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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Project 86 -- Drawing Black Lines


Project 86's self-titled debut may have its flaws, but it certainly got me invested in the band. One morning, late into my first semester of college, I decided to pick up Project's then-recently released sophomore effort, Drawing Black Lines. That turned out to be a very eventful day, as the moment I put the CD into my car player, an 18-wheeler tire spat a rock into my passenger window, and shattered it. This event was even more shocking for my sister, who was sitting in the passenger seat. I ended up dropping my car off at shop in Baton Rouge for repairs, and staying at the nearby vacant home of a vacationing cousin--who thankfully had a boombox in his room. I'm sure he was surprised to return days later, to everything being smashed.
Drawing Black Lines waves to Project 86's debut, then drives a million miles further down the road. The basic bedrock of Andrew Schwab's poetic, meditative lyrics, Steven Dail's absolutely filthy  basslines, and Alex Albert's pounding, unique drums is still there. However, the songwriting has grown by leaps and bounds, the soundscape has grown far more diverse, and guitarist, Randy Torres, has vastly increased his palette, exploring dark atmospherics and more complex ways to rock. Torres also contributes sung vocals to the majority of Drawing Black Lines' songs (even taking lead on album breather, "*"), a vital counterpoint to Schwab's raging screams and menacing spoken word. Many bands in Project 86's wake would take the sing/scream dynamic to such a poppy place, you'd wonder what Justin Timberlake album they were cribbing their melodies from. This was not a part of Project 86's sound--the singing instead feels like a sort of cerebral expression smoking around the intense, concrete emotions of the harsh vocals. There's one trick Project 86 master on this album, though, that sets it far ahead of its peers.
Creating a dark album is tough to do without making it a drag, or depressing. Drawing Black Lines is pitch black at times, and yet, there is a white hot intensity lighting the way, as if this album is being carved out by sentient fire, and a fun, tireless energy few albums in whatever genre this is have accomplished (I'm comfortable calling it "art-metal"). Also, each song is so distinct from the next, with the tempos and emotions changing before they get old, but never before they've had time to resonate. You know you've done some good work when Deftones rips you off.
I knew before I wrote this Drawing Black Lines review that I would not focus on individual tracks as I likely will for the rest of this band's catalogue. An album this good, that works in concert so well, should not be treated so clinically. This is also an album that in its last track, completely deconstructs itself, anyway. If you enjoy heavy music in any capacity, you owe yourself a listen.

2000 BEC Recordings/Atlantic Records
1. Stein's Theme 3:55
2. One-Armed Man (Play On) 3:44
3. Me Against Me 3:38
4. P.S. 5:54
5. Set Me Up 3:07
6. Chimes 4:58
7. A Toast to My Former Self 3:23
8. Sad Machines 4:16
9. Star (*) 4:53
10. Chapter 2 3:16
11. Open Hand 2:39
12. Twenty-Three 12:57


Azure Ides-Grey said...

"Many bands in Project 86's wake would take the sing/scream dynamic to such a poppy place, you'd wonder what Justin Timberlake album they were cribbing their melodies from."

This is hilarious!

Also, I had no idea that was Torres singing on "*"; I thought it was Schwab, but now that I think about it, it doesn't sound anything like him so I don't know why I never questioned the matter. At any rate, that's been a much replayed song for me. Love the screaming at 2:29 on "Sad Machines," too. Makes me throw up my rawkfist ... oh, wait ... ;)

Nicholas said...

Torres did essentially all of the singing parts on the first couple of albums. Then, all of a sudden on Truthless Heroes, Schwab started singing...quite a shock to the system!
Yes, that part at 2:29 is awesome! Another part on that song that makes me throw up my rawkfist is when they go to the quiet part in the bridge with just the bass, and then all of a sudden Schwab shouts "pointing to show us the way!" and they rip right back into the chorus. So awesome! Such a great album.