FOREWORD: Got to speak with mushroom-headed metal-edged Protest The Hero composer-bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, during late ’07. He only had ten minutes to speak over the phone before a show, but he set me straight about his bands’ bohemian ways. This article was refined and reedited for HighTimes.

Drubbing older hard rock peers with cocksure instrumental adeptness and stunningly synergetic craftsmanship, Protest The Hero sought to broaden the complexities rendered on staggering ’06 debut, Kezia. Riveting follow-up, Fortress, finds the empirical post-adolescent quintet continually jettisoning masturbatory 6-string wankers and regaling agitated smash-mouth metal minions with concise phantasmagoric requiems.

Expansive compositional prowess, taut time signature changes, and cataclysmic mushroom-clouded lyrical insight foment PTH’s conceptual prog-Goth designs. Despite lead vocalist Rody Walker’s tungsten steel toughness, his harrowing shaman-like exhortations and operatic wails rely more on punk radicalism than heaving metalloid insurgency. Stouthearted bassist, Arif Mirabdolbaghi, penned each allegorical verse under the influence of hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms, entangling his experiences ingesting the “friendly psychotropic vegetable” with surreal mythological grandeur.

Growing up in a sequestered Ontario suburb where boredom led to torrential narcotic experimentation, Arif snubbed conventional religiosity for paradoxical goddess worship and the ancient Celtic tradition of hunting down red-capped white mushrooms Vikings once consumed. Imbuing feminine deities, “Limb From Limb” furiously scampers as Tim Millar and Luke Hoskin’s caliginous scale-climbing axes set the stage for Walker’s murderously howled lamentation chiding a preying huntress.

Musty Iron Maiden-laden shredder, “Bloodmeat,” gets thematically threaded to schizoid heretical mordancy “The Dissentience,” conceived while Arif vaporized herb at Toronto hemp haven, Kindred Café. Then, flailing riff shards pierce sinewy “Bone Marrow” before sweeping harmonies erupt from the dungy din of molten existential mantra “Palms Read,” a riotously ranted Mother Earth genuflection. Perhaps Arif’s right about “youth culture someday being permeated by shrooms; taking rationality to the edge.” Revelatory, if not wholly revolutionary, PTH’s ambitious assault is undeniable.