Protest the Hero takes stage at Cowboy's Ranch

Devil Wears Prada, illScarlett, Silverstein lend a hand

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Protest the Hero

Public Enemy is famous for coining the phrase “Don’t believe the hype” " a mantra applicable to a lot of up and coming indie bands. Rarely do these bands have the talent, and most importantly, the longevity to become successful in a constantly changing industry.

Protest The Hero, a “progressive metal” band, shot to fame very quickly. The band members, all Whitby natives, got their start at the tender age of 14. The energy they bring to performances and the incredible lyricism and depth of their first two releases, A Calculated Use of Sound and Kezia, caught the attention of many metal fans. George Stroumboulopoulos once called it “a band that only comes along once in a generation.”

But should you believe the hype?

It certainly seems that way, as followup album Fortress, is garnering much of the same reaction from fans and critics.

Protest the Hero’s bassist and songwriter Arif Mirabdolbaghi explains some of the differences that exist between albums: “The idea is clarity. We’ve trimmed the fat around certain ideas that we’ve always admired and wanted to communicate.”

The band may live up to the hype that is common in metal/indie circles, but mainstream success usually isn’t possible for a band with such a distinct sound. Protest the Hero has won several awards and filled hundreds of venues, but is there really a place for it on Top-40 charts?

“Stranger things have happened,” Mirabdolbaghi remarks. “It’s not so much the case of the mainstream accepting progressive music, but the other way around.”

With bands like Radiohead showing that a major label release isn’t the only option (at least initially), it’s definitely an exciting time for a lot of underground acts.

“Everyone knows the music industry standards and formulas are beginning to fail. I think there’s going to be a monstrous change in the music industry and it’s just thrilling to be alive during this moment of transition,” Mirabdolbaghi says.

The transition of mainstream music from easily digested pop to the hard riffs of a band like Protest the Hero may seem unlikely. But if the masses begin to move toward acts with substance, anything can happen. “They [executives] never cared about the credibility of pop acts. They cared about how much money they were going to make. If the money goes towards the underground, then they too will go to the underground.”

Protest the Hero’s success is staggering when you realize that all of the members of the band are a bunch of guys from Whitby in their early 20s.

“There’s a whole lot of boredom in Whitby. It’s such a luxury, all your necessities are met in the suburbs,” Mirabdolbaghi says. “It means that you don’t always have that special attention put on you, so you need to go out there and make it for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll lose your personality and be lost adrift in the sea of suburbanites.”

Rather than allow themselves to be lost, the members of Protest the Hero turned to music.

“I think for us, it was just a real escape, to try and do something different. We’d get together and play crappy punk rock cover songs. It wasn’t anything grand, and I guess it still isn’t anything grand, but it still gets us out of that headspace. It’s our attempt at figuring out the world beyond our backyard.”

No matter what’s in store, Protest the Hero has, for now, lived up to the hype. Its success story is an inspiration to all those kids who just want to rock.

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot we can regret. I guess we kind of wish we had a more badass name. No matter what though, we try and take no embellishment, no pride and no regret.”

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