Project 86 – “Knives to the Future”


p86_knives_artwork_1500The new album from Project 86, Knives to the Future, picks up thematically from where their last album, Wait for the Siren, left off.  Much like Truthless Heroes, Knives to the Future tells a story, in this case, one of a soldier regaining consciousness after a battle with no memory of who he is.  The songs provide the soundscape for the soldier’s journey to find out where he came from and who he is.

For those who don’t know of Project 86, it may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that the band has been around with various lineups for 18 years, being formed in Orange County, California in 1996.  From a career standpoint, the band has released eight albums, two DVDs, two Eps and one live album, with likely now over 500,000 units moved worldwide.  The band has seen the good and bad of the recording industry, starting out on Tooth&Nail records to gain fame and attention, then sign to Atlantic Records where everything literally went wrong for the band.  Following that rough period, the band self-released one album then rejoined Tooth&Nail for a few years, leaving at the end of a contract in 2011 to use Kickstarter to fund their Wait for the Siren album that was released in 2012 and featured a variety of guest apperances ranging from Head (Korn) to Bruce Fitzhugh and Rocky Gray (Living Sacrifice) to even Blake Martin (A Plea for Purging).  For Knives to the Future, the band recorded in Steelman Studios in Van Nuys, CA with Matt McClellan and the band producing and Steve Evetts mixing.  At this point in the band’s history, singer Andrew Schwab is the only remaining original member, but throughout the band’s career, Schwab’s distinct vocals and a general sonic quality to the band have made their songs easily recognizable.

Before we get into the album, I should mention that I have all the Project 86 albums, have seen them several times in various size venues, and could almost be an Andrew Schwab “fanboy” as I also have several of his books.  Regardless of how you feel about the band, I highly recommend his book It’s All Downhill from Here that describes life on tour with Project 86.  Fame is Infamy is another work of his that is highly recommended and consists more of stories and proverbs addressing the search for self-worth in our world today.  In some ways, I think of Andrew Schwab as someone similar to Henry Rollins in terms of the whole dynamic of being a writer and vocalist in a band that deserves more attention/credit than they would ever get.  That being said, Schwab’s Christian viewpoint certainly separates him from Rollins in some occasions and sharing those beliefs allow his writings to resonate more clearly with me. So with all that out in the open, let’s get to the album.

Those familiar with Project 86 will certainly recognize this sound as it is entirely consistent with the rest of their catalog.  Oddly enough, the band has changed/altered/varied their approach and sound throughout their career but their sound is instantly recognizable, likely due in large part to Andrew Schwab’s vocals.  Haunting, powerful, cutting, loud, clear, menacing, authoritative, and forceful are all characteristics of his vocals on the Project 86 albums with these characteristics holding whether he is shouting, singing loudly, or even whispering.  To me, this album and Truthless Heroes have a different overall vibe and feel to them compared to the other albums that may be a result of these two albums telling a story.  There is not the need for some standout tracks to highlight, they all need to simultaneously be strong enough to stand out and cohesive enough to fit together in a flow and just like with Truthless Heroes, the band pulls it off.

“Knives to the Future” brings out the concept of battle aspect of fighting against the world that Project 86 has used on various albums throughout their career.  There is a bit more electronic instrumentation going on compared to albums in the past but the sound still retains the heavy guitar and drum-driven sound the band is known for.  Andrew’s vocals for the character in the story on this track are reminiscent of an inspirational speech, shouting “No retreat…We have no choice, we’ll never surrender” in such a way that the listener feels the need to join in.

Without giving too much away, the story follows the character through a journey of discovery, hope, pain, and betrayal with the rest of the songs switching from eerie and melodic to loud, emotional and heavy.   Listeners will hear many parallels in the songs and styles used with songs from various Project 86 albums and in many ways, the band is playing to their strengths throughout the album without sounding like a rehash of previous material.

One strength with Project 86 has always been the lyrics of Andrew Schwab and this album is no exception.  In fact, this one and Truthless Heroes with their storylines, serve as great examples of how to weave a tale that can work on its own or within a music album.  The songs are filled with great phrases, vivid imagery and symbolism that works on many levels and will take many listens to maybe come to terms with all that is buried within.

“Oculus” closes out the standard album story complete with a somewhat quiet melodic vocal backed by piano, electronic music and strings that provide a somewhat dark backdrop that seems hauntingly comforting and brightens throughout the song, similar to the sun rising on a dark, wintry, foggy morning.  At the end, the music builds and for the first time on the album Andrew Schwab’s vocals turn to loud screaming with his voice on the jagged edge…”There is nothing left to say, there is nothing left to prove, there is nothing left to live for…I am one with the light…” and then the song fades out with quiet piano.  Perfect end to the story…

The one bonus track I have is “Nocturnal Gaze” which is off the acoustic ep that backers of the crowdfunding  project for the album received.  The song itself is somewhat haunting and eerie with most of the vocals delivered in a harsh whispered tone as the band remains somewhat subdued as well.  Certainly raises interest in what the rest of the acoustic ep sounds like.

 Rating: 9/10

Written by John Jackson

1. Intro
2. Spirit of Shiloh
3. Acolyte March
4. Knives to the Future
5. Son of Flame
6. Captive Bolt Pistol
7. Ambigram
8. Genosha
9. Pale Rider
10. Valley of Cannons
11. White Capstone
12. Oculus
13. Nocturnal Gaze (Acoustic EP) (IndieGoGo Bonus Track)

Band Members:
Andrew Schwab – Vocals
Darren King – Guitars
Cody Driggers – Bass
Ryan Wood – Drums

Record Label: Team Black Recordings, Nov. 2014

Weblinks: Facebook  / Twitter / Website

Buy the album here:
 First Paradox 
 Nordic Mission

Video below ‘Knives To The Future’

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