Weighing in at more than nine minutes, the Ocean Collective's view for "Permian: The Great Dying," premiering exclusively below, is as epic as the roiling, dynamic track it represents — and has a great deal to say.
Named after one of five mass extinction events during the Phanerozoic Eon, "Permian" reflects on an episode roughly 250 million years ago when 75 percent of all terrestrial fauna and 95 percent of all marine life on Earth became extinct — possibly due to global warming from volcanic activity that raised the planet's temperature and led to the release of fatal doses of methane gas. ("The air is getting hot and dry/Sticking to your skin, your open wounds/The sun burns us alive/That's how we got to know"). But guitarist Robin Staps, who founded the German heavy rock troupe back in 2000, says the song — from the group's 2018 Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic album — has a couple layers of meaning.
"The lyrics of the song revolve around the Great Dying topic on two related but also distinctly different orbits," Staps tells Billboard. "The paleontology/climate change is the surface level, and beneath lies a personal relationship story, an end-times romance embedded into (and artistically inflated) to Earth's history dimensions."
Both aspects of the song are represented in the "Permian" video, directed by Craig Murray, who also helmed the clip for the album's previous video, "Cambrian: Eternal Recurrence." "We all agreed that we wanted this clip to look different," Staps says of the video, filmed mostly in India and Indonesia and featuring Ocean Collective singer Loic Rossetti along with nearly enough insect life and sea footage to populate the National Geographic channel. "While the first clip was very artsy, based on strong visual effects, intense colors and lots of post-production, ('Permian') was meant to have a desaturated, natural look and get by almost entirely without effects. We wanted it to have a dry, suffocating grade, with nice grain and a very authentic, stripped-to-the-core feel."
The video also plants the Ocean Collective's flag in the climate change debate, and Staps feels that even though humans weren't around for the Phanerozoic, "I don't see any reason to assume that the results of the current (unmistakably) man-made global warming would be any less devastating. The same increase in global temperatures which happened at the end of the Permian over the course of several hundreds of thousands of years, is very likely to happen in just over a few hundreds of years now. It is an immensely dramatic, eye-rolling and teeth-gnashing topic."
Staps and the Ocean Collective will be spreading the word with its Siberian Traps Tour, which starts in September and will visit Europe, Russia and Japan. The group will tour Europe again with Leprous in November and is eyeballing U.S. dates in 2020, but with "nothing confirmed yet" according to the guitarist.