Protest the Hero


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Protest the Hero's Fortress owes much of its sound to progressive metal, even if its post-hardcore and punk metal influences are still evident. The new sound is detectable as soon as vocalist Rody Walker begins singing on the opening song, "Bloodmeat," when an initial quick burst of a verse gives way to chorus that floats over pounding rhythms and a background string section. The piece sets the tone for what is to come; Fortress is just as aggressive and intense as the band's debut album, Kezia, but not as dark, even as Walker shifts between operatic melodies and guttural grunts and screams. (This happens frequently throughout Fortress, and the singer is adept at both.) Both albums carry a theme throughout -- Kezia is a "situationist requiem," according to the band, while Fortress is ostensibly about goddess worship -- but the latter is more consistent in its presentation. Whereas Kezia concentrated more on Protest the Hero's achieving technical expertise, Fortress is from a band whose abilities have caught up with their vision. The album is deeper, stronger, more original, and consequently more fun. More risks are taken, from the nearly hidden horns on "The Dissentience" to the shimmering piano solo at the beginning of "Sequoia Throne" and the playful interlude that bridges "Palms Read" and "Limb from Limb." Protest the Hero is having fun with their creativity here, and Fortress is a better album for it. However, it all goes by a bit too quickly -- the songs may be epic, but the entire album is pounding and frantic. What should be a marathon is conducted at a sprinting pace, and if there's any complaint, it's that there is no time to slow down and appreciate how far Protest the Hero has come since their debut album. There are plenty of interesting things that take place on Fortress, but it may take repeated listens to take it all in.

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