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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Project 86- Wait for the Siren


What the heck? After a lackluster 2009 album, and a subsequent label-dropping, and a period where all of the members but the vocalist left, yet the vocalist still continued to refer to the band as "we," Project 86 releases one of, if not the best album under their name, Wait for the Siren. To make Wait for the Siren, that vocalist, Andrew Schwab, now missing a guitarist, bassist, and drummer, enlisted some friends to help, and created a crowdfunding campaign. I backed it, not expecting much, and feeling conflicted about Schwab keeping the band going without its original musicians. Eight months later, the CD arrived in my mailbox.
It's lovely to find that something you weren't even anticipating to be good is excellent. From "Fall Goliath Fall"'s opening seconds, Wait for the Siren shows itself to be a special album. A variety of celtic instruments play out a surprising intro, before crushing guitar and booming drums, featuring energetic fills, take over. The bass, as in Project 86's heyday, is turned up loud in the mix. Schwab's vocals are as solid as ever, lending inspiring lyrics to this inspired instrumentation, as the celtic instruments weave in and out of the song. What follows over the next twelve tracks is a brilliant mix of Project 86's heavier side, with a more diverse offering of straightforward rock, as well, and some surprisingly emotional softer songs.
The pacing is perfect, with neither side of the Project 86's sound wearing out its welcome, and the band never settling in the middle too long, either. I say "band," but here in the playing and songwriting, it's a miraculous mix of Living Sacrifice/Evanescence's Rocky Gray on drums, and The Wedding's Cody Driggers on bass, with A Plea for Purging's Blake Martin, Disciple's Andrew Welch, and newcomer, Dustin Lowery, all passing around the guitar. This shouldn't work, and it certainly shouldn't sound like Project 86, but somehow it does and it does. I won't even try to understand how.
Somehow, Schwab willed a quintessential Project 86 album into existence without the participation of any of the original band members, despite the fact that Schwab doesn't even play an instrument. His voice, though, is in top form, sounding great in his trademark yowling for the heavier songs, but belting out some surprisingly fine singing in the instrumentally lighter songs. His decision to bring in the celtic instrumentation also pays off brilliantly--the mandolin, dulcimer, and pipes only pop up on four songs, but they're done and spread out in such a way that they feel ever-present.
With that that added touch, Wait for the Siren takes on the high honor of sounding like Project 86, and yet having its own unique aural identity in the Project 86 catalogue. It might be the most diverse album to the band's name, the most interesting, the most affecting--and it's also received the best critical reviews of any album under the Project 86 banner.
Being at a crossroads in life when Wait for the Siren was released, I found the album vital (it topped my best of 2012 list--and I think that was a pretty great year in music). I still do. Sometimes you just take a miracle without question.
But there is a question. Randy Torres, Steven Dail, and Alex Albert had nothing to do with the creation of Wait for the Siren. Before it was released, I was of the opinion that the album should have been put out under a different band name. I am quite sure those three men feel the same way. However, upon listening, this album sounds uniquely Project 86. It contains an autumnal, epic feel that only that band can conjure. This is a Project 86 album. And it's a great one.

2012 Team Black
1. Fall Goliath Fall 4:16
2. SOTS (featuring Bruce Fitzhugh) 3:16
3. Omerta's Sons 3:34
4. Off the Grid 2:58
5. New Transmission 3:08
6. Defector 3:40
7. The Crossfire Gambit (featuring Brian "Head" Welch) 3:15
8. Blood Moon 4:10
9. Above the Desert Sea 4:14
10. Ghosts of Easter Rising 3:45
11. Avalantia 4:15
12. Take the Hill 5:08
13. Wait for the Siren 2:11

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