After 2013's crowdfunded Volition, the prog-canucks of Protest the Hero once again went with an alternative release method.
Originally released song-by-song on a monthly basis between October 2015 and March 2016, the Pacific Myth EP has been available to those of us that bought into the subscription model for about a year. Now it has finally been made available for everyone else - remixed and remastered.
Whereas their debut and sophomore releases - Kezia (2005) and Fortress (2008) - were concept albums that dealt with the execution of a young woman told from different perspectives, and goddess worship, respectively, the following albums saw a change in lyrical style. Their third record, Scurrilous (2011), saw singer Rody Walker taking over lyrical duties from then bass player Arif Mirabdolbaghi - writing more direct, personal lyrics. Volition continued this trend, featuring more social commentary and examinations of universal subjects - in addition to a song about why Star Trek is better than Star Wars.
The lyrics on Pacific Myth lean more towards the style on their earlier work than their two previous records. With each passing song, the lyrics seem to build up a mythical concept like on Kezia and Fortress, albeit a very different one. Though the lyrics tell a story, its meaning is very vague - at times almost too ambiguous.
In my opinion, the myth is an existentialist story; sort of a compressed version of the hero's journey - unless I'm just experiencing the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. There might be a strange loop (Gödel, Escher, Bach) going on as well, as the metanarrative seems to weave into the original yearning for something more conveyed in the album opener.
Tidal kickstarts the record. Full of energic ennui, it laments the dull, gray, ordinary world, and yearns for meaning - "something more than getting by". But then everything changes - something happens which cannot be undone. It describes a kind of emotionally existential imperative; A call to action.
Ragged tooth describes the going against the grain - the stale and old must give way for the new to grow; incurring judgement for upsetting the status quo. Not fearing those that doubt - being justified. Being successful in going beyond where anyone else have.
Cold water is about perilous conflict; failure after all. Regrets about a life wasted.
Cataract signals decisive action - not giving up - leading to victory at last. Defining for oneself, in order to live a life of purpose.
Harbinger details the complete conquering of the threat and return to the journey's outset. The threat is gone, and all is well. It's over. But there is always a possibility of danger - and there are bad omens.
Caravan starts with the same symbolism as earlier songs, but describing failure, and a reemerged threat - but as the metaphors morph, the obscure myth gives way to a metanarrative that comments on all the previous lyrics and concept-building on the record. This closing song is the big reveal.
The song criticizes tired metaphors, entertainment that doesn't offer intellectual gain, and meaning that "is open to interpretation" - the singer even criticizes himself for saying something to that effect in the past. He's tired of it. At the same time, he can't control other people and their wants - but he can try to do something constructive about it. He describes it all as "a catchy way of saying nothing", and the narrative as just being words punched in a template. He's tired of unoriginal concepts; if every story is the same, then it doesn't interest him at all. He wants stories with meaning. Something better than this.
My problem’s the consistency with every concept made
Don’t just tell me a story
What does it convey?
Much has been said about the reveal in Caravan. There was a discussion on the band's subreddit after all the songs were originally released, which had some interesting analysis.
Experiencing the EP during its original subscription release was a pretty interesting experience, as it gave me a chance to really take in one song at a time, and an opportunity to wonder where it would go next. While intepreting the lyrics was an entertaining exercise, listening to the fourth-wall-breaking conclusion for the first time was definitively worth ruining the last few months' worth of build up.
Singer Rody Walker offered an explanation as as a comment on another post in the subreddit, stating that
"My issue is with meaningless lyrics that are intentionally vague to dupe the listener into believing there is something more... When there is not. [...] I'm not saying don't leave things up to interpretation. I'm asking for stories with morals."
He also mentions Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell in the same post, saying that according to their theories, concept records would need theses to not all be the same.
In the end, Pacific Myth just tells a story using "words pushed in a template", conveying nothing - except in its conclusion, which escheresquely leads to the original level in the lyrical content's hierarchy, as I see it: Framing the myth-part of the lyrics as an allegory for the record itself and its moral, and thus keeping the endless loop going.
If you'd like to know more about Protest the Hero, you can find an interesting interview with Rody Walker on the podcast Lead Singer Syndrome below.
Pacificy Myth is available on Spotify.
You can buy the EP on Bandcamp.