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CD Review: PROTEST THE HERO – Scurrilous

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Canada’s Protest The Hero has been making quite a buzz in the metal scene ever since their 2005 release, Kezia. The band has always seemed a few steps ahead of the curve in terms of both technicality and catchiness (especially considering the band’s age). 2008’s Fortress was also a huge leap for the band, pushing their musical chops to new heights, while maintaining a healthy amount of the hooks that their previous album offered. Now, after two very successful albums, a rigorous touring schedule, and almost a year out of the spotlight to write their third LP, where was the band to go? Scurrilous, to be blunt, isn’t the huge leap in sound that Fortress was to Kezia, but it’s rather a refinement of their now-established sound. Fans of the band will love them for what they’re able to accomplish, and haters of the band will surely despise them even more.

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What makes Scurrilous such a breeze of a listen is that, while actually being the band’s most challenging and technically proficient release, is much less “obvious” than before. Long gone are the gratuitous arpeggio sweep sections that completely saturated Fortress (save for a few moments in “Tandem” and “Tapestry”). Instead, guitarists Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar have adapted a more riff-based style of playing. That’s not to say there aren’t an absolute shitload of leads on Scurrilous; they just don’t have that "check-me-out" vibe. You also won’t find bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi attacking his fret board like it murdered his family. Instead, it’s been replaced with a much more listenable performance, riddled with absurdly catchy slap-bass lines. Check out his work in “Hair-Trigger” for some of the most absurdly great moments of the band’s entire canon. Drummer Moe Carlson has also stepped up his game, replacing his heavily punk-influenced beats of playing with a much tighter (and more importantly, metal) style. Moe is one of my favorite pocket drummers in metal today. Check out the bridge section of “Moonlight” for proof.

Vocalist Rody Walker has always seemed to be the most divisive factor of Protest The Hero, no contest. Scurrilous puts Rody more into the forefront than ever before, especially considering this is Rody’s first Protest album featuring his lyrics. Arif’s much more politically charged/historically influenced lyrics have been replaced with a much more sarcastic and…sassy aesthetic. While this helps separate Scurrilous from Protest’s past two records, some moments are complete flops (the lyrics to “Tandem” and “Tapestry” are pretty awful). These few momentary duds are made up, however, by some far more superior lyrical and vocal moments, the unquestionable highlight being “Dunsel”. Walker has never sounded more confident here, and the rest of the band certainly follows suit. I can’t say enough positive things about “Dunsel”, just listen to it.

Scurrilous is without a doubt another successful album from Protest The Hero, though it’s certainly not without a few faults. Vocal lines can occasionally clash with the rest of the band’s furious riffing, and some of the lyrics can be far too cheesy for their own good (re: “Sometimes a knife right through your heart is exactly what you need”). There are also a few instances where it seems like the band doesn’t want to fully leave the sound they established on Fortress. The opening guitar leads of “Sex Tapes” sounds way too much like “Sequoia Throne”, and “Tapestry” brings back the Mike Patton-esque scat vocals that were one of the catchiest parts of “Bloodmeat”. These are very minor gripes, though, and have only surfaced through extensive listening. On the whole, Scurrilous is a roaring success, though certainly not the band’s best work to date. Certainly a great way to start off your 2011 metal collection.

Rating: 8/10

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