I’ve been listening to the new Protomen EP on what can only be called a “frighteningly often” basis. I don’t have the physical record yet, but through a little fortuity and scrounging I’ve found digital copies of the songs to listen to while I wait for my order to arrive.

Act One of the Protomen saga really reflected the place the band was in their lives – just graduated or about to graduate from college, living in a band house, drinking, living life with a wild abandon. The first album was full of the fury and unrefined passion that that period of life is made of. But, all of that blunderbuss didn’t cover the fact that there was still a lot of doubt mixed in. They had no idea if anyone would care about what they were doing, or if when it was all done if they would care.

Of course, the thing was a huge success, cementing them firmly in the nerdcore zeitgeist, and elevating them above the other video game themed bands like the Minibosses, Contras and The Advantage. The three years since the release of Act One have seen them touring back and forth across the country, growing and shedding beards, never cleaning their fucking house (I’m never sleeping in Thundercon again), releasing a remix album with their now retired compatriot the Makeup and Vanity Set, and in general growing older but not growing up.

I’ve been talking with them about Act Two for what seems like years now, and honestly I was worried for them. Their musical tastes have matured and expanded so much since the guitarmy vs snyth basis of their first album. They’ve started working in strings, vocal arrangements, horns and a whole lot of acoustic instrumentation. I was there in Nashville when they played the first track off Act Two live for the first time, and my thoughts were “Oh God, this is brilliant. Oh God, they are going to alienate all of their fans.”

I got the story basis for Act Two out of Panther a few months later. The album is split into two parts – the analog first disc revolving around Light and Wily’s relationship, and a digital second disc focusing on Wily’s new robot world. The themes they’re working with are much more complex than the first album, and that goes hand in hand with the music they’re producing. The first two tracks off the first half of the album are brilliant mixtures of dark country western, soaring choral segments and the best guitar bits they’ve ever written. They lyrics are flat out phenomenal, working as poetry to interplay with the music, and prose to advance the story.

There is a part in the second song where Wily is trying to convince Emily, Light’s love, to forget Light and embrace his new world. Her retorts are delivered in a call-response with the Human Choir.

If a shadow blocks out the sun.

There will be light!

If it stays until the sun is set.

There will be light!

If the sun never shows its face again.

There will be light!

No matter how dark this city gets.

There will be light!

Text on screen can’t even begin to convey to you how powerful this is. The metaphor they are using for Light is a painfully obvious one, but that makes it impossible to miss.

The album is still at least half a year away, but if this is a sign of what’s to come, I will be waiting with baited breath.