For as good as 2011's Scurrlious is, it had MASSIVE footsteps to follow after the band's monumental Fortress. It didn't quite live up to it sadly, and not for any reason in particular either. Fortress is, and always will be, to Protest The Hero what Colors is to Between The Buried and Me . It is the album so good that everything that follows will be compared to it as a standard, and no album will come close.
Or so I thought…
Volition feels like an album by a band trying to outdo themselves in every way and succeeding. Rody Walker is all over the place vocally and is so good at what he does. Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar shine on their guitars, as always. Hell, even Arif Mirabdolbaghi is blowing my mind here (See: "Without Prejudice"), and you don't always get to be stoked on bass work in a metal band.
From the second Volition starts, Protest The Hero are firing on all cylinders. "Clarity" is everything this band represents. Melodic memorable guitar licks, soaring vocals by Rody Walker, and unmatched musical technicality. They've never been a band to ease you into a record, but the band seems particularly ready to kick the listeners ass here from the get-go.
"A Life Embossed" has the band showing off a level of intensity that hasn't been delivered before. There are moments of straight up death metal in this song mixed into melodic passages of the song. This is the greatest example of the ever present duality of the band's identity as a melodic band and a heavy band.
On the melodic side of the coin is the seeming homage to Newfoundland, "Mist." This song very much reminds me of Coheed and Cambria in many of the progressions and in the the vocal melody. At one point there is a guitar lick that brings U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" to mind. The song's conclusion has a very beautiful – and out of character – piano-led acoustic guitar outro that works really well. My only complaint about this song is the fact that the album didn't end with it.
Protest The Hero are not a stranger to having guest musicians in the fold and once again have a handful of amazing musicians featured in this album. First and foremost, the drum work of Lamb of God's Chris Adler must be commended. Lamb of God are known for having fairly complex rhythms in their records, but Protest typically have them beat from a technical standpoint. However, Adler's work on this record makes it sound like he's barely trying on LoG's Resolution and Wrath. He certainly adds his trademark approach to this record.
My favorite guest on the album is the Canadian folk singer Jadea Kelly. She has some fantastic trade-off moments with Walker throughout the record, but especially during the end of "Plato's Tripartite." The ending seems particularly in Kelly's wheelhouse as it brings the band The Head and The Heart to mind.
Unfortunately, the band is one of those progressive bands that has such an unmistakably unique sounds that they pigeonhole themselves into a category of one. In doing this, they could sound like every song is the same to an untrained ear. Dream Theater also suffers from this. For example, "Animal Bones" is a good song. It is a song that no other band could create or recreate on the same level. However, for Protest The Hero, this song is only… alright. Every other song on the record excels: it's essentially just Protest The Hero doing what they do, but they do it amazingly.
Is this going to be the album that gets them recognition in certain metal communities? No, probably not (I'm looking at you, Metal Archives). The band has heavy elements, but they are essentially a technical, progressive, extreme metal/post-hardcore band. None of these labels are a bad thing, mind you. They are just labels though, and these guys are better than any label one could put on them.
I feel like the band will have a hell of a time topping this one.