Mar 242011

Our own midwestern metalhead, BadWolf, delivers a review of Protest the Hero‘s new album, Scurrilous.

Perhaps you have been in a committed, long-term relationship with someone. Man, woman, transgender, it makes no difference because there are things within people that are universal, the same. There was, perhaps, a moment in that relationship when you realized that the primary devices of that person’s personality were no longer a mystery. You realized that, in all likelihood, that person would never provide you with a major surprise ever again. You may still love them, but that love will never again be a grand adventure: If you can live with that, it’s a good relationship. If not, it is time to end it.

Scurrilous is that moment in my relationship with Protest the Hero. I still love them, but they will never again give me a complete, breathtaking system shock – what their first two records both were, in different ways.

Perhaps the best compliment I could possibly give the young prodigies in PtH is that more than any other band they remind me of Queensryche—supremely talented and openly cheesy, highly conceptual and supremely catchy at the same time. Both bands use calculator riffs to deliver pop hooks, and use the songwriting techniques of their lesser peers so well that it redeems and damns their parent genres (metalcore and hair metal, respectively) all at once.

So if Fortress was their Operation: Mindcrime, Scurillous is their Empire. (more after the jump . . .)

Every element of the PtH sound as crystallized on Fortress is present here, with one omission (to which I will return), but in a more streamlined form. The drums are less frenetic, the guitar flourishes are less spazzy, which allows for the band’s posthardcore-meets-power riffs to carry the songs. Rhythmic experimentation and emphasis take a back seat to melody.

The good news is that the melodies are roundly catchy and solid. The boys have not lost their preternatural ability to create prog epics that last as long as (and bounce like) punk songs. They can still do my favorite bedroom trick: convincing me that noodly guitar arpeggios can be as meaty, satisfying and compelling as big majestic chords (my preferred riff style). They still know the one primary trick behind making prog metal just *work*; by packing genuine human emotion into their music. By replacing  fabrication (Dream Theater) with exaggeration (Mastodon).

Both prog and tech metal need real human emotion to ground it. PtH still have that emotion, as intensified as always by their surprisingly intellectual, humanist approach to lyrics, this time helmed by vocalist Rody Walker instead of bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi. This time around, it’s less on the historical fantasy/ecological concern end of the spectrum, but a strong progressive stance on sexual orientation/gender politique still remains. This is a relief since that topic is not only rare in metal and “capital I” important, but PtH handle it with deft cunning and sharp wit.

That said, Scurrilous is by far PtH’s least aggressive record to date, with the primary culprit being Walker’s omission of all hardcore and screamed vocals. This one is all clean. Squeaky clean, and I must say it loses points from me on that one. I’m not opposed to clean vocals, and Walker does them well, but I confess that a sense of dynamic unpredictability has been lost in Scurrilous. The record is not a dive bomber—it cruises at high altitude all the time. Whether or not that suits an individual listener is down to taste.

Sucrrilous is a powerful record, and maintains all of PtH’s strengths in spades. This is still a great record for any fan of intelligent lyrics, power metal, prog metal, technical metalcore or just plain youthful and fun extreme music. I just saw its punches coming.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Scurrilous is out now on Vagrant Records. As usual, we want to give you an audible taste of the music, and this song is it:

[audio:|titles=Protect the Hero: Hair-Trigger]


  1. Excellent review – I especially liked the point about DT and Mastodon. I also absolutely love this album, and it is a contender for my album of the year.

    I will provide a slightly different perspective though, since I own a relationship time machine. Yes, I met this girl at the 11th hour (Scurrilous) and then walked backwards through history to experience the finer moments (Fortress, Kezia). Thus, PtH seem even more unpredictable to me, because my personal chronological experience has been in reverse.

  2. So, the drums and guitars and bass were awesome.

    …but did i just listen to an emo breakup song?

    The bit at the end reminded me just a little too much of that evanescence song…

    But im gonna check out more, because we DEFINITELY need more pro-GLBT music.

    • Then do yourself a favor and listen to “the Reign of Unending Terror” off this record.

      • I be sure to do that!
        After thinking about it, my comment might sound a bit too harsh…
        I was just expecting completely different lyrics. Especially at the beginning, I thought it would be a critical look at how rape is handled or something like that….

  3. Comparing this and the new Human Abstract record is kind of what gave rise to my little spiel on “What Is Prog?” at the start of my recent Oceans Of Sadness column…

    I definitely feel like PTH have carved out their niche now and can happily spend a lot of time exploring their own “sphere” of sonic potential.

    Whereas with the new Human Abstract I felt it was a more linear progression, possibly in search of a more constant sphere to inhabit.

    Two different, but no less successful, approaches to musical progression.

    • Honestly, i think the new BoO is superior to both (and that’s VERY surprising to me)

      • I clearly don’t “get” BOO (not sure why, I just don’t) as all the songs I’ve heard off their latest have just had me shrugging my shoulders unable to understand the current level of worship for them. None of them are bad, but none of them have been particularly memorable or technically mindblowing as all the reviews and hype would seem to suggest.

        I really do feel like I’m missing something in the equation, but can’t put my finger on what it might be.

        • I’m pretty sure it won’t make a difference in your case, but I found myself liking the BOO much more after listening to the album straight through than I did just hearing an isolated song or two. But like I said, in your case that might just result in a multiplication of the meh feeling.

          • It’s not exactly a “meh” feeling, I’m not trying to put the band down at all, it’s simply confusion as the music I’ve HEARD does not reflect all the plaudits i’ve READ. If that makes sense?

            Will get a hold of a full copy and dedicate some time to it when I get chance.

            • Really, you need to see them live.

              all their records have that awful overproduced sumerian sound that only works for The Faceless–they need to be dried out, desperately,

              but live they just bring the MOSH!!!

              • Again, saw them live with DH and PTH last month and really got nothing from it. They were enjoying it and were clearly tight on their material… but I got no sense of emotion from them. It was a performance, a good performance, and not a particularly passionate portrayal of art.

                Sorry, that’s not meant to sound as pretentious as it really comes across, but I’m struggling to make my point clear and transparent, so people don’t get the wrong end of the stick.

                • I don’t think emotion really comes into their music much, at all.

                  I think they’re really a “rational” group, more of a hilosophical meditation, an experiment it thought than a band about “feeling,”

                  • Emotional doesn’t mean you have to talk about emotion, I’m just saying I don’t get much emotion or connection from their delivery. They’re far from the only “rational” or “philosophical” group out there, but from the screaming and performance I didn’t get any feeling of emotional intensity or conviction… they were playing well, but not playing hard and were bing loud, but not being heavy.

                    That’s probably the disconnect between me and them, I don’t get any feeling from them. It’s good, but quite sterile. So it just doesn’t connect with me personally. Islander’s been kind enough to forward me a link to the album though so once I’ve got chance (in the middle of reviewing something else atm) I’ll sit down with it.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.