Protest The Hero – Palimpsest (Album Review)

Back with their first new material in four years, Protest The Hero are set to drop the highly-anticipated Palimpsest on Thursday, June 18, 2020 via Spinefarm Records.

Canadian Progressive Metal outfit Protest the Hero (PTH) originally formed in Whitby, Ontario in 1999. After a name change in 2002, the cogs began to turn swiftly for the band, who released their debut album, Kezia, in 2005. Amid line-up changes, they managed to deliver three additional albums over the next eight years—2008’s Fortress, 2011’s Scurrilous, 2013’s Volition—all while touring the world alongside the truly diverse likes of Killswitch Engage, Trivium, August Burns Red, Anti-Flag, and many, many more.

And while it has been a while since we last heard from Protest The Hero—Vocalist Rody Walker, Guitarists Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar, and Drummer Mike Ieradi—they are now poised to return with their fifth full-length, Palimpsest. Produced by Derya “Dez” Nagle (formerly of The Safety Fire), the 13-track (well, 10 tracks and 3 instrumental interludes) is a testament to the band’s perfectionist ideals.

Palimpsest kicks off to Ieradi’s percussion as “The Migrant Mother” charges full speed into Walker’s easily recognizable vocals, with Hoskin and Millar’s guitars swirling into a groove that blasts throughout the core of the track. Next, the guitars duel to introduce “The Canary” before the entire band ascends into an homage to the dogged determination of pioneering aviation legend Amelia Earheart, whose yellow bi-plane lends the song its title. Protest The Hero’s technical proficiency is on full blast here, although some fans might be rubbed the wrong way by the lyrics: “Women must pay for everything / They do get more glory than men for comparable tasks / But they also get more notoriety when they crash.

Clearly chaotic perfection is the thread that binds Palimpsest together, and that is no different on “From The Sky.” But when the track suddenly shifts gears into an intimate languidness that sees Walker providing a whisper-soft vocal, it highlights the diversity of the frontman, along with his bandmates, providing a stellar moment within an already great track. Meanwhile, beautifully emotive piano opens the instrumental interlude “Harborside,” which then moves into sweeping, cinematic string orchestration before being obliterated by the tenacious melodies of the collection’s catchiest rocker, “All Hands.”

But it’s full steam ahead for the wild and frenzied moments of “The Fireside,” an intense socio-political commentary. This continues into “Soliloquy” as the guitars play a ferocious game of hide and seek as the song reincarnates itself repeatedly. An epic example of Protest The Hero’s abilities, it segues without stopping into “Reverie,” where nothing is held back. Amid the sonic pandemonium, there’s a look at assumptions, truth, freedom, and the American dream, all with slight religious connotations that echo back to its predecessor.

At this point it becomes quite obvious that the band put a lot of thought into the arrangement of each individual track, as the album has an exceptional flow. That said, Walker soars amid the feral guitars of the melodic “Little Snakes,” heavy on its look at the corruption of those in positions of great power. Then, like a delicate, plastic ballerina spinning inside a music box, instrumental “Mountainside” pirouettes on its toes before they blast back to haywire insanity for the raging “Gardenias.”

At just under a minute, the beautiful piano work of instrumental “Hillside” paves the way to the album’s grand finale, “Rivet.” Here, opening with an infectious melody, the track travels through a live wire of frustration with our nation, offering a turbulence that somehow manages to arrive at something that sends the album off on a triumphant high—at least musically. Lyrically, well, that’s another story.

Perhaps America is the palimpsest of which Protest The Hero refers to on their fifth LP: built on a foundation that has now been effaced and shoved aside to make room for “Little Snakes” to wage their wars. Thus, it goes without saying that Palimpsest is a politically-charged collection that does not self-censor as it offers mesmerizing guitars, steady rhythms, and Walker’s unique vocal performance. All of this comes together in an intelligently skilled album that seeks to inspire listeners to rage against the machine. For providing the fuel to keep that fire burning in the name of revolution, Cryptic Rock gives Palimpsest 4 of 5 stars.

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