1 PROTEST THE HERO * FORTRESS (Vagrant)
I'm a surprising guy and, as such, I often surprise myself. Like when ranking 2008's Metal to find the three best records each belong to styles I don't really dig. (Today on HooM! It's out-of-mode lingo day!) My bag is neither Gojira's march-metal nor the kinda too intense BDM of Hate Eternal. One's too drony and serious while Brutal Death Metal doesn't exactly make gentle love to the ear. BDM kinda just rams it in, usually without so much as a handshake. So, in the end (sorry), my timid and endless love for Fury & Flames, like the subtle but unmistakable lust in the voice of Lacuna Coil's Cristina Sabbia as I interviewed her brains out on MetalSucks, was a pleasant surprise.
So talking about unexpected shit, we'd have to mention Protest The Hero, of Canada somewhere. I'd look it up but won't. Hearing Protest The Hero for the first time in 2008 for me was like Mom showing up at school, my forgotten lunch in hand. At first I'm like I told you to never call me here! but on the other hand CHEETOS! I'd prefer to look at that lunch as payment, her gift to the village elder in exchange for safe passage through the forbidden zone where parents were intensely unwelcome and powerless. As if at any moment, I would shriek at her No, lady, don't take me for a ride in your nearly-windowless van again! and an angry mob would throw her down a well. In a way, the melodies of Protest The Hero's Fortress are the Cheetos, my mom is five beardos from Canada, and the well is Heavy Metal Prison. I think I fucked up that analogy.
Singer Rody Walker is a heavyweight, no bullshit, but he's what we call 'hard to hear.' Too many polysyllables, too obsure, too much background noise. I am able to sing the words to no more than 4-6 complete lines. Like Big Drill Car's -Type Thing and At The Drive-In's Relationship Of Command, Fortress is sung in gibberish, phonics. Fans like me sound all flobbered on lithium when singing along. It's frustrating, especially since the production is so clinically white. No smudges. Everything locked down. These detail-obsessed prog spazzes, my stars.
The irony is that the ultra-perfect sonics are Fortress'sess only real flaw. It's easy to overlook Walker's fondness for whimpering really melodramatically like a post-Bjork Geoff Tate cuz he's awesome. Plus while his peers do nothing but, Walker won't sing hate songs to girlfriends or strength anthems for the bros. Also forgivable are the guitar players' questionable decisions re: 144 straight measures of two-hand tapping. They wave their wieners a lot, a compulsion as distracting as it is gross. Yet these are all so-called 'good problems.'
A great problem is that these hooks are so heavy and effecting that they really THUNDER. But, it's all one-night stands cuz Walker doesn't reprise anything; I'm struggling to word this correctly, but I mean he occasionally repeats lines but never non-consecutively. Some parts consist of the same line more than once, but rarely is any verse or chorus revisited. So to get my fix of the super-hooks, I was forced to spend a lot of time with the more elusive moments. Before long, Fortress had developed in me an irksome habit of lunging at the volume knob before awesome parts, and therefore is the direct cause of lots of kicked-over drinks and startled company. That doesn't sound right. I would never have people over to listen to emo-prog.