Sound — 8
Protest The Hero was formed in Canada in 2001, and released their first EP just a year later in 2002. Since that time they have reached an international audience with their unique blend of high energy prog metal and thrash metal. The founding members remained unified in the band until early 2013 when the original drummer, Moe Carlson, left the band to pursue an engineering career. Chris Adler (from Lamb Of God) acted as the studio drummer for "Volition," and since that time it has been announced that Mike Ieradi will be filling in as the new full time drummer (though he didn't take part in the recording of this album). "Volition" has 11 tracks and clocks in at just under 55 minutes. The album contains several guests on vocals, guitar and even violin. The album opens up with the track "Clarity," which opens up with a little riff syncopated with the drums and the vocals come in with an almost '80s style hair metal screaming. The vocals quickly change up to a more modern approach, with some screamed lyrics interspersed in the track. Jadea Kelly provides some guest vocals on "Clarity," who you might remember for her guest vocals and pretty much everything that Protest The Hero has released with the exception of their first EP. The next track is "Drumhead Trial," probably thus named for the heavy as sh-t drumming through the whole track. Kayla Howran provides some guest vocals on the track, and Ron Jarzombek provides some guest guitar work - but I'm not sure who they are (possibly some large contributors to the Indiegogo crowd-funding?). The track has a cool vibe, and the vocals by Kayla Howran especially serves as a cool counterpoint to Rody's vocals. "Tilting Against Windmills" starts out with my favorite riff from the entire album, that is a kind of weird ascending pattern. This is one of two tracks on the album that don't have guests participating (except for, of course, Chris Adler, who does an excellent job on the drums). There are, however, some crowd vocals during parts of the song, but they aren't credited. "Without Prejudice" is the fourth track on the album, and includes guest vocals once again by Jadea Kelly. Rody's vocal melodies on this track remind me of Freddie Mercury at times, and remind me what an excellent vocalist Rody is. "Yellow Teeth" is up next and includes Jadea Kelly with some guest vocals, Wyatt Schutt providing some guest guitar work, and Raha Javanfar playing violin. This track is one of the highest-energy tracks from the album with a lot of interesting little guitar-fills. "Plato's Tripartite" (once again containing guest vocals from Jadea Kelly), is another track with a cool-unique vibe to it. "A Life Embossed" contains guest vocals by Mark Iannelli and AJ Kolar, and this is another one with some seriously heavy drumming and some deep growled vocals during some passages. There is also some neo-classical guitar going on during the track – good stuff. "Mist" contains guest violin by Raha Javanfar, and this is another track where it really shows that Rody's vocals do a lot pushing the band from a good band to an excellent band. "Underbite" is up next, and this track has some heavy punk-related influences going on and some interesting lyrics. Todd Kowalski provides guest vocals on the track. "Animal Bones" is next up, and this is the 2nd track from the album to not contain any guest appearances (again, with the exception of Chris Adler on drums), and a lot of vocal and musical variety going on in the track – the vocal and guitar melodies going on during parts of this song definitely make this my favorite track from the album. The album closes out with the track "Skies," which has a very soft intro and includes Kevin Lewis, Josh Hainge, and Marc Palin as guest vocalists. The track quickly moves into some heavier territory, and even includes some death metal style vocals in a few passages. The mixing on the album is impeccable, especially on the drums - too bad Chris Adler is only acting as studio drummer on this album - we'll have to see what the new guy, Mike Ieradi has to offer on the next album.
Lyrics — 8
Rody Walker has some seriously impressive range, and he definitely shows it off on this album. Some stand out guest vocals would be Kayla Howran and Jadea Kelly. Jadea Kelly has been a nice addition on all of their albums. Something that I really enjoy about Protest The Hero's lyrics is that they seem to be somewhere between narrative and surreal, which keeps me interested in listening to what Rody is saying. As a sample of some of the lyrics from the album, here are some lyrics from the track, "Clarity": "Without a word uttered/ a comparison drawn/ a distant future/ a cluttered past amid the stars/ vague and persistent/ though lacking consistency/ unwilling vitim of farce/ the loudest voices scream uninspired/ their numbers vast/ their spirits drowned/ quiet choices sing against the choir/ the majority is almost never wrong/ never wrong."
Overall Impression — 8
I thoroughly enjoyed this album - despite the album remaining high energy throughout, it felt like there was a lot of variety in the sound and it definitely kept me interested. My favorite tracks from the album would have to be "Animal Bones" and "Drumhead Trial," but I'm sure that everybody is going to have their own opinions on that. When you see an artist using crowd-funding, in my experience, the end result always seems to be hit or miss - this is definitely a winner, though. This album may have very well moved me from a casual fan of the band, to a rabid fanboy. Awesome album.