behind me on that stage every night,’ while “Tandem” tells of the courage of a woman’s battle through cancer. In “Sex-Tapes” they take a direct jab at Disney’s Jonas Brothers. Standing out as one of the more bi-polar songs on the album, it constantly changes feel. Jumping from aggressive, hash riffs to floaty, almost relaxing, guitar lines. For the first time Protest The Hero begin to get personal. Rody’s personal stake in the lyrics garners greater pathos than previous efforts. Each track holds some emotional weight, whether it is love, alcoholism, cancer, or personal reflection. We get our first look at the band, not as storytellers, but as people.
Jadea Kelly, who played the part of Kezia on 2005’s concept release of the same name, returns for a brief duet with Rody on “Hair-Trigger.” Propaghandi‘s Chris Hannah also speaks up on the closer “Sex Tapes”. Both guest vocalists provide a quick change in sound, without overstaying their welcome. Rody displays raw power and skill on “Moonlight”, which is one of the softer, lighter songs on the album.
The sheer depth to this album ensures that you will need several listens to expose all of its secrets. While it doesn’t live up to the epic success of Fortress, Scurrilous still stands strong as one of the better metal albums of the past few years. Scurrilous will be the most exciting, technical, exhausting 44 minutes you listen to all year.