When Protest The Hero first burst onto the scene, they were a crisp breath of fresh air. A group of teenage friends with boatloads of energy, endearing self-awareness, and a musical prowess to rival their influences, let alone peers.
Utilising elements of progressive metal, post-hardcore, and punk, the band elevated this fusion immensely with the unique falsetto stylings of vocalist, Rody Walker. Coupled together with original bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi‘s high concept lyrics, the band struck a chord with many as a unique and urgent force. Exploring topics such as politics, religion, feminism, and warfare through the eyes of characters, both fictional and literal, allowed for sprawling narratives to roam through the increasingly technical musical landscapes.
‘Kezia’, released in 2005 was a phenomenal debut, followed in 2008 by ‘Fortress’; the album commonly regarded as their crowning achievement. In more recent years, however, the road has been riddles with pitfalls. The departure of founding drummer Moe Carlson, as well as the aforementioned Mirabdolbaghi, signalled a time of metamorphosis and change. Constant label issues seemed to plague the group, as well as Walker blowing out his voice, causing the cancellation of an extensive run of tour dates to mark the ten-year anniversary of ‘Fortress’.
This setback also attributed to one of several delays that constantly pushed ‘Palimpsest’, further and further away from realisation. Seven years have passed since ‘Volition’, marking this as the longest gap between albums from the band by a large margin, as well the full-length debut with current bassist and drummer, Cam McLellan and Mike Ieradi, respectively.
With the deck well and truly stacked against them, ‘Palimpsest’ is a remarkable, reinvigorated return to form. While equally as technical as their earlier work, there’s a new found sense of subtlety and nuance here that the band have accrued over time. Jolting rhythms and flashy noodling have been refined in a manner that feels both more complex and digestible. The material may still be deftly intricate, but the desire to impress or be flashy has been replaced with a conscientious approach to benefiting the material.
Walker‘s politically driven, direct, and earnest lyrical musings may be a far-cry from the theatrical leanings of earlier releases, but they help to usher in a new era of protest for this particular hero. All in all, ‘Palimpsest’ is the sound of a band newly inspired and artistically matured; a timely statement of observation and frustration without ever succumbing to judgement.