Apart from the fact that the members of Protest the Hero were in their late teens when they wrote it, Kezia (pronounced keh-zai-yah) is an impressive album that greatly exceeds typical expectations. Protest frantically meld metal, punk, hardcore -- and a touch of emo -- into ten frenetic songs that often resemble a late-night metal show with Coheed & Cambria and At the Drive-In showing up as musical guests. While the guys refer to this eccentric effort as a "situationist requiem," the record is basically an aggressive concept album following the execution of the title character, Kezia, for a crime specifically unknown. Personal lyrics speak of morality and growth -- both directly and metaphorically -- as the music is divided into four sections, each from a different point of view: a priest, the gunman/prison guard, Kezia herself, and lastly, a so-called retrospective finale. Admittedly an interesting idea in itself, the songs deliver with or without this ambitious supporting notion. Sounding as if maximum emotion were packed into every second possible, each note of Kezia bleeds urgent passion -- from the searing vocals of Rody Walker to blistering guitar leads to acoustic midsong breaks to compelling harmonies and growls alike. "Heretics & Killers" begins by slapping fierce rhythms and harsh grumbles alongside the delicate edge of Walker's voice over acoustic guitars and Queen-esque background vocals. And "Turn Soonest to the Sea," seemingly about societal attitudes toward women, transforms over six minutes from a brutal metal attack to a soaring dose of empowerment via gang chorus, following a brief spoken word segment. Considering that Protest the Hero have admitted to writing music initially too complex for their abilities -- forcing themselves to learn the parts over time -- there's no denying the guys stepped up to the task they placed before themselves with Kezia. As such, fans of the more technical side of punk-influenced metal will also find the album hard to deny. ~ Corey Apar, Rovi

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