Protest The Hero - Palimpsest review




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Reviewer:
8.3

53 users:
7.70
Band: Protest The Hero
Album: Palimpsest
Release date: June 2020


01. The Migrant Mother
02. The Canary
03. From The Sky
04. Harborside
05. All Hands
06. The Fireside
07. Soliloquy
08. Reverie
09. Little Snakes
10. Mountainside
11. Gardenias
12. Hillside
13. Rivet


Blowing his voice out isn't enough to stop Rody Walker.

Protest The Hero's Fortress 10-year anniversary tour was curtailed in 2018 by frontman Walker seriously damaging his voice. Given the prominent role his distinctive high-pitched vocals played in the success of the band, this development was of serious concern to fans. It also delayed the recording of the band's fifth full-length record, which has finally arrived a whole seven years after Volition dropped. However, now that Palimpsest is here, those concerned fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as Walker's recovery has clearly been successful.

Rody's voice has always had its detractors, just like many other frontmen in modern prog groups with similarly high-pitched vocals (see Spencer Sotelo from Periphery for another divisive example), and those that weren't on board before won't be swayed now, as his singing tone has come through the ordeal of recuperation relatively unscathed. It's noticeable if you pay close attention that there have been certain changes in approach, but there's nothing that really sticks out or distracts, at least to me. This also extends to his harsh vocals; the album is predominantly sung cleanly, but the growls on "Soliloquy" and screams on "Little Snakes" don't show any signs of deterioration. Furthermore, in addition to the singing and screams living up to expectations, there's a couple of impressive curve balls thrown by Walker; most notable is the rapid-fire delivery in "The Fireside", a breathtaking burst of vitriol that I'm sure will make live performances of the song a fun challenge.

So, good news, things are fine on the vocal front. Things are also fine on the instrumental front; there's plenty of the dizzyingly technical guitar work that Protest The Hero are renowned for on Palimpsest, and Mike Ieradi makes a strong statement of intent on his first full-length outing with the group. The instrumentation here is clearly recognizable as the same band that produced the likes of Volition and Pacific Myth, particularly on "From The Sky", which leans into a lot of what was heard on Pacific Myth and especially the track "Cold Water". However, this album is also rather distinctive in sound; this time around, the band's punk influences feel far more prominent than they have been since their pre-Kezia EPs, particularly thanks to the percussion. These influences have come through on songs on previous records, such as "Drumhead Trial" or "Tidal", but not to the extent that they dominate large sections of Palimpsest. The other major element that immediately stands out on the record is the far more prominent use of strings/synths; these have popped up before on "Mist" and most notably "Caravan", but the band really went all in on them this time around. I'm not sure how much of these are live strings and how much of it is electronic (Milen Petzelt-Sorace is credited with 'orchestral arrangement/production'), but either way, it's an intriguing new element for a band that I'd never really thought of as crying out for a turn towards the symphonic.

On the surface, then, things are sounding pretty great. But does the actual music live up to expectations? Those who for some reason pay attention to my reviews may remember my comments on Sylosis's record back in February, an excitement about a long-awaited return from one of my favourite bands tempered with a slight hesitation towards the contents of the record compared with past efforts. Protest The Hero hold a similar place in my heart to Sylosis, and my feelings towards Palimpsest are somewhat comparable to Cycle Of Suffering, in so much that I generally feel very positive towards the album, but with a degree of reservation that I haven't felt with previous efforts from the group.

For the positives; the great musicianship I covered leads to some fantastic songs here. After about a dozen listens, there's 3 songs in particular that have stood out. "From The Sky", as mentioned before, has some overlap in sound with parts of Pacific Myth, but manages to easily rise above any risk of being stuck in that EP's shadow with a stunningly rousing climax during which the strings really shine, and this climax may well be the pinnacle of Palimpsest. It is challenged for that title by the similarly memorable closing minutes of "The Fireside", which jumps from one great passage to another (including the aforementioned machine-gun rants) to reach a fist-pumping finale. The last highlight is closing track "Rivet", which borrows lyrics from the Depression-era song "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" and marries them to some irresistible vocal melodies, as well as interesting interplay between the guitars and strings. There's several other great songs in the tracklist, but these trio are the clear highlights of Palimpsest in my opinion.

With all of this said, why am I not 'all in' on Palimpsest? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. However, I think one of the issues I had with Cycle Of Suffering carries over to here; the material seems to lack a bit of variety. Between the punk beats, strings and everything else, Palimpsest kinda blends together as it runs on, and this isn't helped by ("Rivet" aside) the most memorable tracks occupying the first half of the record. Despite their merits, I can't see any of the stretch of songs between "Soliloquy" and "Gardenias" getting much airtime from me outside of full album playthrough, particularly as several moments in these tracks have a tendency to grate rather than excite.

The one other thing that's perhaps worth mentioning is the lyrical side of Palimpsest. I'm not normally someone that focuses on lyrics; however, Protest The Hero have always been noteworthy to me on that front (I still don't understand how Arif Mirabdolbaghi came up with the lyrics for Kezia and Fortress at such a young age). Since Rody Walker took over lyrics duties after Arif left the band, they've become far more literal, and whilst for the most part I've enjoyed them, sometimes the bluntness of them does make me wish some of Arif's sense of poetry was still left. Additionally, I mentioned earlier that "Rivet" shares lyrics with a Depression-era song; well, the album as a whole involves retellings of events from this time from a modern perspective, such as the Hindenburg disaster ("From The Sky"), the Fireside chats of FDR ("The Fireside"), the story of Amelia Earhart ("The Canary") and more. Whilst I share a lot of sentiments voiced by Protest The Hero on this and previous records, I feel like there's quite limited scope for connecting with songs about the Dillinger gang (of which there are two on Palimpsest) or a 1930s actress compared with more recent history (such as the Steubenville rape case on "Plato's Tripartite") or fictional concepts such as Kezia, particularly as the vast majority of non-Americans are likely unfamiliar with most American history from the 1930s.

When I compare Palimpsest to the Protest The Hero discography (or at least that from Kezia onwards), it does fall towards the bottom end of the rankings; however, this is more a reflection of how strong I've found their work to be up to this point, and how much that causes small issues to stand out more. Putting aside minor complaints regarding lyrics, variety and a couple of underwhelming songs, Palimpsest is still a really solid record, and it's great to hear Protest The Hero putting out new music again, and Rody Walker sounding so good on it.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8


 



Written on 21.06.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 13   Visited by: 126 users
21.06.2020 - 18:30
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Not that big of a Protest The Hero fan, but this is such a fun album, and the vocals probably play the biggest part in that.

Also Jesus Christ that's a long ass review
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




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21.06.2020 - 19:06
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 21.06.2020 at 18:30


Also Jesus Christ that's a long ass review


Yeah it just kept fucking going
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21.06.2020 - 20:10
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 21.06.2020 at 19:06

Written by RaduP on 21.06.2020 at 18:30


Also Jesus Christ that's a long ass review


Yeah it just kept fucking going


I have counted. 1241 words.
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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21.06.2020 - 20:29
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 21.06.2020 at 20:10



I have counted. 1241 words.

I hope that involved copying and pasting into word and using the word count, rather than counting each word, cos if it's the latter, there's something wrong with you.
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21.06.2020 - 20:35
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 21.06.2020 at 20:29

I hope that involved copying and pasting into word and using the word count, rather than counting each word, cos if it's the latter, there's something wrong with you.

Obviously I used the first method. Why would you think I would use the second?
*throws away paper with crossed lines*
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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21.06.2020 - 22:21
Cynic Metalhead
Atrocious Virgin
Written by RaduP on 21.06.2020 at 18:30


Also Jesus Christ that's a long ass review


musclassia becoming our new R'Vannith
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22.06.2020 - 11:21
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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22.06.2020 - 11:30
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 22.06.2020 at 11:21




Isn't there some rule about not posting only a picture without accompanying text?
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22.06.2020 - 11:40
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by musclassia on 22.06.2020 at 11:30

Isn't there some rule about not posting only a picture without accompanying text?

Isn't there some rule about not going over 500 words in a review unless absolutely necessary?
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
Loading...
22.06.2020 - 11:55
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 22.06.2020 at 11:40

Written by musclassia on 22.06.2020 at 11:30

Isn't there some rule about not posting only a picture without accompanying text?

Isn't there some rule about not going over 500 words in a review unless absolutely necessary?

Which would explain why your Bell Witch review clocks in at 1174 words, serial rulebreaker

Bake him away, toys
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22.06.2020 - 19:47
yahkob
Better than that shit new Lamb of God joint.. woid to the wise
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22.06.2020 - 20:05
musclassia
Written by yahkob on 22.06.2020 at 19:47

Better than that shit new Lamb of God joint.. woid to the wise


If you see my review of the new LoG album you'll see I firmly agree both albums dominated my Thursday->Sunday listening, but whilst the multiple replays of LoG's album grew tiring fast, I enjoyed each revisit to this one
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30.06.2020 - 15:45
Chumb
Fantastic album. After listening to it 3-4 times, I had the first Three songs as favourites. After Reading the review, I discovered the other songs. Now I just love the whole album. Nice review!
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