Some bands write music to score chicks, others for the hope of stardom and a few even do it because they love to play. But Whitby, Ontario, quintet Protest the Hero have an altogether different reason for rocking out.
"We all just get bored really easily, so we're always trying to do something that will keep our interest," singer Rody Walker said. "When we write a record, we want something that will still keep our attention a couple years down the line, but it never works."
Protest the Hero's new album, Tuesday's Fortress, should retain the interest of Walker and his bandmates — guitarists Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin, bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi and drummer Moe Carlson — for quite a while. The songs are rhythmically complex, technically proficient, fiercely metallic and strikingly melodic, sounding a bit like a hybrid of Coheed and Cambria, Slayer and the Dillinger Escape Plan. Songs like "Bloodmeat," "Limb From Limb" and "Bone Marrow" swerve through a barbed-wire obstacle course of epileptic beats, serrated riffs and constantly changing rhythms that make the challenging compositions on their 2006 full-length debut, Kezia, sound like Kiss songs. Of course, that was exactly the point.
"Right now, I don't ever want to play those songs on Kezia again," Walker said. "I'm so sick of them, and I know we're going to have to [play them] when we tour. We hate being labeled, but if we have to be called something, I think 'ADD metal' applies."
The band started writing Fortress in January 2007 at its rehearsal space, and although the material was far from simplistic, the process was productive. First, the group assembled a wide array of jigsaw-puzzle beats and riffs into coherent structures, and after that, Walker decided where to scream in the songs and where to sing.
"In the beginning, it was a rather daunting task to sit down at my computer and have to write vocals over this progressive gobbledygook," the singer said. "But once I got on a roll, it was pretty easy. If you have a grasp of melody, and you understand how chords will fit together and how vocals will sound overtop, it's not so hard. I just listened to each song a million times on a CD, and I figured out what to do over it."
Protest the Hero entered the studio with producer Julius "Juice" Butty, who worked with the band on Kezia, in mid-June and spent about a month layering dozens of tracks. Then Butty worked closely with Walker to get the best performances out of him.
While Walker sang his melodies in the studio, he created them with Mirabdolbaghi's lyrics, just as he did with Kezia. Back in 1999, when Protest the Hero formed, Walker used to write his own songs, but when the bassist brought some ideas to an early jam session, everyone was blown away.
"Arif is just so talented," Walker explained. "He's a literature master. When he was 17, he went to a [Fyodor] Dostoevsky symposium in Switzerland and was the youngest person to ever be invited to one of those. It's kind of funny. This time, Luke and I were like, 'Hey, man, can you write a party song about how we want to drink beers and f--- b----es?' And he came up with this really complex lyric for 'The Dissentience' ... that was all metaphorical. That was his idea of a party lyric."
It goes without saying, the songs on Fortress aren't about getting drunk or laid. The album is a loose concept record divided into two parts: "On Conquest and Capture" and "Isosceles." And while there isn't a narrative arc to the whole thing, the album explores various lofty themes.
"It's really a look at past, present and future, through the battles that have been fought and are being fought and supposedly will be fought," Walker said. "It goes through Genghis Khan and Flidais, which is from Irish mythology. A lot of the themes are centered around goddess worship because these days people seem to only want to be worshipping Allah and Jesus Christ and all these strange male figures. And in the past we used to very much worship female figures. So it's very much about bringing back the femininity to God."
Of course, as with Coheed and Cambria, if you're not feeling too geeky and you just wanna rock out, you can ignore all the profundity and simply bang your head — providing you can keep up with the beat.
"Some of the stuff can be deep, but I really think we're a party band," Walker insisted.
The rest of the week's metal news:
Children of Bodom have wrapped the recording of their forthcoming album, Blooddrunk, which is slated for an April 15 release. The disc will feature nine songs, including "Hellhounds on My Trail," "Smile Pretty for the Devil" and "Banned From Heaven." ... The rumors are flying about this summer's Rockstar Mayhem Tour, Warped Tour mastermind Kevin Lyman's answer to Ozzfest. While Disturbed and Slipknot will anchor the bill, Metal File is hearing that Sevendust, Mastodon and DragonForce could be added to the lineup soon, along with previously rumored performers Five Finger Death Punch, Suicide Silence and Walls of Jericho. None of this has been confirmed yet, but we'll keep you posted. ... The Dillinger Escape Plan went unplugged recently, performing an acoustic version of "Horse Hunter," complete with its cameo from Mastodon's Brent Hinds. According to a post on the band's MySpace apge, "[We] don't know what's better about it, the fact that it's the first time we've played that song in any capacity, or the fact that half of his face is covered in tattoos at this point." ...
Nate Johnson has left South Carolina death-metallers Through the Eyes of the Dead, freeing him up to join the ranks of Since the Flood. According to a statement from the singer, he quit because "it just wasn't my thing. Yes, I am a big fan of death metal, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to be in [the band]." He added that he just lost interest. Through the Eyes of the Dead are now looking for a new frontman. ... ->
Through the Eyes of the Dead have a new frontman and drummer after the respective departures of Nate Johnson and Josh Kulick. "We are excited to announce that Lech, formerly of As Blood Runs Black, will be handling drums for us on the upcoming tour," the South Carolina death-metallers said in a statement. "He's a monster behind the kit and has proven to us to be the right fit for our style. And stepping into the vocal spot is Lou Tanius, who has previously put time in with On Paths of Torment and Invocation of Nehek." Now that he's freed up, Johnson has joined the ranks of Since the Flood. According to a statement from the singer, he quit TTEOTD because "it just wasn't my thing. Yes, I am a big fan of death metal, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to be in [the band]." He added that he just lost interest. The Scum of the Earth Tour featuring TTEOTD, Throwdown, Soilwork and War of Ages starts February 29 in Pomona, California, and ends April 3 in Las Vegas. ...
Finnish metallers Kalmah have been hammering away on their next record since October, and the yet-untitled album will surface in stores in early April. ... Meanwhile, fellow countrymen Dead Shape Figure have signed with Season of Mist, which will release the thrash act's debut album, The Grand Karoshi, in the spring. ... Canadian metallers Into Eternity continue to write material for their next record. According to a statement from guitarist Tim Roth, "the new songs are sounding really good and really heavy." The band hopes to start tracking the songs next month, and the record could be finished in time for a late 2008 release. ...
First Blood are hard at work on their next LP, which they've christened Silence Is Betrayal. The record should see the light of day in the summer. Frontman Carl Schwartz said the band has had more than two years to get roundly peeved, and that's reflected in the songs. "This upcoming album will be nothing short of brutal — and quite possibly the most critical, condemning, and controversial material we will ever release," he said in a statement. ... How's this for a lineup? The Devil Wears Prada, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Gwen Stacy and Whitechapel will hit the road together in the spring for a string of U.S. dates. The trek gets under way April 25 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is scheduled to run through May 13 in Dayton, Ohio. ...
Zimmers Hole, which features Strapping Young Lad guitarist Jed Simon, bassist Byron Stroud and drummer Gene Hoglan, will release their forthcoming album, When You Were Shouting at the Devil ... We Were in League With Satan, March 11. The disc will boast 11 cuts, including "We Rule the F---ing Land," "Anonymous Esophagus" and "Hair Doesn't Grow on Steel." ... German death-metal outfit Fragments of Unbecoming will release their next record, which carries the working title Everhaunting Past Chapter IV - A Splendid Retrospection, before year's end. Expect the effort to feature eight tracks, including "It's Me, the Grotesque," "A Voice Says: 'Destroy!' " and "Shipwrecked in the Yesteryears."
[This story was originally published at 8:00 am E.T. on 01.25.2008]