Protest The Hero are just approaching the end of what has been a huge European headline run, covering most of the mainland and the UK in just over three weeks with UK bands The Safety Fire and TesseracT in support. We headed to the Birmingham leg of the UK tour to find out how new album Volition stood up live. Unfortunately, due to the queue to get in, we missed Canadian openers, Intervals, so it was straight into The Safety Fire…

Now two albums into their relatively short career, The Safety Fire are on something of a roll at the moment. Gradually building themselves a cult following in a very organic, traditional way, there was certainly a tangible buzz in the room as the band took to the stage. Kicking off the set with ‘Red Hatchet’, the band chose a setlist mostly from last year’s superb Mouth Of Swords, with breakthrough single ‘Huge Hammers’ the only song to appear off their debut.

Their proggy tech-metal sounding like The Dillinger Escape Plan meets Rush, The Safety Fire were an ideal choice for tonight’s bill, counteracting the music with an ease and sense of humour all too often missing from what is a typically straight faced genre. If they can continue writing the likes of ‘Yellowism’ and ‘Old Souls’, The Safety Fire could well be onto something quite special and unique.

At first glance, TesseracT seemed an odd choice for this tour. Rising in popularity with the wave of the ‘djent’ scene, the band provided a more serious set in the middle of The Safety Fire and the headliners. Taking to the stage dressed head to toe in black and with minimal lighting, the band cut an imposing presence as they launched into ‘Of Matter – Proxy’ from recent album Altered States, and from there until the end of the set TesseracT held the packed room in a trance-like state.

With mixed time signatures, eerie tones and spacey vocals, to call them ‘challenging’ would be an understatement, at times feeling like ‘Quantum Mechanics: The Musical’. The band chose to let the music do the talking and the crowd lapped it up, particularly during ‘Of Mind – Nocturne’, and if there is one thing to say about TesseracT, while atmosphere over theatrics may be more their thing, the sheer force of their sound more than makes up for the minimal crowd interaction.

The Volition cycle has been hugely successful for Protest The Hero so far, with the original ‘Indiegogo’ campaign raising way over their required amount, the album being one of the best they have released to date, and one major American tour completed with another beginning very soon, it’s understandable why the band are in such fine form and spirits.

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Opening with recent single ‘Underbite’, the band shared a very different feel to that displayed by TesseracT, instead taking the approach of a straight up, no frills rock & roll show. Powering through tracks from throughout their back catalogue, the band never let up for a moment; the majestic fan favourite ‘Sequoia Throne’ appeared only three songs into the set, and that it made no difference to the intensity of the set only served to demonstrate the strength of their discography.

Pausing sparingly between songs to engage with the crowd, frontman Jody Walker provided sound bites with the ease of a stand-up comedian, whether discussing Ian Watkins, ghosts, the band’s ‘Punk Of The Day’ segment from recent shows, or taking hip-hop dance classes (“No one goes to a metal show and says ‘dude, that guy got moves!'”), Walker kept the audience captivated and entertained between songs.

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Throughout a set comprised of the best of Kezia, Fortress, Scurrilous, and Volition, Protest The Hero demonstrated a confidence and showmanship to match the songs that may well boost them up a level into yet bigger venues next time round, especially if they can come back following a successful festival season. Watch this space.

Photos by Chris McFall.