Sound — 8
While it may have been the spastic post-hardcore style akin to The Fall Of Troy or early Thrice that initially turned peoples' heads towards Protest The Hero, the Canadian band had more to aspire to than just letting founding guitarists Luke Hoskin and Tim Millar show off their skills. Wanting to weave concepts to their songwriting and exercise more of Rody Walker's vocal range, PTH started to move more towards those progressive metal ambitions by 2011's "Scurrilous." And with Walker's singing style fitting the mold of classic metal vocalists like Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson or Anthrax's Joey Belladonna, the band seemed to shape themselves similarly in that style in 2013's "Volition," which displayed more speed/thrash metal influences alongside its prog metal trickiness.
"Volition" also marked PTH's first step into working around the conventional business of releasing music via record labels, and with the band's crowdfunding campaign for the album nearly tripling its goal (ultimately raising a whopping $341,146), it's no surprise they decided to continue down the path of independent releases. Their newest release, the six-track EP "Pacific Myth," originally worked as a serial subscription release via Bandcamp, where subscribers would get first access to the EP's songs incrementally in the span of six months. After that exclusive run and pressing a limited vinyl edition of the EP a couple months ago, PTH have now released the EP digitally.
Musically, "Pacific Myth" wields characteristics both old and new from PTH's catalog - whereas the flexing of Walker's classic metal flair in the all-clean singing of "Cold Water" and "Cataract" continues what was harnessed on "Volition," the piano and string melodies that come up in "Harbinger" and "Caravan" reach back to the orchestral moments first flaunted in their 2005 debut album, "Kezia." Generally, however, the band's output harnesses the post-hardcore/prog metal fusion they struck in "Scurrilous," and despite the EP only containing six songs, Hoskin and Millar cram in as many riffs as they can. From the techy riffing in "Tidal" and the handful of measurement changes in "Caravan," to the abundance of tapping/arpeggio riffs in "Cataract" and the proper guitar solo in "Harbinger," Hoskin and Millar's skills continue to dazzle, but while that's an aspect of the band that has stuck to its apex, the instrumental output in "Pacific Myth" improves upon the band's element of layering. Better harmonies are found both in the vocals of "Tidal" and "Harbinger" and in the lead riffs of "Ragged Tooth" and "Tidal," and the intertwining guitar/bass riffs in "Cold Water" and the guitar/bass/piano trifecta in "Harbinger" succeed in weaving an impressive melodic tapestry.
Lyrics — 6
Walker's lyrics in "Pacific Myth" run a loose conceptual thread throughout, tying together themes both fantastical (heard in the monstrous allusion to Leviathan in "Ragged Tooth"), post-modern (heard in the Weber-esque critique of society's obsession with work in "Tidal"), and a blend of both (like the flood narrative in "Cold Water" being just as much a depiction of Biblical wrath as it is a forewarning of the scientific hypothesis of the polar ice caps melting due to global warming) with the symbolism of the all-encompassing ocean at the center of it all. But at the end of it all, Walker pivots to the meta in "Caravan," criticizing his own lyrics in previous songs ("The sun, the moon, the earth and the shores / Tired metaphors played out before your eyes") and pithily remarking on the dumbed-down standard for meaning in modern music ("But to be satisfied and entertained / Without any source of intellectual gain / Seems to be what's in fashion"). It's a topic he's written about before with similar ire in the "Scurrilous" song "Dunsel," and ultimately comes off as an awkward epilogue for the concept that drove the rest of the EP.
Overall Impression — 7
Still playing to their strengths, Protest The Hero pack a lot into "Pacific Myth" to give it as much bang for the buck as one can with an EP. Its conceptual aspect may contain some stumbles, but its stacked offering of tricky guitar riffs will be enough to win over the prog metalheads and any other listeners looking for a fix of great guitarwork.