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Protest the Hero - Kezia CD (album) cover


Protest the Hero

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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5 stars Metal, punk and hardcore: what feelings do those titles evoke in you? If you're anything like me, you hold generally negative conotations on those genres. I don't think any musical genre is inherently bad, but I do feel that there are hoards of mediocre or awful bands under such banners for every high-quality one. The same can be said about all genres to varying extents, but I have even more of a tough time handling the average bands of the said genres. While there have been several metal bands who have at least tried to do something interesting, very few have tried to experiment with punk and hardcore.

Canadian outfit Protest the Hero decided to mesh all three, with a progressive edge, and to surprising sucess. The music is technical, but it's also filled with hooks, melodies, and emotion, which I believe is key to making a great record. The individual tracks spew out fresh ideas every minute, but they are very structured and fluent, even including distinct verses and choruses. Vocalist Rody Walker has a bit of a whiny voice when he sings, but after coming to terms with it, you'll realize that he is a capable vocalist who lays down a solid performance. The musicians have obvious abilities, but they are very modest with them.

This is a concept album which the band describes as a situationist requiem, where the story is told from three different perspectives. Each perspective is given three tracks, and between each part is a soft interlude. Then, there is a final track to conclude the story. The lyrics on this album were inspired by Dostoevsky and are surprisingly mature, especially considering the cncept was developed when the boys were in high school.

This is one of the most impressive debuts by a tech-metal band, loaded with great hooks, the occasional beautiful acoustic passages and female vocals, and tons of emotion.

It has been worth putting up with all of the unbearable music my brother has shared with me to discover such a great band. This is why you always let someone share new music with you; you never know what gems you may discover!

Report this review (#168474)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my all time favorite Metal albums. Kezia is about the story of the character of the same name who is about to be executed. Each act is from a different person's perspective of the execution. The priest, the executioner/prison guard, and Kezia herself. For how young they were when they wrote it, it is miles ahead of what one would expect. Extremely fast and complex to slow intricate moments. Rody's voice can sound like Cedric Bixler Zavala when he sings cleanly and his screams can compliment the thrashiness of the music perfectly acting as another instrument. The extreme metal to acoustic flow is perfectly mixed. I am so glad PTH are finally on PA highly recommended.
Report this review (#168511)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars A great album to listen to when you want to rock the [%*!#] out but still want to listen to good music. You know how when you listen to really heavy music and the heaviness either interferes with the technical efforts of the band, or (in order to counter that exact problem) the band over complicates things. Protest the Hero is one of the few bands that manages to find the exact right mixture of melodic and powerful.

Kezia is a concept album told from the perspective of three characters: The Prison Priest, The Prison Guard, and Kezia. Each character is designated a section containing three songs. At the end of the third song in each set, there's an interlude consisting of either acoustic guitar or piano. Then there's the finale, which ends the same way and serves to conclude the story. The album was recorded when the band members were only eighteen and nineteen years old.

No Stars Over Bethlehem starts off with a fade in that sucks you into the song, making the listener uncomfortable and then hitting him with some of the heaviest metal ever crafted. This album is so heavy that the band occasionally blows out the mics. The arrangement is always tight through the entire song up to and including the guitar solo at the very end.

Heretics & Killers starts off heavier than the previous song, blowing out the mics again. While I didn't mind the mics getting blown out occationally, its a shame that the album didn't get better production. This song is interspersed with soft acoustic guitar sections, providing some variety and not letting the listener become comfortable with what is being played.

Divinity Within is just as heavy as the first two tracks, but it allows for some room to breath as the guitars stop pounding occationally to allow for the verses. There's some more acoustic guitar, this time played over the distorted guitars. The drumming on this track is intense. Towards the end of the song, we are introduced to female vocals and violins playing quietly in the background. The last fourty eight seconds treat the listener to a well played piano interlude by Luke Hoskin, effectively ending the Prison Priest's section.

Bury the Hatchet is heavier than the previous songs, starting off with screamed vocals by Rody Walker. This song is intense but doesn't really have anything the other tracks haven't already shown until the end, where there's Walker sings emotionally and powerfully and is joined by the rest of the band who yell 'oooooh, yeah!', bringing major intensity to an already intense song, but then it ends with a slightly disappointing and unsatisfying fadeout.

Nautical has an interesting riff by guitar at the start which is repeated by the other guitar and bass. The drumming on this track is great. The transition in the middle is perfect, not sacrificing any of the intensity. The opening riff resurfaces quietly at the very end, completing the song.

Blindfolds Aside has some interplay between lead vocals and backing vocals, but nothing interesting happens intrumentally until two minutes in wherein we have the first real guitar solo of the album. The extra length of this song serves better to spread out the heaviness than to try to contain it (this is a bad thing by the way as its a weaker track than the rest). The best part of the song is at the end with two acoustic guitars playing a graceful melody accompanied by a duet with Walker and the beautiful female voice of Jadea Kelly (Kezia). The Prison Guard's part is over.

She Who Mars the Skin of Gods recaptures the intensity and heaviness from the beginning of the album. At 1:21, the band tries out keeping a steady rhythm but abandon that seconds later in case the listener gets to comfortable. The rest of the song has constant beat changes. Jadea's voice enters near the end again. The end cuts off suddenly, not sure if it was supposed to or if its been badly editted.

Turn Soonest to the Sea is a good song, not really standing out however until two and a half minutes where there's a spoken section. The song gets very heavy right after that but then turns into a ballad. At the end, all the band joins in the singing. Moe Carlson takes this opportunity to try out some different drumming patterns. The song fades out slowly before ending with a clip of someone saying, 'ready, aim...'

The Divine Suicide of K. sounds urgent all the way through it. Jadea joins in on the singing, her peaceful voice contrasting completely with Walker's urgency. Strings enter halfway through the song, almost as if telling the guitars to calm down. They don't however and the guitars keep pounding. Jadea sings accompanied by acoustic guitar and distorted guitar at the end. A very strong track after the weakness of the last few.

A Plateful of Our Dead is as intense as the begninning songs were. It sounds nothing like a conclusion track though. Not bad, just pointing it out. The album ends with twin acoustic guitars slowly fading out.

As a debut, this album is slightly inconsistant. There is a lack of variety and the band loses steam in the middle songs. Either that, or the songs start bleeding together....or both. A great album however when listened to as a whole. It's exactly what the most hardcore of rockers are looking for.

NOTE ON THE RATING: When I rate, I rate based on the website's words next to the stars. This is an extremely good debut album, and an excellent addition to this sub-genre.

Report this review (#168652)
Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Protest the Hero's debut is a pummeling piece of music. Technical wizardry and break neck speed are here in spades. And of course these Canadians don't forget the melody, creating some of the catchiest music you will here from any band on progarchives. For me that is the appeal of the band, bringing those two extremes together to create some emotionally charged music. Kezia is an amazing album, as is the follow up Fortress. All fans of progressive metal need to check this band out, along with Between the Buried and Me these guys are pushing the boundaries of technical metal.
Report this review (#168826)
Posted Sunday, April 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Protest the Hero - 'Kezia' 2.5 stars

Technical metal meets.indie?

Those two genres are an impossible mix in my opinion. This bands sound right off the bat just does not agree with me. It is practically impossible to be hardcore or technical and then try a pop vocal line somewhere in there. That is why hardcore bands have such a mediocre song structure. Just going crazy and then having a 'random' break where they can sound like the bands that they try to be the opposite of like Simple Plan or Good Charlotte. It is a really cheap way to get fans and a decent following of mindless drones.

Anyway, the songs are unbelievably disconnected on this album. There are too many shifts that aren't transferred well at all. I can't even hear a single track that sticks out. I don't recommend this at all unless you are diehard to hear anything that sounds technical, or are interested in poppish hooks in very brutal metal.

Report this review (#190260)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Protest the Hero was a band I had heard about mostly through word of mouth and on several music forums, especially some metal ones. Metalcore isn't something that's really my cup of tea most of the time, but I heard so many good things about them that I decided to check them out. The songs "Bury the Hatchet" from this, their debut album, and Sequoia Throne off of Fortress are both on their PA page (I was surprised to find them here to begin with). I listened to both songs several times in a row, and each time they were equally jaw-dropping. PTH sounded like so much more than technical metalcore to me. They manage to blend several other genres, including hardcore punk and progressive metal, into their ridiculously complex music. Although I suppose one of the main reasons I was turned on was because the metalcore influence was only a small part of the whole sound.

The music is mostly technical/progressive metalcore, and all the band members have serious chops to back this up. Some of the riffs and solos in their music are absolutely mind-blowing, and I would be surprised if I ever managed to pull any of this stuff off as a musician. Although what amazes me about this band so much is the age of all the members. If I remember correctly, every member of the band was no older twenty-one when work on the album began. So these guys might have been or were becoming musical virtuosos before they were legally able to drink in my country. That really says something in my opinion. The one thing that is most likely to tune off most progressive rock/metal fans is the sound of Rody Walker's voice. It's not traditional prog metal. In fact, it's not progressive-sounding in any way. It is however a very long and high range of notes in the singing, shouting, and growling department, but the singing and shouting are the most prominent vocals used. Walker sounds much more like a vocalist for a post-hardcore or punk band than a progressive metal band. Some people on this site might be turned off by such a voice, but when you get past the non-progressive part of it, he really is talented at what he does.

The album is apparently a concept album about a woman named Kezia who is to be executed by firing squad, but understanding the concept isn't too important for enjoying the album. This isn't quite a masterpiece, so I'll give it 4 stars instead. Some of the hooks and melodies give it a somewhat poppier edge, but it's still an enjoyable album. Fortress however tops this for me, and I except many great things in the future from this Canadian group. I'd recommend this to fans of technical/progressive metal that either don't mind or enjoy a mesh of hardcore punk and metalcore.

Report this review (#221635)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars After hearing Fortress I wanted to hear more from this exciting new band. Unfortunately after reading many Kezia-reviews I decided not to build on my original notion due to talks of punk sounding material and a couple of other minor issues. So why am I still writing about this album? Well apparently I still gave Kezia a go and here is the whole story:

It all started with the release of the new game in Apple's App Store called Tap Tap Revenge 2! The first game in the series was a Guitar Hero/Dance Dance Revolution type of game where the player had to press the right buttons to the rhythm of the music. I never cared much for the original game because of the boring music but this new game featured some original content. To my disbelief Tap Tap Revenge 2 had a total of four Protest The Hero tunes, two from each album, and so I was introduced to No Stars Over Bethlehem and Heretics & Killers! Out of these four tracks only Heretics & Killers had the medium setting while the others were only on hard and extreme modes which made them unplayable for a novice player like yours truly. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I challenged myself in order to beat Heretics & Killers with a 100% hit ratio which felt like an impossible achievement at first. Finally I did it and by that time I've developed truly a remarkable relation with that composition so I just had to listen to the rest of the material!

My original reaction upon hearing Kezia was quite mixed because although there were many things I liked there were also quite a few issues that made the release sound underdeveloped to my ears. The concept in particular was a major letdown and I just can't see the mature writing that some of the reviews were talking about. The music is good but I'm sure that it would have felt even better have I not been listening to Fortress which is still superior and most importantly a lot more mature in comparison! The members fall easily into patterns that sound too much like tributes to other bands than a coherent original piece of work. Do I even need to talk about the production?

Well that's enough of me babbling, Kezia is a good but non-essential release.

***** star songs: Heretics & Killers (3:09)

**** star songs: No Stars Over Bethlehem (3:48) Divinity Within (4:32) Bury The Hatchet (3:23) Blindfolds Aside (5:58) Turn the Soonest To The Sea (6:21) The Divine Suicide Of K. (5:10) A Plateful Of Our Dead (4:29)

*** star songs: Nautical (2:57) She Who Mars The Skin Of Gods (3:51)

Report this review (#263175)
Posted Thursday, January 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Protest The Hero or Power Rangers Metal as I like to call them.

Yea, when Sikth disbanded (one of the first bands I had ever liked, I mourn their death everyday by the way), there was no math core bands that could even fit their lovely crazy shoes, until Canada started to make some of the weirdest music ever.

Yes this band is the new Sikth, and to be honest they deserve it. I am also not saying their identical, they are very different, but there similar take and abilities match.

This album, although quite raw, is still an amazing release and really shows off math core as a dominant genre.

With some even Progressive Metal like influences, this album really rules the roost, with technical ability being a major factor. The only problem I had with this album is that some of the changes were quite random and there was a lack of structure and song, making some of the songs quite samey. But as a whole it is an amazing experience.

This album is also a concept album as well, telling the story of a prison guard, a priest and a girl on death row. The concept is quite ambiguous (and maybe it's supposed to be), but Rody's use of language is quite amazing and very poetic.

1. No Stars Over Bethlehem - A whole dose of epic mixed with crazy. What a way to start an album.

2. Heretics & Killers - In my opinion one of the best songs ever made (yes, it is that good). The lyrics are amazing, mixing crude religious imagery with a more morbid sense. The video is also amazing, with the flying monkey men.

3. Divinity Within - The chorus is amazing. The build up at the end is very beautiful.

4. Bury The Hatchet - Love the piano intro. I'm not a big fan of the hardcore like vocals, but putting it context wise I understand it.

5. Nautical - I love the polyrhythms. Very frantic.

6. Blindfolds Aside - More frantic than a bag of OD'd cats. The Queen like vocal hooks are amazing.

7. She Who Mars The Skin Of Gods - Amazing title for a song. I love the layered vocals and the satirical lyrics.

8. Turn Soonest To The Sea - The pop culture references are very amusing. The end is also very epic and cool.

9. The Divine Suicide Of K. - Very epic at parts. The frantic parts are also amazing and the build ups in the song are amazing. Very vivid lyrics, very picturesque and morbid. I love the ending as well.

10. A Plateful Of Our Dead - What a way to end the album. Rody's vocals are amazing.

CONCLUSION: I don't think that it is as good as Fortress, and the structure's are quite random at times, but all in all, it is an amazing album. If you haven't heard this band, then you need to very quickly.

Report this review (#277737)
Posted Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Many things have been said and written about Canada and how unusual, crazy or divergent canadian bands are, not only in prog. I have to admit I agree with that, and I don't mean anything bad about canadian bands. On the contray, if americans know how to rock, I sure believe that canadians know how to prog. Protest The Hero is a new band and their sound is exactly what could be called new. These guys (or should I say kids? They wrote this material when they were 17) have a very personal opinion on things and the audacity to present it without holding on to any "safe" forms and clichés.

"Kezia", the band's debut was released in 2005 and is a concept album about the execution of a woman (named Kezia). The three figures in the concept are the priest who presides over her execution, one of the prison guards who is to kill her, and Kezia herself. According to the band, each of the three characters represent an aspect of the band members themselves. The concept is quite simple, though it also incorporates many metaphorical references, especially political, which are presented in an apprehensive, rather than manifestation, manner.

Musically, Protest The Hero sound like a post-hardcore influenced prog metal band and I'd say that with one word they sound solid. The singing ability of Rody Walker is amazing. He sounds (and performs) like Cedric Bixler-Zavala-meets-Mike Patton, adding a really impressive brutal aspect. Probably the most characteristic thing in Protest The Hero (besides Walker's tonal acrobatics) is the intense guitar riffing and solos of Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin. Arif Mirabdolbaghi (what a bass player) and Moe Carlson comprise a terrific rhythm section. Such continuous change of rhythms is probably reminiscent of Mars Volta. The difference is that things are basically metal here.

Very close to being a masterpiece. Recommended to all prog metal fans who prefer Gentle Giant to Manowar.

Favourite tracks: "Heretics & Killers", "Blindfolds Aside", "Turn Soonest To The Sea".

Report this review (#301003)
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Kezia' - Protest The Hero (5/10)

Protest The Hero have not been a band I've been much endeared to lately. Although my first impression with their second album 'Fortress' initially struck a chord with me, it didn't take long before the music began to grow tiresome. Although their first record 'Kezia' is a step above 'Fortress' in terms of musicality and intelligence, the end result is the same; an adolescent romp through progressive territory that comes out feeling fairly lukewarm. Although there are certainly excellent things to hear on 'Kezia', I am left to wonder how much it is worth to sift through the weak parts to strike the gold.

In what is almost certainly a matter of personal taste, it is the voice of lead singer Rody Walker which may turn me off most to the music Protest The Hero plays on 'Kezia'. Although a strong range is evident here, the sound of Walker's voice amounts to little more than an adolescent yelp. Especially during his more technically expressive moments, Walker is quick to adopt a fairly whiny tinge in his voice that is no bit pleasant to the ears, and does little to distinguish Protest from the legions of angsty new metalcore bands. The band is clever enough to change pace now and then with some female vocals and screams, neither of which ever amount to anything much better, but still more tolerable than Rody's cleans.

Luckily, Rody Walker is the only sour aspect of the band's performance. Especially for their ages, the instrumentalists of the band are well advanced beyond their years, and this shows most profoundly in the guitar work of Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin. Having mastered modular riffing and tapping from this debut onward, it is their strong work that the rest of the band builds around, although the bass and drums do well to fill out the sound. To showcase these skills, each song on 'Kezia' is beautifully arranged, featuring multiple layers of guitars, plenty of different neat ideas here and there, and a tendency to throw light and heavier moments into the course of one song; something that hasn't seen so much success in metalcore.

Unfortunately, while the music is played with precision and everything conceivable is done to make the music complex and enjoyable, the songwriting generally lacks depth and comes across as shallow, especially after a handful of listens. While Protest The Hero has invested all of their efforts into giving as much flash as possible with 'Kezia', there is no suggestion to me that there is anything worth going back for after becoming familiar with the flashy riffs and technical showcases. With that in mind, the album grows weaker with each subsequent listen, although I'll be the first to admit that the initial force of the album is quite admirable.

'Kezia' has been lauded as a masterpiece by fans of the band, and in some parts of the record, I can certainly see why. However, although the band's technical skills as flaunted here to no end and the record has some decent initial shock value, Protest The Hero have some serious issues with their craft to change or fix before I could ever call myself a fan of them.

Report this review (#432481)
Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars PROTEST THE HERO originally had the name of Happy Go Lucky and i have to say it was a good move to make the ole switcheroonie cuz that is one totally UN-metal name if i've ever heard one. They hail from Ontario, Canada and after releasing one EP in 2002, they released their first full debut album KEZIA on August 2005 in their native Canada and in April 2006 in the US. I have no idea when for other countries. KEZIA is a nebulous concept album that vocalist Rody Walker describes as having a subtle deeper meaning below the theme of an execution of a woman named KEZIA. The overall concept symbolizes the ever quickening decline of society in general described through the life of KEZIA in prison and how she copes with day to day life until her final demise.

Personally i don't care about this concept. This is metalcore and i can't understand the lyrics anyway, but for those who do care about these things, it is a nice story that weaves around the brutal metal music with progressive layerings. If you ask me the music of PROTEST THE HERO is a hybrid of The Mars Volta and Between The Buried And Me. The Volta comparisons hold true on a few levels. Firstly Rody Walker's high pitched range and vocal style really sounds a lot like Cedric Bixler-Zavala's. I had to check the first time hearing this to make sure this wasn't another project of Cedric. Secondly, the song structures remind me a lot of The Mars Volta's as well, at least their most rocking parts. The intermissions have similarities as well but PROTEST doesn't go fully into psychedelic Krautrock tangents. There are similar guitar tones, vocal styles etc.

On the Buried And Me side of the equation, the metalcore is crisp and staccato with progressive intros and outros and odd time signatures that are abundant and this really has a lot in common. If you ever wondered what The Mars Volta would sound like if they truly ventured into brutal metal with lightning fast guitar riffs that drift from chaotic Psyopus type dissonance to melodic neoclassical shredding with pummeling riffs and percussion while dropping a big chunk of the Latin and psychedelic influences, then you don't have to go to an alternate universe to find out, it can be found in this one and PROTEST THE HERO sounds just like that to me. I don't find this band to be as adventurous as say "Colors" by Between The Buried In Me which leaves no rock unturned for influences, but this album finds a lot of sounds to incorporate into the melodic metalcore to dish out. While metalcore isn't usually the sub genre of metal i mostly gravitate towards, i do find some of the progressive types very satisfying and this one has earned some staying power in my world. It is an album that delivers in being extremely brutal, soft and sensual and above all maintains melodic developments throughout its run.

Report this review (#1423334)
Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2015 | Review Permalink

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