Wednesday the 15th of March saw Protest The Hero release the 6th and final track from their Pacific Myth EP. It was a greatly anticipated release, which incorporated ideas put forth by fans, and saw the end to the music part of a very unique EP launch. Protest The Hero worked in cooperation with BandCamp to release their EP via a subscription service which saw them release 1 new track each month for 6 months, as and when they were written. Even more bonus features are said to be released throughout the next 6 months, probably including demos, live footage and interviews; more details about the subscription service can be found here, but for now we’ll look past the innovative distribution style, and assess if the music can stand on its own as well.
With the band aiming to release one song each month, there was anticipation that the tracks could be lower quality than their previous efforts. Much to my delight, this seems to not have happened. I struggle to remember the last time I sat in such excitement whilst listening to music; the journey you’re taken on as a listener is fantastic. Protest The Hero have delivered 6 great tracks built upon their characteristic intricate, and complex songwriting; virtuosic playing, and fantastic lyrics. It very much follows on from previous efforts that have brought them much acclaim, and the guys have even managed to kick it up a notch.
The songwriting throughout is a joy to behold, there’s a ridiculous amount going on throughout the tracks, and it’s all used exceptionally well. The band’s use of structure, in particular, is remarkably impressive. On the face of it, Ragged Tooth has quite a standard, strophic form structure. However, no section ever appears in exactly the same form twice, yet identifiable features of each section are repeated. A look deeper sees the band incorporate a level of through composition, and thematic writing into the track. For example, the final chorus section only contains the vocal melody, and the harmonic texture as identifiable characteristics of previous incarnations of this section. The rhythm and groove played by guitars, bass and drums is actually taken from the intro section, and the counter melody on the guitar uses ideas derived from the solo rather than previous counter melodies in the chorus sections. So the final chorus section is actually built from various different parts of the song. It’s really impressive that PTH manage to change so much of the section while still maintaining its identity, as the chorus. Even more impressive is that, no matter how technical the devices used are, the tracks on the EP are also ridiculously enjoyable.
In particular, from a musician’s point of view, the EP is a delightful throughout. For anyone that plays an instrument, it’s almost a lesson in how to use all of the most technical aspects of the instrument effectively. Cold Water perfectly displays the level of virtuosity featured on the EP, and the furious technical guitar playing is a joy to behold in what is undoubtedly a standout moment for Tim Miller on Pacific Myth. The track incorporates faced-paced, low-register metal riffs; soaring, diatonic lead melodies; ridiculously virtuosic polyphony; and tremendous counter melodies. The track almost seems like a continuous guitar solo underneath the vocals, yet the techniques used are appropriate to each section, and rarely conflict with the vocals. They also do a tremendous job of allowing the song to pivot between dramatically different textures and harmony. This happens constantly throughout the EP, and is dealt with exceptionally well.
With such dramatic changes happening so rapidly, the songs in Pacific Myth could easily become difficult to follow and sound like a mess. This hasn’t happened, largely due to the tremendous lyrics. The EP has an overarching concept, and although the storyline in place in largely unimportant, it provides Rody the platform from which to deliver a series of messages within the tracks, and conceal them in delightful, and imaginative metaphors. For example, within the context of a story describing a contest between two powerful creatures, Cataract delivers a message to never give-up when you’re down, or allow yourself to become complacent no matter how favourable the odds are. This is one of many poignantly delivered messaged featured on the EP, although it’s worth noting that not all are as well considered. The lyrics in Caravan, while delivered in a great idea (satirically looking at the lyrics used in other prog songs), the message is delivered very bluntly and directly in the second half of the track, and this detracts from the overall listening experience. This is likely a result of the self-imposed time constraints placed on the songwriting process, which allowed less time to really hone the lyrics. Thankfully, this a rare occurrence on the EP as the detail found throughout suggests that the majority of aspects had ample time to develop fully and flourish into great ideas.
Overall, Pacific Myth is brilliant, the thought that has gone into every aspect is tremendous, and it really comes through in the finished product. There are even more fantastic elements in the EP that have not been discussed here, and even though there are some moments that are perhaps a bit muddled texturally, or the lyrics are too blunt, it is a fantastic effort. The music is fantastic, there are lessons to be learnt in the lyrics, and the tracks take you on an emotional journey with all the expertly handled twists and turns in the music. It’s also got a lot to provide for the untrained listener with impressive, catchy melodies throughout for any music lover to enjoy. Furthermore, the intricacies and details of each track mean that it can keep you entertained for months as there’s always something more to uncover. Well worth the $12 subscription fee.