Protest The Hero

Palimpsest

Written by: AP on 01/02/2021 12:56:19

I have to be honest: I had more or less forgotten about Protest the Hero until the Canadian mad geniuses announced their long-awaited, fifth studio album “Palimpsest” last Spring. The band did release a series of singles through a monthly subscription service between October 2015 and March 2016 and eventually compiled them into the “Pacific Myth” EP, but as none of them really resonated with me, the group was consigned to the periphery of my attention thenceforth. “Palimpsest”, however, felt like an old love rekindled as soon as the first single, “The Canary”, had premiered. All of the charm, the catchiness, and the dizzying technicality that made 2013’s “Volition” and the records before it so unique within the sphere of metal came rushing back and rendered “Palimpsest” into one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. You may have noticed that I included it on my end-of-the-year list already before this review was written, so there is not point in teasing you with a rhetorical question like “Were my expectations met?”

Sometimes when I read another critic’s review of a particular album, I can be struck by a bit of envy in relation to a shrewd metaphor or simile they came up with. This was the case with Kerrang! writer Nick Ruskell’s article about “Palimpsest”, in which he referred to Protest the Hero as the Warped Tour Dream Theater — a ridiculously accurate description of their sound on this latest offering of theirs. It feels as if in every song, the two guitarists (Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin) are on a mission to utilise every single note that can be extracted from their fretboards, and once those have been exhausted, they supplement their rich and vivid palette of melodies with orchestral touches using their synthesisers. Indeed, it often feels like bassist Eric Gonsalves and drummer Mike Ierardi exist in a reversal of roles in which it is the rhythm section that follows the whim of the guitarists, trying their best to nail all those stop-starts and lay down a deserving foundation for Hoskin and Millar’s noodling finger work and razor sharp picking. If your head is not spinning from their legato and staccato licks, exotic scale runs and sweeping arpeggios in the likes of “The Canary” and “From the Sky”, then perhaps you need to get back to listening to some DragonForce for your fix instead.

“Palimpsest” does not bring any new innovations to the table as far as Protest the Hero’s past repertoire is concerned to be sure. But the things the band has excelled at since making their début with “Kezia” in 2005 have been honed to a more streamlined format over the years, which means that even though that mischievous twinkle in the five musicians’ eyes is still there, the songwriting is no longer just quirky, but also sumptuous. They seem to have developed a better awareness for when to rein in their wilder impulses, and as a result, “Palimpsest” contains some of the group’s catchiest material to date in standout tracks such as “All Hands” and “Reverie”. The guitar riffs in them are technical, yet also groovy and full of swagger, providing the perfect instrumental foundation for vocalist Rody Walker’s idiosyncratic singing and lyrical style. Using peculiar figures of speech and plenty of rhyming, he focuses on the theme of what his southern neighbours in the United States mean when they speak of their own ‘greatness’, and he does so from a refreshingly balanced perspective acknowledging that what may be great for one person may not be great for another. Both his lyricism and his careening voice (to which he applies some truly unique modulation) are not only a joy to behold, but also play a crucial role in moulding the rest of the band’s ideas into something that people can actually dance, jump and sing along to.

Rumour has it that Protest the Hero’s original line-up purposefully wrote the music for “Kezia” to be too difficult for themselves to play in order to force themselves to improve as musicians, and when you listen to this latest album, the fruits of that labour have certainly been reaped. It cements the Ontarian outfit as one of the craziest acts out there — and that is regardless of whether you pigeonhole them into mathcore, metalcore or the post-hardcore. The band has a unique penchant for taking the best aspects from all of those genres and distilling them into songs that are nerdy and fun, but also deftly written and bursting with sharp wit that makes this new album absolutely irresistible. And while “Palimpsest” does find Protest the Hero sticking to their guns most of the time (which in turn makes me miss the deranged antics of “Kezia” from time to time), by playing to their strengths the five Canucks ensure that the effort keeps a high standard throughout and finishes as one of their best yet.

8

Download: From the Sky, All Hands, Soliloquy, Reverie, Rivet
For the fans of: The Fall of Troy, Good Tiger, Intervals, Periphery
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.06.2020
Spinefarm Records

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