Just a couple of days removed from the modern prog brilliance of Mastodon over at Academy One, it was time for some more of the same down in the club, only this time the intricately progressive music would be infused with a more than just a dash of hardcore frenetic aggression. When Protest the Hero played this town back in February we were blown away by the unique fusion of their sound, and we were entertained by the hilarious antics of front man Rody Walker too. When these guys come to town you know that you’re going to see a show like no other, and the excitement in the air was truly palpable.
(Interview with Rody Walker & original bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi at Protest The Hero’s Manchester performance in February 2014)
Woking quintet Palm Reader kicked things off immediately following the opening of doors so the venue filled up as they played. These guys were all chaotic aggression on stage, moving about quite freely for such a small space as they unleashed their brand of textbook hardcore metal. The bass work was especially crushing, thundering throughout the room in conjunction with the furiously screamed vocals of Josh McKeown. A fair few heads banged hard while just about everyone else nodded along appreciatively to what was a pretty solid start to the night.
The opportunity to savour in witnessing something fascinating and unique was not just a sensation reserved for the night’s headliners, for Indianapolis act the Contortionist proved to be one of the most delightfully different acts Manchester has seen all year. For the most part Mike Lessard’s vocal work was the polar opposite of that which had preceded him, melodic and beautiful as opposed to harshly screamed and growled. Having said that, every now and then he would go full hardcore with his singing just to throw a curve ball to the audience when they thought they’d figured out the band’s style. This endearingly interesting set was a master stroke of hybrid diversity, and it was a phenomenal pleasure to watch.
It seemed the Contortionist had been the perfect bridge between the straight up aggression of the night’s openers and the more ambient sound of main support the Safety Fire, drafted in as last minute replacements for the Faceless on this tour.
Despite a couple of bass issues resulting in some ridiculously loud vibrations drowning everything else out a couple of times these guys proved once again why they are consistently utilized on some of the more atmospheric tour bills. Singing along and banging their heads vociferously, the audience were into these guys all the way. The first pit of the night even broke out, well the first instance of a guy flailing his limbs about at least. Pimping the hastily printed tour t-shirts at the merch stand, the band left to tremendous applause.
With a cheeky grin on his face right from the start Rody Walker was on fine form throughout Protest the Hero’s set. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone provide such engaging and yet rambling banter as him, pontificating about a recent Southampton gig and not understanding where the word ‘south’ ends and ‘Hampton’ begins. He really may be the most fun man in all metal, you could tell he really wanted to chat with the crowd and the disappointment on his face when told by his bandmates that they were running short on time was adorable.
In terms of music this was once again an exceptional mix of intricacy and fury. ‘Clarity’ and the very popular ‘Hair-Trigger’ caused absolute anarchy on the floor, with surges and pits aplenty together with quite a few young rockers surfing over the heads of their fellow man. Rody was philosophical about the unique style Protest the Hero specialize in, humorously confiding in the crowd that the band just gives him the music and he sings over it. “I don’t pay attention to time signatures, whatever it is I’ll sing it in four four”, he exclaims.
Just as at Sonisphere I found myself wondering if the absence of original bassist Arif Mirabdolbaghi would affect the traditional shenanigans of a Protest the Hero show but the fun has most certainly not stopped. Live session bassist Cam McLellan filled in admirably and the absolute perfection of the brilliantly diverse sound has not suffered for the loss of one of the band’s founders. Once again the Canadian masters gave a performance that simply stood out, incomparable with anything else out there, and we loved every second of it.
Review: Michael Dodd
Photos: Craig Hutton
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