Welcome back to Pwrcord’s Album of the Week segment, where one of our writers gives us a look at their favorite albums. This week, Brenda gives us an earful on Protest the Hero’s prog-metal masterpiece, Fortress.
Progressive metal has slowly, but surely, taken over my musical library as the dominant genre. Once ruled by death metal, then crust punk, and most recently sludge metal, it was only a matter of time until I started to look for something more musical fulfilling than just crushing riffs and endless blast beats. Protest the Hero’s Fortress is one of my first discoveries on this quest.
What it is: Fortress is the second studio album from Canadian band Protest the Hero. It was released in 2008, and had a profound effect on the the type of music I enjoy, and how I enjoy it.
Protest the Hero’s musical style was once described to me as if “Coheed and Cambria listened to Necrophagist.” That’s a pretty solid approximation. They’re extremely progressive and melodic, with post-hardcore and punk roots, and expressive and powerful vocals and lyrics. Fortress was even a concept albums — all things one could liken to prog-rock kings (imo), Coheed and Cambria. But they’re also highly technical, and have an extreme metal-inspired aggression — very similar to Necrophagist and similar bands.
Fortress is without a doubt their angriest and most “metal” record, with songs revolving around ancient battles, alien invasions, and ancient Goddesses. Riffs sweep across the fret boards of Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar; the drumming of Moe Carlson is tight and pummeling; Arif Mirabdolbaghi’s bass practically takes on a life of its own; and Rody Walker’s vocals are the most aggressive they’ve ever been, using more screams and growls than on either of their other full lengths. His vocal range and delivery is probably the highlight of the album, besides the genius song-writing.
Why I love it: Of this new-found fondness for progressive music, Protest the Hero probably stand atop the list of bands I would consider my current “favorites.” I discovered this energetic bunch of prog-metallers back in 2008 when they released Fortress. For me, it was something of an eye-opening experience. I realized metal music didn’t need to be all about blood, gore, and aggression for the sake of aggression. I became cognizant of the fact these “short-hairs” who wore clothes bereft of black fabric, ineligible logos, and entirely devoid of any blood or pagan imagery, were actually on to something here.
Nowadays, I’m one of those short-haired normal lookin’ fellas (I still have a few black shirts with scrary stuff on them in my wardrobe, though). I’ve become enlightened to the talents of great acts like Animals as Leaders, Between the Buried and Me, 3, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Periphery, The Number 12 Looks Like You, Mastodon, Cloudkicker… the list goes on and on. I owe it all to Protest the Hero and this album.
It took a bit for me to get past Rody Walker’s vocals, but now he ranks among some of my all-time favorite singers in any genre. The spastic, technical guitar work, however, immediately grabbed me. What’s more, as a bass player, hearing (and seeing) Arif Mirabdolbhagi’s skills with those four strings is inspiring and awe-striking. I’ve yet to see a better live band than Protest the Hero, and they also make some of the best music videos in metal music, period. You can quote me on that. Fortress is one of the biggest reasons I enjoy the music I do today.
Sure, maybe I like their latest Scurrilous a bit better, and maybe PTH aren’t my ABSOLUTE favorite prog metal band(it’s close), but that’s all discussion for another Album of the Week entry. What matters is they’re one of the first bands to really introduce me to music that transcended the norms of song writing, and there are bands out there doing things that isn’t like anything else. It’s music created for no other reason other than the love of it. The music they make is the result of them sitting down and playing, not trying to sound like anybody else. Plus, I mean, they sing about Ghengis Kahn and crazy stories about Irish Goddesses on Fortress. That’s fucking cool.
Do yourself a solid, and check out this album.
For fans of: The Human Abstract, Between the Buried and Me, The Fall of Troy, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Periphery, Coheed and Cambria