In the past, mentioning Protest the Hero among the trve resulted in long side-eyes or questions of “Are they really metal?” (I can’t wait to see how well this review goes over). But since we let a certain fat-lipped band in here, you’re damn sure I’m going to feature my favorite Verb the Noun. Since discovering the boys from Ontario in my youth,1 I’ve harbored a soft spot for the act and hoped to see their subscription-based EP flourish. Fortunately for everyone involved, Pacific Myth represents the dual success of a risky business model and an exciting step for a band practiced in constant retrospection.
Pacific Myth initially sounds like a continuation of the clean-cut scale barrage that the quintet embodied for the last half-decade. If extended along the lines of opening tracks “Ragged Tooth” and “Tidal,” Pacific Myth would have been competent, if uninspiring. Those preferring the band’s post-Fortress absence of snarl might be contented, but only just. Even their biggest fans must admit that the memorable pop-and-prog peaks scaled on 2011’s Scurrilous and 2013’s Volition likely marked the masterful climax of that direction. For Protest the Hero to maintain relevance, as with any band, their new material demanded innovation.
Third-slated “Cold Water” fuses comfort with exploration, a dichotomy that only slants farther to the latter as the EP progresses. In recent years, Rody Walker’s wordplay commanded increasing amounts of prominence. They often seemed necessary to adhere Luke Hoskin’s insane technicality to the rest of the music. Thankfully, “Cold Water” moderates its arpeggio reliance with a proggy midsection that maturely avoids beating its standout hook to death. At one point, the track drops the lead guitar altogether, favoring an unexpected bass-and-keys pairing. “Cataract” takes this progression one step further, demanding a hard-edged performance from all parties involved. The result is undoubtedly Protest the Hero, catchy and blistering, but its groovy heading marks a huge departure from the expectations set even from the start of Pacific Myth. After hearkening back to Fortress with well-placed piano and throwback growls on “Harbinger,” the band close Pacific Myth with the longest track they’ve ever released. “Caravan” cycles through sugary sweet standard fare, increasingly unhinged frenetics, and prominent keyboard digression.2
As Walker expresses his exhaustion with “conceptions that bring nothing new from the womb,” I get the sense that the band intended Pacific Myth to gradually expose fans to the next era of Protest the Hero. I can’t say I’m surprised, given the band’s refusal to stagnate and their enduring commitment to the message. The bloom may be off the rose for Walker et al., but I cannot wait to see where Protest the Hero go next. With his closing address, Walker sums up a mantra I hope embodies the band’s work ethic for years to come: “Are you satisfied? Don’t be satisfied.”
Tracks to Check Out: “Cold Water,” “Cataract,” and “Caravan”