There are three albums that come to mind that form a Parthenon-like monument composed of aggressive, well-crafted fragments of musical explorations. Those three albums include Black Flag’s 1981 album Damaged, Metallica’s blockbuster 1986 classic Master Of Puppets and At The Drive-In’s finale with 2000’s Relationship Of Command. It’s very rare when albums such as these begin with a thunderous statement and bookend with an even more profound conclusion, while all the while the spaces between are as flawlessly crafted as a diamond. Diamonds are found in rough lumps of coal. Fortress, the sophomore release from Ontario’s metal act, Protest The Hero, is just that: a diamond album in a bottomless lump of musical coal.
Fortress begins with the first single released from the album, “Bloodmeat.” Wow. From the first five seconds, there is no room for breathing whatsoever. Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin’s dual lead guitars crush any dead zones with high flying intensity over Moe Carlson’s power drumming. Rody Walker’s vocals are incredible here. There is definitely a young Bruce Dickinson in the making here. Yes, thee Bruce Dickinson, the legendary singer of Iron Maiden. Together in “Bloodmeat”, the band reaches plateau after plateau of impressive musical achievements. There are moments of silence which prolong strong unresolved tensions to which the band blasts its fiery notes through armies of eardrums like a battering ram charging full speed at a castle’s drawbridge.
The next two cuts, “The Dissention” and “Bone Marrow”, take what “Bloodmeat” hinted at with its dueling Baroque-esque solos and takes it to eleven. Walker’s vocals are even better. For a young guy, he’s definitely talented and uses what he has to it’s full potential. The instrumentation isn’t far from this, either. It’s been a long time since metal has had it’s hinges blown off, but somehow the genre recommissioned the role of lead guitar. In Protest The Hero’s case, there are two juggernauts of soloing prowess.
On a side note, if Castlevania was ever to become a full length, feature movie (Not so fast, Uwe Boll!), Protest The Hero would be the band commissioned to score it.
The best element this band brings to the album is that all the cuts presented here are not only technically challenging (and giving both hands an excruciating workout), but they also keep eardrum attention at a strong level. This is the important factor that draws up this entire album: Protest The Hero keeps you guessing for more.
In a land famous for hockey, Pamela Anderson, Tim Horton’s donut shops and their biggest export: progressive rock legends Rush, Protest The Hero could well be Canada’s next big thing. It’s still too early to tell, but there is hope. We can all agree to that. As mentioned above, Fortress is the fourth column in a metal Parthenon of complex, yet awesome musical passages that guitarists will skin their fingers over for.
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