By Justin Allec

Labels fail when trying to describe Ontario’s Protest the Hero, but you can try for yourself when the five-piece takes the Crocks stage on Thursday, December 15. Certainly their music is loud, and capable of seething rage, but often within the same song there are moments of tenderness and joy. The band freely mixes elements of screamo, math-rock, death metal, and prog-rock’s jazzy freak-outs into songs that are always innovative, odd, and energetic. In crafting of some of the strangest yet approachably aggressive music around, Protest has created their own definitions of success and a close, responsive relationship with fans.

Starting out as a forward-thinking punk band in 2002, the five-piece quickly eschewed the hard-left politicking anthems of their debut EP by maximizing their instrumental prowess and gleefully harvesting choice sounds for their first album, 2005’s manic Kezia. Bouncing, string-tapping, almost danceable rhythms are urged by double-barreled drum work, all coated in paranoiac wordplay and sweet melodies that to screw into your ears. This unlikely concoction allows them to be malleable in presentation and reach beyond niche audiences, as Protest are equally at home at outdoor punk festivals or as openers for stadium rock. Courting extensive fan support has also translated into unique success. Protest crowdfunded their fourth album, 2013’s Volition, and hit their benchmark within thirty hours; by the time the campaign had ended, the band had tripled their original goal. Late 2015 saw another change in approach for the Pacific Myth EP by releasing the six songs via Bandcamp subscription. They also have an irresistible live show, with mind-boggling music played effortlessly with charisma to spare.

An added bonus is openers A Wilhelm Scream from Massachusetts, who take a similar outlier approach to punk rock. They have all the markers of California skate punk, but A Wilhelm Scream play faster and more technically than almost any of their peers. Really, their punk songs may follow traditional structures, but the guitars are pushed into hyper-kinetic speed-metal wizardry. Also appearing will be Ontario’s Auras, a young band dedicated to groove-centered breakdowns. Given the appeal of the lineup and the all-ages friendly-format, this show has the makings of a memorable night, whether you’re an old geezer who likes to stand at the back with arms crossed (like me) or an elastic youngster primed for moshing.