Protest The Hero

support The Chariot + The Human Abstract
author AP date 09/03/09 venue Underworld, London, UK

Underworld, despite having room for just 500 concert-goers, has become the heart of the alternative music scene in the UK over the years, and has been involved in kick starting some of today's most influential bands, not least Rage Against The Machine. It is considered by locals as the venue for up and coming acts from across the rock and metal communities and loved for its intimacy. Indeed, with no barrier separating the crowd from the bands, the stage was set for what was to become one of the most energetic performances since The Dillinger Escape Plan tore apart the Mean Fiddler last year. On a sidenote, be sure to check out the picture gallery at the bottom of the page as Martin took some incredible shots once again.

The Human Abstract

I remember reviewing this band's latest album, "Midheaven", last year to discover a curious mix of A7X and Between The Buried And Me in their sound; progressive, neo-classically influenced metal with an emphasis on clean vocals. But when the set begins, such memories become shattered by Nathan Ell's grueling scream and music that, aside from the abundant guitar arpeggios, sounds nothing like that album. Occasionally the songs do calm into clean interludes, during which Sean Leonard is shows off his prowess with the piano, and it's during these passages that Ells' familiar, raspy clean voice (very similar to one M. Shadows) takes over. From the very beginning of the set The Human Abstract showcases a strong stage presence despite the technical nature of the music. Kudos go to Leonard in particular for his energy behind the keys and to guitarist Dean Herrera for a staggering display of showmanship, flailing his dreadlocks, which parallel in length to those of Brian Fair of Shadows Fall, in what looks rather dangerous to others around him, considering the volume and whipping power of those things. Still something seems to be missing - that edge that would push the show from quite good to instantly memorable - as might be obvious from my lack of words to recall much of the show.

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The Chariot

Prior to this show, my familiarity with the music of The Chariot was slim, but it had been impressed upon me that their live shows were on par with bands like Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Whoever said so wasn't kidding, because Jesus fucking Christ is this band mental. It all begins with a lengthy, almost frustrating amount of feedback that is key to giving the show an atmosphere of sheer disarray before the chaotic, mathematical dissonance of the guitars takes over and bassist John Kindler plunges instrument-first into those upfront. Just what a lunatic this person is, is difficult to explain in words, but not a second goes by that sees him standing still. Some time into the set, vocalist Josh Scogin actually picks him up on two arms without warning and throws him into the faces of some unfortunate (or fortunate?) crowd members, and proceeds to take the bass guitar from him moments later to let Kindler handle some of the vocal duties for a while, and when he's finished, he simply throws the instrument at Kindler who is lucky enough to catch it. At this point one of the guitarists is standing on his head against an amp stack, still playing his guitar (although it is hard to tell if he's actually hitting the notes from the sonic entropy that is The Chariot's music, not to mention the overpowering, if intentional, feedback from the amps).

Numerous times during the show Scogin hammers the name of his band into our heads as if the frenetic live show were not enough to remember "The Chariot, The Chariot, The Chariot, The Chariot!" It's actually a neat trick in that it enforces the psychotic lunacy that this apparently Christian band is hoping to emit. Scogin then shoves two microphones in his mouth to produce the horrific signature scream in "And Shot Each Other" before proceeding to dismantle the drumkit mid-song, while David Kennedy is still playing on it. With that, just one thing remains to be experienced: a tour featuring TDEP, Converge and The Chariot - though most bookers would probably shun at the idea and be too frightened for their assets to allow such a vicious ensemble on their premises.

Protest The Hero

Protest The Hero have a right to be more settled on stage, what with the nature of the math-meets-metalcore they play. From the very beginning it is clear that frontman Rody Walker is drunk out of his mind (not that he's trying to hide it, taking large swabs of Jack Daniel between songs), but with no apparent effect on his voice or remembering the lyrics. Indeed, Rody is one of the few vocalists who can deliver live what he can on album (pay attention Oli Sykes) and he does so with such passion and conviction that it's hard not to forgive him for his alcohol abuse, though his new belly piercing, a little dolphin holding a pearl, which he's keen to discuss, is adorable enough on its own to forgive such behavior.

Not only does there seem to be an ongoing substance-abuse competition in the band (the bassist looks like his mind is in space), there is very clearly also a beard-growing competition going on; so enormous are the bushes planted on all but the drummer's face. This humorous appearance coupled with Rody's showmanship in the form of lighthearted humor and stories make Protest The Hero's set a pleasure to watch, although occasionally one does wonder if the band could not have gone for more songs in their setlist and less bullshit in between songs. Visibly inspired by The Chariot's antics just before, Rody, too, charges into the crowd during the last song, "Bloodmeat" after arguing with a crowd member who supposedly told him that "Palms Read" is the band's worst song and should never be played live again. It is this adolescent defiance, self-awareness and propensity to not take things too seriously that makes Protest The Hero's show a pleasure to watch, even if it ends at a mere eleven songs. Indeed, a longer set could have done wonders (though Rody may have passed out then), but it is what it is.

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Setlist:

01. Limb From Limb

02. No Stars Over Bethlehem

03. Goddess Bound

04. Goddess Gagged

05. Palms Read

06. Blindfolds Aside

07. Sequoia Throne

08. Nautical

09. The Dissentience

10. Wretch

11. Bloodmeat

Photos courtesy of Martin Foot

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