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Monday, June 26, 2017

Project 86 -- Project 86


I cannot recall exactly how I discovered Project 86, only that I noticed they had a cool dragon logo and Asian aesthetic, their album cover featured a metaphysically dismembered person staring into some great void, and they looked all dark and mysterious. That was enough to pique my interest, and one afternoon, a few weeks before my first semester of college, I picked up a sweet CD double-header of MxPx's Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo and Project 86's Self-Titled debut. I said everything I could say about that MxPx album its (linked above) review, but my first listen to Project 86 was an equally special experience. From the dark, probing atmosphere of the opening minute, spilling into a heavy riff, and vocalist, Andrew Schwab, shouting "Back so full of scrapes!" to the tiny little guitar line that explodes after the first whispered chorus, Schwab's vocals growing urgent, I was immediately hooked, pulled into the band's world. The next track, "Rebuttal," further progresses the band's sound at this point, thick, dominant drop-tuned bass, unique, heavy drums that feel like they're attached to your neck, quiet-to-loud guitar, and Schwab's menacing, yet meditative presence, his poetic lyrics digging deep into matters of self, as well as threats to it. "Rebuttal," features an interesting structure, strangely subdued, threatening release, but never quite giving it. That release comes in track three, "Pipe Dream."

If there is one song on this self-titled album that portends what Project 86 will do in the future, it is the dynamic "Pipe Dream," chugging ahead, changing and evolving, stopping to breathe, chugging further, then flowing into a quiet, anxious bridge, before the entire song ignites into a completely unexpected final 90-seconds, backed by a completely unexpected melodic vocal by guitarist, Randy Torres, which completely recontextualizes this entire band.
Yes, I'll admit it, plenty of songs on this album, no matter how well-done, sound like they were directly influenced by Rage Against the Machine. "Pipe Dream," though, hints at entirely new worlds Project 86 could possibly take the listener...and whats better, in a few years, those worlds would be visited! But back to Self-Titled...
"Pipe Dream" is followed by "Stalemate," a six-minute song with a sitar and tribal-drum intro that quietly builds into something sinister and aggressive, and shows just how deep Schwab is willing to go into his own psyche. This is followed by the thrilling "Run," which bounces from a fast-paced intro, to a hip-hop sounding verse, to a neck-snapping chorus, to yet another powerful outro.
Thus ends the classic first half of this album. However, you may notice that I did not give this album a 10/10, but a 7/10. This is because the second half is not nearly as strong as the first, even though the songs are all good, and some are even great. The problem is that the band is working from a rather limited palette, and none of these second-half songs does anything the first half didn't. Thus, the momentum lags a bit to the point that I remember almost groaning when the first few seconds of track nine, "1 X 7" hit for the first time. As I said, though, this half has its highlights, in the energetic Sonny Sandoval guest performance and the straight rap-rock of "Six Sirens" (the only song I would classify from that genre in this band's full-length catalogue), the powerful emotion of "Bleed Season"'s outro, and the entirety of "When Darkness Reigns." "When Darkness Reigns" final repeated cry of "arise from the dead and wake!" set to a guitar riff that sounds like it could re-start a dead sun, is insanely powerful, and built up to with one of the band's (fittingly) darkest soundscapes. This ending signifies that Project 86 have much vaster musical worlds in sight, even if they're not yet sure how to get there. But it won't take long...

1998 BEC
1. Spill Me 5:25
2. Rebuttal 4:47
3. Pipe Dream 4:35
4. Stalemate 6:16
5. Run 3:37
6. Independence? 4:27
7. Six Sirens (ft. Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D.) 3:35
8. Bleed Season 5:16
9. 1 X 7 3:55
10. When Darkness Reigns 6:40


Anonymous said...

Woah! This album was on BEC? Amazing.


Nicholas said...

Yeah, Buddy! I always thought that was weird. I think the original vision for that label was not as AC as it eventually became. By the time Jeremy Camp landed there, P86 were on Tooth & Nail.
Hope you are doing awesome!