Protest the Hero’s Volition: An Exercise in Artistic Freedom

url-3Their futures were signed away without ever putting ink to paper. Protest the Hero ventured out on their own, choosing to take matters into their own hands for the first time in their career. The path has hardly been paved for a major metal act to leave their record label, but what has transpired since the beginning of the year has left a footprint on their latest release. The determination that cuts through the appropriately named Volition is accentuated by a sense of raw, musical freedom that has been stripped of any concern. Protest the Hero has jumped in with both feet causing a historic ripple whose affect has yet to be seen.

The band originally signed with Vagrant Records back in 2006, but upon fulfilling all contractual obligations this year, the guys chose to forgo renegotiating a new contract. The progressive metal act from Canada took a huge risk, deciding to record and release an album themselves, without any label support. Protest the Hero took to the idea of crowd-funding, where a project is financed by collecting a small amount of money from a large amount people, and used the website Indiegogo to launch the campaign to their fans. In the band’s own words, “Crowd-funding seems to be something that’s working. Whether or not this is the next thing for the music industry, it’s a way that supporters of a band can know exactly where their hard earned dollars are going. No middlemen, no commissions, no bullshit.” With everything spelled out, from the cost of gear rental to producer fees, fans literally knew where every dollar was going to be spent. The band was completely transparent, and in turn, saw a huge return for their honesty. Within thirty hours of the proposal being posted, fans had already contributed enough to meet the band’s $125K goal. The month-long drive brought in close to triple what they needed and proved the power of their loyal fan base.

The contributed dollars have finally come full circle with the release of Volition this past Tuesday, October 29th. The eleven transcending tracks came with obvious anticipation from its investors as well as anyone who caught wind of the project. The fruit of the band’s labor couldn’t be sweeter either, with a cohesive album that demands to be listened to from start to end. The songs bleed over into one another, transitioning seamlessly in and out of heavy sections, rich melodies, complex patterns, and soaring instrumentals to keep you hooked. The band’s tight use of syncopation seems like a chase at times with a feverish pace only their rhythm section could pull off. Bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi is one of the best in metal and continues to prove that on this album. His mix of rhythmic, pocket playing and foreground standouts show what an elite bassist can really do for a band. Even with the departure of longtime drummer, Moe Carlson, the band didn’t miss a beat. Lamb of God‘s Chris Adler was brought in to handle percussive responsibilities and couldn’t have left a more pronounced, but unobtrusive, mark if he tried. Guitarist, Luke Hoskin, describes Adler’s role saying, “Everything was written before Chris dug into it. We programmed drums and then he gave them some love to make them his own. There was some stuff that he definitely livened up, and some other stuff he just gave us the finger for assuming he would play it!” Longtime unofficial sixth member of the band, Jadea Kelly, was also featured on four tracks. Her warm vocal touch has been heard on every Protest release and blends perfectly with Rody’s voice. His range and creativity alone though are unique as they come in metal and compliment the virtuosic talent present in the music. The fact that he sings has always been a breath of fresh air and fills a void that the screaming vocals of the past decade could never fill.

The band isn’t turning back either, as the title of the album makes quick work of summarizing their dedication to the new venture. This body of work can only be attributed to the position the guys have put themselves in. Luke describes the fan-funded album by saying, “It allowed us to take our time and not worry about how much money we were spending. It also allowed us to hire our good friends to be a part of everything. We surrounded ourselves with a very comfortable environment and one which was very close to home.” As for what the next step is in this musical evolution, Luke says, “It’s hard to say. I certainly don’t miss being tied down by a label (especially for 3+ albums like in the past). But that’s not to say that we still don’t work with our distribution labels on a daily basis. One day, I hope to fully do an album on our own and just put it online out of the blue in a ‘pay what you can’ scenario. I see younger bands doing that all over the place now – these are the ones who I want to grab by the shirt neck and say “keep ownership of your music”. But on the other hand, we never would have gotten to where we are without the help of some truly amazing record labels. I believe this “shift” in music everyone is muttering about is going to take a lot more time than we think.”

The highly successful campaign leading up to the recording session is only being eclipsed by the quality of music that’s come as a result. The metal orchestration could only be pulled off by a band like Protest the Hero. If you listen to nothing else though, check out the three key tracks as they incorporate the dynamic and diverse tonal range covered on the release. As the album hits the coda in the final song, the band coordinates a stirring close that feels as though the ties have been cut and you’re left to drift away, sadly coming to terms with its conclusion.

Key Tracks: Without Prejudice, Plato’s Tripartite, Skies

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