on August 21, 2012
It's hard to really sum up how much this band has really done over the years. So many shows, so many fans, over 16 years of being a band, and 7 prior studio albums ... something has been building and is reaching a boiling point.
The result of that constant striving driving effort of relentlessly pouring their hearts into their music, passionately writing lyrics which speak of morality, society, and justice, while calling for listeners to stand for their beliefs, face their issues head on, and not be ashamed of what they hold true.
This album is another stepping stone in the ever growing story that is Project 86.
Their first album 'Self Titled' was raw and energy filled, full of promise in a scene of stagnating music. 'Drawing Black Lines' redefined what Christians playing Hard Rock / Metal meant. It was powerful, refined, and face-melting.
'Truthless Heroes' showed another side of Project 86, by beginning the story of 'TH', a man who faced hard times and turned to society for relief. All of the songs were of his journey, and were beautiful, powerful, emotional and gripping. But still ultimately were fully Project 86, rocking hard and evoking emotional and intellectual response with thought provoking lyrics and messages. This was the first and last record under the Atlantic record label, which held much promise but brought much disappointment and frustration ... seen in:
'Songs to Burn Your Bridges By' This album was the return to indie, self sold, and self produced. This album was written, mixed and produced in about 3 weeks. Oh how it was glorious. So raw, so energy filled, so Project 86. This told the second half of the 'TH' tale, a tale of his son, who did not fall prey to society, and contained some of the most hope-filled songs of Project 86's career. They later were re-signed by Tooth and Nail, re-released the album, mixed it and added 3 more tracks (including one of my personal favorites, 'A Shadow On Me')
'...And the Rest Will Follow' was a return to the more edgy and raw sound of earlier albums (specifically 'Songs to Burn Your Bridges By'), but contained the hope and excitement that was seen in later albums. This album contained some of their more soft 'rock' sounds than previous ones, such as 'Something We Can't Be' but also some face-melters like 'Sincerely, Ichabod' and 'Necktie Remedy'. This was the last album that Alex (the drummer) played with the band, departing on positive terms.
Where to go from here? Oh, how about 'Rival Factions'. Project 86 releases a record which redefines themselves, pushing for different sounds, not just being ... typical, not just saying/singing/playing the same thing again and again and again, like so many aging and unmoving others. 'Illuminate' is one of their most unique sounding and still is undeniably Project 86. Man, I love that song. And oh how you found hope on that album.
But how could a band possibly top such a storied history, so much diversity? Naturally, with a Christmas EP. Sure, they released 'The Kane Mutiny EP', giving fans some B-Sides from 'Rival Factions' (love the title track!), and included a cover song. Then, they went an extremely surprising and somewhat odd (but definitely enjoyable) direction with 'This Time of Year EP', which was Project 86 ... Christmas songs. Just hard to really put into words what that means. Take a listen, it's interesting :)
From here, we have 'Picket Fence Cartel', arguably the best album of their entire career. This album contains so much awesome, so much energy, moral topics and positivity, face melting and soul, epic songs and raw rockers ... I was extremely extremely pleased to listen to this album and did so many many many times. But it made me nervous. Was this the swan song? Songs like 'To Sand We Return' hammer home how diverse and powerful the music of a band devoted to making emotionally and lyrically powerful music can be. This album is brilliant. This was the last album which Randy and Steve played on (Guitar / Bass) before parting ways on a positive note for other endeavors.
'15.Live' was released in 2010 to commemorate 15 years as a band. Having seen 13 concerts of Project 86, I can say that this captures much of the energy of a live show, and is one of the very few live albums which really represents a band and how their live show sounds and feels. Raw, powerful, undeniable energy.
But then we hear that despite the departure of 3/4 of Project 86, the frontman / vocalist / lyricist is still touring, having put together a few new members but retaining the same powerful 'punch in the face' sound. And whispers of a new album. An album for the fans, by the fans.
'Wait for the Siren'. If you're still reading, you've just read what this album means. This is an album which has significance. Project 86 has made many records, tackled some incredibly serious and powerful issues, rocked about and for some important and heavy subjects ... and keep coming back for more. This band wants to make a mark on it's listeners, and to bring a sound that sounds unique but familiar, with a message that is both new and very very old.
Kickstarter provided a method for Project 86 to return to their roots, indie label, make and sell their own music, and do so without the constraints / deadlines of a label while really connecting with the fans again. The results of this were a funded album and some very excited fans.
I was cautiously optimistic when I heard about the Kickstarter, but did not even question whether i'd fund it. This is my favorite band, of course I will. But what will I get? Will I get the same intensity, energy, face-melting rock i've come to love, with the lyrical depth and power i've been inspired in the past?
'Fall, Goliath, Fall' was released as a free single for all to enjoy, to drum up excitement for the album. Fist pumping ensued. This song is simple in premise, but the more I listen to it, the more I seem to get into it. This caused excitement to grow in me.
As part of Kickstarter, I was privy to 3 other pre-release songs, to whet my appetite. 'SOTS', 'Off the Grid', and 'Take the Hill' gave me a good idea what to expect with this album. Diversity. Andrew explained that he wanted some unique sounds on this album (hammered dulcimer, bagpipes, etc), and really to feel his Irish roots in the music. He also wanted to write about the importance of the battle of life that we are in, and how we can't back down, but must do the opposite, and fell our mountains.
I received the full digital download of the album at the wee hours of the night on 8/13. I couldn't go to sleep without a listen, and it was worth it! This album is excellent. I was nervous, but clearly had no reason to be. There are songs for fist pumping, for face-melting, for raw rock energy and the power we've come to love... ('Omerta's Sons' and 'The Crossfire Gambit', so great!), and there are softer songs like 'Blood Moon' which is, for lack of a better term,... a worship song. The album has shades of rock from both ends of the spectrum and in between, and sells the idea that no matter the sound they tackle, the music and lyrics will always represent more than just a name, but an idea ... Project 86.
So, in summary, if you want something honest, something different, but something that speaks a consistent challenging and positive message, you have found it. Just buy it already. :)
on September 9, 2012
Promising something different from the very first song we are started off with a simple military drum that is soon accompanied by the clean clear sounds of a hammered dulcimer. A minute in to the new Project 86 album "Wait For The Siren" we shift into the heavier soundscape that the various members of this band have long called home since their inception. Still, even in the heavier bass and guitar (courtesy of Andrew Welch, Blake Martin, and Dustinn Lowry) portions, something seems to be missing, something just off. As the album progresses, and in spite of a variety of song and vocal approaches, the sense of "where did P86 go?" increases. (Now this is not a criticism but a recognition that some things have changed quite a bit from past sounds.) Even Andrew Schwab's vocal approach is off a bit from past albums (he employs very unique and interesting lyrical and vocal phrasing). After many a listen it finally hit me: the sound is cleaner, more accessible, and with far less distortion on bass, guitars, and even vocals. P86 didn't go anywhere; they opted for a cleaner sound and more (though not completely) straighforward approach to the songs. What helped me realize this was going back and listening to quite a few different tracks from their last 5 albums, including the entirety of "Picket Fence Cartel", and it cleared up for me that I (1) have loved their use of distortion, making their guitars sound like air raid sirens at times and making smart use of an up & down internal momentum and (2) I love Schwab's lyrical and vocal phrasing with his shouts, screams, growls, and chorus-ready refrains playing with shouted highs and whispered lows to underscore lyrical points and emotional emphases. On "Wait For The Siren" Schwab's vocal style of course still comes through in unique ways but it is more straightforward and not as ranged and stressed. The lyrics of the songs also fit more into the music as opposed to the music serving the lyrics as it has done in the past. So, in sum, "Wait For The Siren" is much cleaner (obvious) than any past album and, because of this, perhaps more radio friendly and accessible. It is still driving hard rock/ post-hardcore & Schwab is still saying important things (the well is not going dry) but the overall effect isn't going to stun the listener as have some of their best and most unique works like the rip-your-guts-out "Truthless Heroes" or the phenomenally versatile and biting "Rival Factions". Those two albums in particular continue to blow me away.
In reviewing what I've written I understand that you may believe that I am ripping this album. Not true. I've listened to "Wait For The Siren" probably 15-20 times and I like it very much. I have pored over it and let it pour into me. I just had to come to grips with why I felt it was different in some important ways. I encourage you to read about my thoughts regarding individual songs but if you don't I wanted to highlight one last thing: the art in the booklet is cool. WWII paintings & propaganda. Best packaging I've seen P86 come up with.
1) Fall Goliath Fall ~ An unusual start but fresh & promising something new. Schwab is joined on shouted vocals. This is like an angry military march. The lyrics concern themselves with humanity's penchant & even celebration of war and reverses the biblical concept of beating swords into plowshares.
Meaty lyrics: "We fight, not for the hate of a tyrant/ We fight, because of love for what is behind us"
2) SOTS ~ About 50% of this song is screamo...and I can only tolerate a little screamo so this song is not for me. Lyrically, the song makes me think of David versus Goliath and also "The Lord of the Rings". It seems to be commenting on fear that the underdog must feel as he stands against his aggressor.
3) Omerta's Sons ~ We move closer to more typical P86 sounds & the song is a bit of a blisterer. Schwab is joined again on chorus by additional shouted vocals. The song keeps up a theme of war & violence. Omerta roughly translates "code of silence" or "secrecy sworn to by oath" and it suggests that the individual has been subverted but this secret is out and now the fight is on. Excellent bass work here.
Meaty lryics: "If I was a son to you in deceit/ Am I dead to you in honesty?/ If we were brothers in cowardice/ Are we enemies in bravery?"
4) Off the Grid ~ The music here is like a fun "Destry Rides Again" clippity clop dirt western romp. Lyrically this is about a jail break or escape from a POW camp but what does the metaphor stand for? Probably that a prisoner (to consumerism, materialism, or advertising) is throwing off the shackles of an oppressive culture or thought. Common Schwab theme. Fun romp of a song.
5) New Transmission ~ This one feels tailor made for the radio. An easy rock beat & melody. The song is about becoming just as the song title suggests.
Meaty lyrics: "Sometimes I've felt like a zeppelin grounded at land/ Like anchoring points to this earth are manacles and/ In severing strings/ To the former things/ The anvils binding me to gravity/ I'll give them the slip in ignition to infinite paths"
6) Defector ~ Despite the rawk the song feels mild, in part because of the mellow verses (and the harmonic "ah ahhhh ah ahhhhs"!). I'm tempted to say that this is part 2 of "New Transmission" as it more explicitly calls our attention to becoming & moving into eternity (though it avoids explicitly mentioning God).
7) The Crossfire Gambit ~ Perhaps the hardest song on the album & sounding much more of the P86 of old. Lots of yell singing on this one. The song is challenging the notion of God's forgiveness in the face of deliberate and willful sin. Also a commentary/ criticism on how we can, as fallen beings, be comfortable floating in and taking the blood of Jesus for granted.
Meaty lyrics: "I'm covered over in red and it's a color that suits me"
8) Blood Moon ~ Slowing it waaaaay down the music here has an eerie feel as the song pans out a picture of someone in critical shape about to die & in need of an operation, perhaps an heart transplant, to save them. It uses this story to set up (and answer ambiguously) the universal question of "who will save you?"
Meaty lyrics: "Who will catch you if the engines fail?/ Who'll protect you if the train's derailed?/ Who'll revive you if your oxygen ceases?/ Who'll provide you with a new heartbeat?"
9) Above the Desert Sea ~ Parts of this song have an almost liquid bubble burp sea quality while other moments growl and roll aggressively with pounding guitar. This is a cool song. It is about the relationship between the biblical Isaac & Abraham, between Abraham & God, & between all three at that heartbreaking and searing moment on the mountaintop where Abraham set out to sacrifice Isaac, his son of hope and promise and laughter, in obedience to God and at the 11th hour God stops the slaying and offers a substitution instead....I could go and on but I'll stop. I love this song.
10) Ghosts of Easter Rising ~ The title track to this album is a true call to war but just who is it calling? It's an invocation of God to justify violence, war, against others. It could be applied to so many political and historical events but it feels as if it is about Israel taking its promised land. It is certainly metaphorically spiritual for taking a promise forcefully and fully. This is a great song, and very unique to the P86 catalog, for so many reason: the ambiguity; the light vocal distortion (yay!); punctuated high/low moments (yay!); some background yiddish or aramaic vocalizations; and the elegiac, otherwordly sound of the Uilleann pipes which feel like they're transporting us from the now to the then. This song would have fit nicely on "Rival Factions".
11) Avalantia ~ Avalantia = "avalance"? = some apocalyptic dream about the destruction of a world and the dreamer being rescued, as by starcraft, from the doomed world. Decent song for the backend of the album.
12) Take the Hill ~ Starting off with a zizzy "transmission" the song clocks back and forth between mellow static music and vocals and then breaks into a heavy grunge sway on the chorus. Oh, and did I mention the (ready for this?) mandolin solo thrown in for good measure? Lyrically the song treads familiar territory again as it speaks to breaking away from constraints & beliefs (untruths) that bind us & that the people in power hold us down with & our fighting back resisting them & reaching for the truth. This could be a theme song for "The Matrix" movie. The song is a musical mishmash but somehow it works.
Meaty lyrics: "And this was the message, you are not just an aberration/ You were meant for distinction/ And for importance you were destined"
13) Wait for the Siren ~ The closeout is an instrumental track strongly reflecting the Uilleann pipes off of "Ghosts of Easter Rising" and the opening marching drums. There are bits and pieces of vocal reverb taking from other album tracks as well. And thus, the battle it seems has ended. Or has it just begun?
on March 31, 2013
I really enjoy christian metal and the sound i like changes with my mood. WHen I first listened to this album I was walking my dog and kept picturing montages of me working out. SO when I got home I worked out, it was awesome, This album pumps you up and allows you to recall and think at times. It is an amazing album and I may just buy another cd of there's sooner than I think. The vocals were incredible. BUY IT!
on September 12, 2013
Having followed p86 from the beginning I can safely say that this album is excellent. It stands up next to their best and exceeds that mark at times. While there are individual songs that are awesome rockers, the entire album in both concept and total sound is a well crafted piece of work. I thoroughly enjoy the overall theme of the message and how each portion dovetails together to form a whole. This is a good entry point for those not familiar with Project86 and a must buy for any post-hardcore fan.
on January 19, 2014
This is one of my favorite albums of the year! Project 86 is back, I was disappointed with some of the their previous releases in the past. But, they restored my love and faith in them with this album. Project 86 has always had that unique sound and I know I am listening to Project 86 when one of the songs pops up on my playlist. So many bands sound the same nowadays. Great Album! Favorite Songs: All of them!
on June 23, 2013
In 1998, the music world was falling in love with Aerosmith's newest hit "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing," The Backstreet Boys were soaring to the height of their popularity, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra was leading a pack of bands trying to bring swing and rockabilly back into the zeitgeist. Far more importantly, however, 1998 was the year that a little band from California named Project 86 released their self-titled, debut album. Project 86 was a "rapcore" meets hard rock album produced by a fledgling Christian label that was itself just finding its stride. In light of this, if you were a fan of the music industry at that time trying to guess which band the music world would still be talking about in 2012, you'd probably have guessed wrong.
Almost a decade and a half later and having watched "hit" bands come and go like lightening flashing across the sky, Project 86 remains a dominant force with little sign of slowing down. Despite having weathered label issues, band member changes, and everything else the music industry could throw, Andrew Schwab and company find themselves set to release yet another awe-inspiring album certain to further establish their legacy as one of the most tragically underrated bands this world has to offer.
Perhaps the biggest reason P86 is able to remain relevant while their peers have slipped away one by one is that they very quickly found their core "sound," but never shied away from playing closer to the fringes of that sound than most bands are comfortable with. So, while many other bands find a signature vibe and then produce cookie-cutter albums until oblivion, Project finds new and innovative ways to produce diverse and yet somehow signature soundscapes for each album.
It should be no surprise, then, that Wait for the Siren builds upon the epic sound Project 86 has formed over the years and yet it takes the band to places they've never gone before. As frontman Andrew Schwab hinted at in his exclusive interview with IVM, the band added a hammered dulcimer player, an Uilleann piper, and a mandolin player into the mix for this new album. Add to that the fact that more guest artists were featured in the recording process than ever before (see the interview linked above for a list of the amazing talent that helped form this album), and the results are nothing short of amazing.
Wait for the Siren feels a little like a concept album at first glance. From the cover art to the track names and into the lyrics, the imagery and the atmosphere of war time sonnets begins to emerge. Unlike P86′s Truthless Heroes, however, Wait for the Siren's true concept and backbone is a hopeful faith in times of adversity set against the recurrence of Old Testament imagery. As only Schwab could do, the lyrics double as powerful reminders of the spiritual war we find ourselves in while still in this world.
Perhaps the song that best captures this is "Take the Hill," which pictures a message of hope being squashed by the powers that be because of its disruptive nature. Through this beautiful imagery, Schwab closes the song with a battle cry that seems to best sum up the band's place in the world: "Still driven to dispel myths, still escaping the sinking ship, still dropping flaming arrows to the middle of the village, still dodging their attempts, still fighting indifference, still amassing countless numbers as we march to take the hill."
Musically, Wait for the Siren features some of the band's hardest songs to date with "Fall, Goliath, Fall" and "SOTS." It also features some of their most etherial and beautiful songs in "New Transmission" and "Ghosts of Easter Rising." The way the band is able to effectively mix these two extremes produces an album that is balanced and completely interesting. If I were to step out on a limb, I'd say that this album should have no problem bringing fans back for another listen even 15 years from now.
For me, however, the heart and soul of Wait for the Siren comes down to two songs. Although tracks like "Fall, Goliath, Fall" and "Omerta's Sons" are powerhouse songs that demand attention, "Ghosts of Easter Rising" and "Above the Desert Sea" are really what solidify this album for me as not only one of Project 86′s best efforts to date, but also one of the best albums of the year. In so many ways, "Ghosts of Easter Rising" feels like the spiritual successor to "Open Hand" from Drawing Black Lines. Not only is the song beautiful and etherial, it is also a battle cry for every believer that picks right up where "Open Hand" left off so many years ago. Just as I stood with my fist in the air at Creation Fest years ago chanting "Three nails to protect us," I can easily close my eyes and envision a throng of believers in Christ proclaiming; "By Your hand, we make our stand. They'll heed our command, and flee this land."
"Ghosts of Easter Rising" is made even more powerful by the fact that it is followed by "Above the Desert Sea." Where "Ghosts..." proclaims a bold faith, "Above the Desert Sea" shows what it means to put feet to that faith. And what a way to do it. Set from the perspective of Abraham as he holds the knife above his head to slay Isaac, the imagery is haunting as Abraham cries, "I know you came from me, this blood is in your veins... but to trust is to obey." Schwab is a master of creating imagery with his words, but with this track I could almost feel the pain in Abraham's heart as he wrestled with the dichotomy of wanting to save his only son while knowing he must put his trust in God.
The album closes with the title track, "Wait for the Siren." Despite the fact that the song is almost entirely instrumental (there are key words from the album played in the foreground here and there), it somehow brings together the sum total of the theme and soundscapes from the rest of the album and brings them nicely to rest.
Overall: Wait for the Siren continues to bring a new and diverse sound while still being distinctly Project 86. The concept of the album is impactful and the instrumentation is at once different and yet makes you feel like it is an old friend. Each track brings its own flavor while still managing to blend perfectly into the aroma of the whole for a release that keeps you coming back for more. If you are a fan of supporting amazingly talented bands that are in a class by themselves, then this album is certainly for you.
on April 22, 2014
Having very loosely followed P86 for a number of years, I just recently discovered the single Fall Goliath, Fall and was amazed. What a great song. Instead of just purchasing the one song, I purchased the album and have not been disappointed. Some artsy, some crunchy, all pretty good.
on August 28, 2012
I cannot describe how incredible this album is. They have pushed themselves musically and still retain their P86 sound. No one sounds like P86, in Christian or secular rock. The rawness, the provocative lyrics, even the instrumental track mesh beautifully! There is a haunting quality in this CD, even a sadness, at times, that is hard to describe. Great job, Andrew!!!
on November 6, 2013
Let me start off by saying I'm a Project 86 fan. Every CD I've grabbed from them is diverse, heart-pounding, loud (in a good way), fun and thought provoking. Andrew Schwab is a master with the pen and he doesn't seem to mind breaking with the rules of music writing (Example: "Songs to Burn Your Bridges By") if it means getting his message out.
That said, "Wait for the Siren" is a bit of a mixed bag and thus I have mixed feelings about it. For those not aware, Project 86 kind-of-sort-of-but-not-officially/really broke up. Their drummer left after/during the recording of "Rival Factions" on good terms with the band. Then (I'm not sure as to when, exactly) his Bass player and Guitarist left after the "Picket Fence Cartel". Basically Andrew Schwab and the P 86 I know had come to an end. But Andrew Schwab didn't seem quite ready to retire. Instead he reformed Project 86 with a new crew and went back to work. Being out of a record label (Which sort of stunned me, despite this not being the first time for them) forced Andrew and the new Project 86 to reach out through the web-thing-a-ma-jig, Kickstarter, for help with paying the cost of a new CD. Thus "Wait for the Siren" came to audiences. Ok, that's the recent history. So how'd the new Project 86 do?
"Wait for the Siren" is simultaneously a step forward and a step backward. Is it loud? Yes. Fun? At times. Heart-pounding? Mostly. Thought-Provoking? Yes. Diverse? No. "Wait for the Siren" has the Project 86 passion, some of their style revealed in from Rival Faction, and some of their old sound. It's a pretty solid 13 tracks. There's guest singers on a couple songs. So what's up with my mediocre rating?
Andrew Schwab takes full advantage of being unrestrained by the studio to produce radio-friendly lyrics. He is very open about his faith on the record. The lyrics are straight forward but still possess a message. In fact I'd say the message is even deeper because you don't have to first guess what he's talking about. It's not generic stuff (even by Project 86' none-generic standards). The problem is his writing suffers because of this. The lyrics are, at times, too straight forward. "Above the Desert Sea" is a retelling of Abraham being prepared to sacrifice his son. While I don't mind the Scripture it's so blunt that it jars with the music. Then there's "Blood Moon" which is a song that is about the birth of his daughter and the moment of panic during that incident of his life. While it bears a similar sound to "From December" ("... and the Rest Will Follow") it's a track that is almost too personal. The lyrics are easy to hear and he uses it to convey a deeper message but, again, it's just doesn't resonate with a listener. "Ghosts of Easter Rising" is a sound that seems very UN-Project86. Another song "The Crossfire Gambit" is a really strange song,lyrically, but it's easy to hear the "Songs to Burn Your Bridges By" tempo. In fact several songs on this CD feel very un-Project 86. That wouldn't be such a bad thing. Rival Factions is one of my favorite CDs but the tracks on "Wait for the Siren" are done by a completely different band and they lack the diversity of that CD. This really is what hurts the CD the most. There's so little diversity between some tracks that you might not realize when a new song is playing.
So all in all I'd say this CD is more fan-oriented than geared to new fans. It IS a good CD, especially the first 3 tracks which are pretty much pure AWESOME, but it's not a consistent good. As though they were trying for something new and familiar and ended up missing both marks.