The year is 2006. It’s October, and I’m sixteen years old. I have hair down to my shoulders, and I have just begun my final year of high school. My favourite thrash revival band, Trivium, are coming to Montreal’s soon to be doomed, Le Medley, on a tour supporting their third and most Metallica-influenced release, The Crusade. I’m very excited, as any young metal head should be, but I’ve never heard of any of the supporting acts, The Sword, Cellador, or Protest the Hero, and I’d like to hear what these artists have to offer. I press play on Protest the Hero’s “Blindfolds Aside,” and my perception of music, my expectations from artists, and my life, in general, are instantly changed forever. I need to hear more. I need to listen to their debut album, Kezia, all the way through again and again until I’ve memorized every punch, every melody, every breakdown, every nuance.
It’s now 2015, I’m twenty-five, and Protest the Hero are touring in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the release of Kezia. Original members, Moe Carlson and Arif Mirabdolbaghi, who both left the band over a year ago, have returned for this special occasion. I’ve now seen the band a total of nine times on various tours, and I was just as excited for this show as I was for that first time.
For the first time in as long as I can remember, a show started exactly when it was supposed to start. Not only that, but Quebec City boys, Sandveiss sounded fantastic blasting out of the speakers at Montreal’s Foufounes Electriques. Their brand of jammy stoner rock sounded thick and powerful. Their punches were on point, and their set flowed seamlessly. Definitely a professional band, and one to pay attention to in the future.
Guelph, Ontario’s Mandroid Echostar jumped on stage next and pretty much did the opposite of what Sandveiss did. While their music was awesome, basically providing a perfect mix of Coheed and Cambria’s poppy prog rock and Protest the Hero’s mathy power metal, the live mix did not do their sound justice. Nothing blended, and a technical issue with the bass meant that it went from having no bass in the mix to an overpowering amount of it. Having said that, the boys took these setbacks in stride and still provided an entertaining set. Frontman, Michael Ciccia, in particular, used his formidable presence, impressive range, and offbeat sense of humour. He got a serious chuckle when he declared, “We are Mandroid Echostar! En Francais, c’est terrible!”
Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for. Well, not quite, but the guitarist, Tim Millar, and the original bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, walked onstage to do their sound check, and were pleasantly surprised when the crowd went wild for their mere presence alone. It should be noted that the current drummer, Mike Ierdi, and the current bassist, Cameron McLellan, are still on this tour serving as roadies, and their presence is appreciated.
As the piano introduction to “No Stars Over Bethlehem” began to blare over the loudspeaker and Protest the Hero’s original lineup, filled out by guitarist, Luke Hoskin, Drummer, Moe Carlson, and frontman, Rody Walker, took the stage. It finally sunk in to the hungry crowd that this was happening, and the excitement and anticipation was incomparable. Everyone in the venue that night were there to celebrate a classic album, one that meant all manner of different things to all who love it. Walker was on point, allowing himself to be booed, applauded, and praised through his ridiculous run of jokes about Whitby, Ontario being better than Montreal, about not being able to look his ex-bandmates in the eye, and about a strange glowing bulb that was being thrown around in the crowd. The obvious set of encore songs after the finale of “A Plateful of our Dead” was expected, but a welcome twist was the current drummer, Ierdi, taking the kit for “Mist” from 2013’s Volition before Carlson took it back for “Hair-Trigger,” and the beloved, “Bloodmeat.”
This was a once in a lifetime experience, not just for Protest the Hero fans, but for fans of progressive music, in general, and any serious audiophile who misses out on this tour should feel major regret.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Danielle Kenedy