Protest the Hero

Scurrilous

01. C’est La Vie
02. Hair-Trigger
03. Tandem
04. Moonlight
05. Tapestry
06. Dunsel
07. The Reign of Unending Terror
08. Termites
09. Tongue-splitter
10. Sex Tapes

[03/22/11]
[Vagrant Records]

On the surface, Scurrilous sounds exactly like Protest the Hero; without mistake, the band made no major impact to their music since 2008’s Fortress. In fact, if you were to boil down their signature sound to a concentrated entity, this would definitely be it. Scurrilous is Protest the Hero’s third full-length album, and the boys are getting comfortable in finding their sound and hitting their stride as a band, having previously carved out a niche for themselves and found a dedicated fanbase. Unfortunately, Scurrilous feels like the band are starting to get a bit too comfortable.

Scurrilous is technically great, but it certainly marks what could very well turn into a decline in quality. The epic hooks and grand songwriting that the band are known for seem to be fewer and farther between this time around, which is a disappointment. Songs like “C’est La Vie,” “Dunsel,” and “Tapestry” do manage to bring this to the table, but the second half of the album dips a little in its memorability. Worth noting however, is the familiar voice in “Hair-Trigger” from Jadea Kelley, which some may remember as the voice of Kezia. This reunion provides one of the album’s many highlights.

The biggest issue is a glaring one; the lyrics are not nearly as profound as they used to be. Bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi gave Kezia and Fortress their concept and interesting plot with flourishes of fantasy and emotion. With Rody taking the pen for Scurrilous, they attempted to make an album more relatable. While a band can’t be expected to make nothing but concept records throughout their career, Scurrilous is somewhat lacking in lyrical impact because of this shift. There does seem to be a recurring theme though, as expected, as the album’s title implies and summed up in “C’est La Vie,” Scurrilous makes a statement on how people are too uptight and take life too seriously. Quite proper, coming from a band who has a known wild sense of humor. Coming off a fantasy story like Fortress, lyrics like, “all the editors are hard and all the journalists are wet, all the boys are jerking off in private on the internet,” (from “Sex Tapes”) is just baffling in comparison. It’s far too ironic to call them out on it though, considering the album’s theme. Honestly, it’s quite conflicting.

The album does deliver on an instrumental level, though. You can now breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone who has ever heard a Protest the Hero song will know the talent these guys have, and they certainly didn’t dumb down this aspect of the music. The guitar work is quite phenomenal as always, being technically proficient without turning the whole album into self-indulgent wank. There’s some interesting ideas going on, most memorably the use of bass harmonics in “Dunsel” and a bigger reliance on guitar lines as hooks, making up for lost vocal delivery.

Despite the harsh criticisms, Scurrilous is by no means a bad album. In fact, after repeated listens, the album is actually pretty damn good—but speaking as a Protest the Hero fan and knowing the level of quality that the band is capable of, Scurrilous is missing a bit of charm. It’s admittedly a bit unfair to hold Protest the Hero to some nearly impossible standard, and once it has had time to settle in, Scurrilous is a great album despite the shaky grounds that it’s standing on. Here’s hoping that we don’t start seeing a trend…

Protest the Hero – Scurrilous gets…

4/5