Review Summary: Pacific Myth is musically excellent and sporadically superb, but overall lacks the progressive artistry we’ve come to expect from Protest the Hero.
Protest the Hero boomed into the progressive metal spotlight after Kezia
, and for good reason. Not only were they damn good at their instruments, a pre-requisite for prog these days, but also they had an ace in the hole in Rody Walker: one-man vocal extravaganza. He’s a screamer, growler, and trained opera singer with free rein of flamboyant expression over the band’s technical, equally flamboyant instrumentals – a match made in heaven.
On the band’s third release, Scurrilous
, Rody toned back the harsh vocals and focused almost entirely on his soaring operatic quirks to carry the songs. While it wasn’t a detriment to the album’s quality, the ceaseless wailing became a tad overbearing after a while. Fast-forward five years and we’re in the exact same spot. Walker has always had a penchant for coming up with off-kilter melodies to compliment or purposefully contrast the instrumental wizardry happening beneath him, yet on Pacific Myth
it feels like he’s reaching into his old bag of tricks and regurgitating past melodies verbatim. He can still sing his ass off, make no mistake, but none of the hooks really blow you away like they used to. And when the screams do show up, they’re gone before they can leave any form of impression. Instead of expounding on his screeches and growls, Rody solely leans on his singing like a crutch, which is a shame because we know he’s capable of so much more. And believe me, I never thought I’d criticize a talented singer for singing too much.
Fans of Protest the Hero’s signature style will get exactly what they’re expecting – overtly complicated riffs sweeping from progression to progression without a hitch topped with eccentric vocal arrangements. The difference is that Kezia
, and to a lesser extent Fortress
, had all of those traits amongst a wide range of dynamics. There were soft moments amid the sea of riffs, welcome refrains from the barrage of instrumental insanity, and the heavy sections were heavier; the growls were meatier and the breakdowns were crunchier (I think they did away with them completely this go-round). Also, the tracks themselves had vision and purpose. They seldom finished the way they started; and those that did come full circle (i.e. ‘She Who Mars the Skin of Gods’) did so after the band took you on a musical journey filled with subtle crescendos, emotive climaxes, and everything from quiet instrumental interludes to brutal breakdowns in between.
Here, every knob is turned up to 10 the entire time. It’s blitzing riff after riff with nary a break in the complexity and little to no instrumental breathers. There’s nothing as tenderly immaculate as ‘Blindfold Aside’s guitar solo, nothing as compelling as the opening to ‘Bloodmeat’, nothing as epic as the entirety of ‘Bone Marrow’ or ‘Turn Soonest to the Sea’. It’s borderline formulaic by now, and the vocal melodies themselves sound rehashed from older songs. Progressive metal implies some form of progression and Pacific Myth
lacks exactly that.
The EP certainly has its allures; tracks like ‘Tidal’ and ‘Harbinger’ have excellent, memorable choruses, the latter given extra character from its moody piano progression bookending the song. The 9-minute closer ‘Caravan’ is one of the few tracks to build upon its initial riff-driven foundation, flowing in and out of screamed spastic bridges, crooned melodic passages, ultimately leading up to a brilliant orchestral dénouement. The instrumentals themselves are spot on; it’s nigh impossible to tell that they underwent some recent lineup changes since the newcomers fit so snug within the rest of the band’s artistic prowess.
The problem is that Protest the Hero have a gift for pushing the boundaries of metal even when we thought there weren’t any boundaries left to be pushed, and when they release something as relatively vanilla as Pacific Myth
that narrows their creative scope, it sounds like the band is playing on auto-pilot. We know they can do better; they have
done better. However, as a die-hard fan, I still find it thoroughly enjoyable, albeit underwhelming. The musicality itself is as mind-blowing as ever so I’m sure fans of the genre will find Pacific Myth
a worthwhile endeavor. Just don’t go in expecting anything new because you won’t find it here.