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My brother introduced me to this band a while ago and this album in particular. True to my role as big brother I said 'that's nice dude' and listened to one track which was pretty good and never bothered with it. I was bored yesterday and wanted something different and remembered the track and thought I'd give the album another shot while I was walking home from work. I learned two things: to listen to my brother more and that this album is a blinder!
Although I'll admit there's a lot of technical metal around, I'd say that protest the hero stand out with their own sound. It takes a couple of listens to really understand what's going on but this isn't a bad thing. First time around you'll be in awe of the complex time signatures, awesome riffs and blend of harsh and soft vocals but you won't know what's really happening. It's an experience well worth having. The second time around, something magical happens and you will find that you remember that awesome bit of the song and take note of the track name. You'll bang your head to the familiar break down and you'll be tempted to sing along when you remember you don't actually know what is being said and you can't sing that high anyway. Stick to humming!
It's difficult for me to point out my highlights because there's a lot going on in each track and they aren't traditionally composed of verse -chorus -verse -bridge -solo-chorus. They're strange songs which fit with the technical nature of the band. I just know that in the song 'Heretics and Killers' on the line "Crucified that night" I get a shiver of awesomeness and that other will too. The great thing on this album is that different parts of different songs will stand out to different people. If you love metal then there is something here for you. Oh and if you're a purist DO NOT let his high voice put you off, it isn't emo. He sounds more power metal in parts actually if you listen.
As usual with albums like these, you should avoid it if you hate metal. Prog rock fans may like the album for it's technical brilliance and impressive musicianship but it's likely that it'll be a distant appreciation rather than a pleasant listening experience.
If you're discovering the band for the first time I'd say go for this album as earlier offerings are more of a self discovery for the band and allowed them to perfect their sound for this album. After this album check out Fortress because it's also awesome, I'm still discovering new things about both albums that I love. Hopefully as I write more of these, dooyooers will start to understand my taste in music and go by that. Until then I'll say this album is for fans of metal and maybe prog rock but it will sound like a noise to those unfamiliar with the genre.
Thanks for reading :)
All lot of things are common to every song on the album, so I'll talk about them here, then go into details on each song.
Guitars - Pure excellence. Brilliant solos and riffs, and there's often some dual guitar riffs going on, which sound extremely cool.
Bass - I personally have trouble picking out the bass guitar in a song, so I don't really know if it's amazing of just alright. Either way, it didn't go wrong at all, because I would have heard that.
Drums - Typical metal drums, but often decorated with complex rhythms, showing the technical side of Protest the Hero. I also think some of the songs are in unusual time signatures, so it's good that the drummer is flexible like that.
Vocals - The lead singer's voice takes a little while to get used to and perhaps isn't what you would expect, but after a while it doesn't make a difference anymore. Backing vocals are also done well and are effectively placed.
Now my impressions of each individual song:
No Stars Over Bethlehem
Brilliant opener to the album! Perfectly done so that any old metal fan would appreciate it, while still showing off their technical side that gives them the label of "mathcore". All the instruments are typical.
Heretics & Killers
Alternately soft and heavy. There are a few bars of just the singer and a clean guitar (or maybe even acoustic? I can't tell) and then a bit of heavy stuff again! The song proves that Protest the Hero can be diverse. Heretics & Killers might also appeal to listeners who don't like really heavy stuff, but then what are they doing listening to this album?
The beginning of this song is amazing, slowly rising guitars and an overall crescendo into the song. There's a repeated line in the backing vocals throughout the chorus, with an almost chant-like sound to it. Again, technical stuff going on here. But this is the first time in the album that I think the sound is actually dissonant, although that's only for a little bit in the middle. The end surprised me the first time - everything suddenly cuts off and along comes a piano solo.
Bury The Hatchet
From piano solo back to the heavy stuff. This song has a bit more of screaming vocals from the lead singer, alternated with clean vocals. Very technical music here, which would probably be surprising to anyone unfamiliar to the genre, perhaps even a bit unpleasant. I think this song in particular shows the ability of the lead singer and his flexibility.
More typical metal stuff at the very beginning, but they soon return to the tempo-changing, ridiculous solos and complex drumming that make them Protest the Hero. I particularly like the guitars in this song, the riffs and chords are great.
My personal favourite of the album and the song that got me into PTH. The chord progression throughout the song is just brilliant and the drums can't be beaten. The vocals from the lead singer are great, but not noticeably better than in any other song. The backing vocals here are worthy of mention, as they are placed extremely well and I think even subtly harmonise a bit sometimes. The guitar solo a couple of minutes into the song is amazing and is followed by an equally great section of tapping from two guitars. The lyrics to this song are also good ("a sin I didn't care for, but a sin that paid my debts, a sin that fed my children"). There is a random bit at the end where it goes acoustic and there's suddenly female vocals there. I don't think this was necessary, but it isn't enough to stop this being my favourite PTH song as the guitar work actually sounds quite nice, even if it's not a metaller's cup of tea..
She Who Mars The Skin Of Gods
I'm not really very fond of this song. It changes tempo just too much to get into and I don't really like all the sudden stops it has. I mean, the instruments and the vocals are all fine, I just don't like the song itself. But there is about 5 seconds or so that I like in the middle and the ending 45 seconds or so. Still, not enough to balance out the rest of the song though. But that's just my opinion, so you might love it all.
Turn Soonest To The Sea
Great dual guitar riffs/solos right from the beginning of the song. A lot of the vocals have backing vocals going at the same time or as a counter melody type thing, which works quite well, and emphasises the times that the lead singer sings alone. There's a breakdown half way through, and when I say breakdown I mean it, because everything stops save the vocals and bass. The rest of the song takes up more of a happy pop-ish melody, along with the kind of crowd singing effect that you get sometimes.
The Divine Suicide Of K
Back to the metal, technical music here. Some parts of the song aren't particularly to my tastes and are a bit too much on the mathcore side of things for me. The middle and end of the song is great though! Well placed backing vocals and effective female vocals, along with the expected brilliant guitars and excellent drums make this song my second favourite of my album.
A Plateful Of Our Dead
Final song of the album. This song had the best drum part of any song on the album in my opinion. The song itself is heavy and fast, with well placed stops and great riffs, then gets quite a bit softer and slower a little while into the song and then continues to switch back and forth, which actually works quite well in this itself, even though the same thing annoys me at other times. With about a minute and a half left, it changes to soft classical guitar music - dual guitar playing is still there, but it's all on classical guitars - a nice epilogue sort of thing to the album, but it serves no other purpose.
My view of the album as a whole:
Protest the Hero show their skill as instrumentalists/vocalists in each and every song of the album. However, after a while, the excessive guitar riffs and fast drumming can all sound a bit repetitive. In fact, the songs blur into one great mass of PTH in my mind. They need to mix it up a bit more, even though you can see their attempts at doing just that when it comes to sudden acoustic sections and the like. Anyway, Kezia could have been better if the songs were more varied, but PTH have managed to prove their potential.
All the same, Kezia = technical metal, so don't listen if you don't like!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 No Stars Over Bethlehem
2 Heretics And Killers
3 Divinity Within
4 Bury The Hatchet
6 Blindfolds Aside
7 She Who Mars The Skin Of Gods
8 Turn Soonest To The Sea
9 Divine Suicide Of K
10 Plateful Of Our Dead