Protest The Hero are making their mark on the hard rock, hardcore, heavy metal and post-whatever scenes, thanks to the progressive, metallic, and so-far-left-of-centerthat-it-hangs-out-at-dangerously-close-to-the-warning-track music on their latest album, Fortress.
PTH formed seven years ago in their hometown of Whitby, Ontario, when they were just 14-years old. They spent weekends, holiday breaks and summers on the road and on the very same day they graduated from high school – began a headlining tour of their home turf. While spending their formative years in a van playing shows, they also released an indie EP called A Calculated Use Of Sound, which was followed by their 2005 debut, Kezia, which wowed critics and introduced fans to the band’s maturebeyond-their-years technical skills, passionate delivery, and outspoken nature. All of this activity culminates in the fiery metallic furnace that is Fortress, the band’s second effort for Vagrant Records (1/29/08).
Fortress isn’t so much an album, as it is a symphony with many parts and movements that flow into one another, making it both a cohesive unit and a collection of songs that can be listened to in a group or as individuals. While Fortress doesn’t follow the rigid concept of 2005’s Kezia, it’s still thematic. It’s broken up into 3 song-movements, 2 of which are titled “On Conquest And Capture” and “Isosceles.”
PTH, whose lineup includes vocalist Rody Walker, bassist /vocalist/lyricist Arif Mirabdolbaghi, vocalist/guitarist Tim Millar, guitarist/pianist Luke Hoskin, and drummer Moe Carlson, see music as a culture-shaping vessel. “We broke [the record] up into movements, since lots of records these days are song, song, song, song,” reveals Walker.
“We don’t want every song to be separate with no relation. This is an attempt to push the art form a little, to make it creative, and to make the songs work together. It’s all about cohesion and amalgamation of songs.”
PTH strives to make their music an experience for all your senses, and Fortress is an album that begs to be listened to on headphones, with the listener immersing themself into the sounds, the lyrics, the words, the concepts, and the vibe.
So, we know that Fortress will stimulate the brain. But what about the music? Never fear. It stimulates the body to rock the fuck out, as well. “It’s definitely rooted in metal, but it has progressive and punk elements because we grew up on So Cal punk like NoFX,” Walker admits. “It does have that punk ‘feel’ to it at times, and it’s rooted in metal. But we don’t consider ourselves prog, metal, or techno.”
Mirabdolbaghi contends that PTH’s music will inflict a permanent scar on your brain through the subtle melodies and the turbocharged riffery. “It’s riff-oriented music. The riffs and the melodies are most important. There is noodling and wanking on the guitar, but we pander to the melody and make that the master of the situation, which makes us more successful songwriters. We’re not dudes that just want to shred,” Mirabdolbaghi says. He contends that PTH aren’t all flash, but substance, finishing, “There is intelligent riff work in the music that pushes the song in a direction, not riff for the sake of riffing, there is a point.”
Fortress is conceptually a bit looser than Kezia, something the band did intentionally. “Some people got too nerdy, and would meet us at shows with printouts of the lyrics, and ask us to analyze segments of the concept. We’d like people to soak in the music without over analyzing,” Walker, who started out playing trombone for moving to vocals, says about why the band chose to simplify things a bit, even though in PTH’s world, everything is complex. The singer finishes, saying, “Fortress is not story-based at all. It’s ideas that relate to one another through ancient tellings. It’s history, present times, and a prediction of the future without getting too cheesy, but it’s still cheesy.”
Essentially, PTH didn’t want to get caught up in the concepts outliving the band; these guys would rather die in a fiery blaze. Mirabdolbaghi concurs, saying, “We were tiring of answering questions about Kezia, which was about a woman on death row for ambiguous reasons.”
Mirabdolbaghi, who writes all of PTH’s lyrics, sheds a little light on Fortress, which deals with the refeminization of deities, saying, “It has to do with Goddess Worship, and how there has been this degendering of the Lord and Savior, and the suppressed feminine.” He continues, “A lot of it is based in Genghis Khan and old Irish Mythology, about the rise and fall of the Goddess of the forest. [The theme] can be more appreciated by more people. If I had to reduce it to its simplest form, the concept is about the re-emerging of goddess worship and the erosion of faith in scientific process.”
The fact that Mirabdolbaghi writes the lyrics while Walker sings them isn’t a point of contention or conflict, either. “We discuss it throughout the band, so there is a general idea of what direction we want to go. They’re not my words, but they’re somewhat my thoughts,” says Walker. PTH view themselves with a cynical eye, with Walker saying, “We’re not trying to change the world. We’re just trying to make music for people who want to hear it.”
Ultimately, the members of PTH want to take their band as far as they can, and they have no delusions of grandeur nor do they harbor throwin’-a-TV-out-a-hotel-room-window rock star fantasies. And it’s that refreshing, unjaundiced look at music that will help take them take the band wherever they want it to go.
“We tour our faces off, and we throw the shit at the wall and hope it sticks,” Walker says without hesitation. “We don’t care about the status quo and the paradigms. We don’t make cash and we don’t care for cash. People like ourselves are no better than people watching the music. We’re the same.”
“At the end of the day, we’re all dumbassess,” says Walker. “We’re complete morons. We might be avid readers, but we have no post-secondary education. We’re all high school graduates, and when this band ends, you will find us working at McDonalds.”
It’s that attitude, combined with smart yet heavier-than-granite music, which puts Protest The Hero miles ahead of their peers and the pack with Fortress.