Protest the Hero – Scurrilous

written by: April 1, 2011
Protest the Hero - Scurrilous album cover Release Date: March 22, 2011


Protest the Hero has been one of the few modern metal bands to employ musical pyrotechnics with meaning. Their philosophical, conceptual lyrics and dynamic music influenced by emo and punk helped them stick out above the pack. Unfortunately, Scurrilous, the band’s third album, establishes a trend toward a streamlined sound. The purpose is to make their music more “accessible,” but in doing so they have removed all of their appeal.

Contrary to what the band apparently believes, their appeal was not in the guitarists’ abilities to sweep pick: It was in their abilities to riff around wailing vocals, hooks, surprising shifts and thoughtful acoustic transitions. Scurrilous strips the music of even the basic piano interludes from albums past and focuses on fast and confusingly scattershot songs with no respite. There must not have been a respite in even the writing/production process, because the first four tracks start exactly the same.

While lead singer Rody Walker’s sort of whiny overtones worked perfectly on the emo-punk-metal of debut Kezia, on Scurrilous, where the metal encompasses most of the sound, his vocals sound ill-fitting. Coheed and Cambria’s Claudio Sanchez was able to make the transition from emo to metal by donning a sinister and stern tone, but Walker’s attempt at being a metal vocalist sounds bloated and laughably pubescent. And while Coheed was always going back and forth between pop and metal, Protest the Hero’s songs on Scurrilous lack diversity. Kezia utilized pop hooks from time to time and they worked because the band wasn’t preoccupied with constantly jumping from riff to riff.

The band must be honing in on the younger audience. Their previous efforts may have been over a lot of those heads, but a bit too geeky for mature ones. Kids don’t need to be bothered with anything resembling art, so it’s easier to write heavy songs with simple lyrics and forget about the craft. Why else would Walker think singing “take a piss” in falsetto works? The lyrics, being more personal this time around, indicate a lack of maturity within the group. Seeing Protest the Hero’s—to borrow a phrase—scurrilous live show only confirms this.

Lead single and lead track “C’est la Vie” is all one needs to hear to understand what is going on. Speedy dual guitars open things up and Walker attempts to sing a metal opera. Shortly thereafter, there’s a bit that resembles a breakdown: more shredding, more abrupt changes, a calm bridge with a falsetto nearly as weak as Jay-Z’s on “My 1st Song” and finally some more shredding.

Some would call the music on Scurrilous “musical masturbation,” which is appropriate given that masturbation is something their core audience is just discovering.

The writing process is so clearly myopic that any good idea is merely a fleeting one. Though it’s clear that the band put thought into the compositions and it’s easy to be entertained by the musicianship, there really isn’t anything to latch onto or remember. Their bag of tricks worked before because they were supporting a greater purpose. It’s hard to discern what the purpose of Scurrilous is.

A lot of the material on this album sounds quite similar to their previous album, Fortress, but none of it is as exciting. On “Hair-Trigger,” the girl who guest-sung on Kezia returns briefly, but her faint voice isn’t supported by the endless barrage of distortion and double bass. It sounds like an attempt to spruce up a song that didn’t have much going for it.

When a band claims that their album will have a more “progressive” sound, one can assume it will be anything but.

Three albums in and Protest the Hero’s formula is already a tired one. The start-stop shifts, the breakdowns and sweep picking, the odd time signatures–it all sounds so predictable. The performances are certainly good, but without discernable melodies or structure, it’s hard to be sure what exactly is being performed.

Protest the Hero – Scurrilous Tracklist:

  1. “C’est La Vie”
  2. “Hair-Trigger”
  3. “Tandem”
  4. “Moonlight”
  5. “Tapestry”
  6. “Dunsel”
  7. “The Reign of Unending Terror”
  8. “Termites”
  9. “Tongue-Splitter”
  10. “Sex Tapes”