No strangers to the independent album release, Project 86 has taken that route once again with Knives To The Future following a hugely successful Indiegogo campaign. Nearly doubling their initial goal, their fans spoke loudly with their support and are sure to be pleased with the result.
Lead vocalist Andrew Schwab was quoted In a recent press release. “This record is a continuation thematically of where we left off with Wait for the Siren. It tells the story of a soldier post-battle who has forgotten where he came from or who he is. The album is about a search for truth and destiny through rediscovering secrets hidden in your past. Sonically it is heavy, deeply emotional, desperate, and very personal. I’m very proud of what has been accomplished both with the fans and the music in this recent chapter.”
Andrew and his band have every right to be proud. Several of the tracks have a familiar Project 86 sound with his prominent vocal stamp, but despite the relatively new lineup, this is very much a veteran album full of complex themes and music. I’m reminded of artists as diverse as The Beatles, P.O.D., Stavesacre, Tourniquet, and more. Synths, electronic noise, and alternating channel and siren-like guitar riffs are interspersed throughout as well, lending to a sense of the surrounding battle. Even the album art plays a part in illustrating the story, immediately called to mind by the intro track of boots crunching through the snow and continued by the opening line of “Spirit of Shiloh”. “I wade through silence on this frozen battle field.”
This album, while haunting and saturated with emotion and weariness, is also full of hope as evidenced by the title track. “No retreat; there’s nothing behind me. We have no choice; we’re never surrendering! We’ve gone too far to turn back now.” Mark Salomon (Stavesacre) is brought to mind in the slow-paced “Son of Flame” as Andrew sings about the burning flame lighting the darkest day. “Ambigram” is a P.O.D.-tinged track where the singer is reaching out, seeking shelter from the battle. “Meet me in my sanctuary where no enemy will find the key.” There is little doubt where Andrew’s hope comes from in this story. “White Capstone” contains beautiful melody, background vocals and dynamic changes with lyrics addressed to the only one who can give meaning to this battle.
“Lost in your light, the only way I’ll make it through … Remind me of your promises; remind me of your faithfulness; remind me this was never about me.”
The pain of the past is expressed most strongly in the powerful “Genosha”. A cello sets a melancholy tone before the rest of the band comes crashing in and the singer yells out in defiance of the one who abandoned him and made him believe he had no place to belong.
The album culminates with the slow-burning standout “Oculus”, a departure from the typical Project 86 song, veering into progressive rock territory and performed to perfection, I would love to hear more where this came from. It features Andrew’s haunting, emotional melody and is layered with synths, strings, and even piano. Due to the quiet beginning and long build-up, the emotional climax is all the more powerful. Lyrically, the album’s soldier’s eyes are opened to the meaning of his past as he expresses his revelation.
“Every single moment, every memory was just a small reminder that you were always with me. Every disappointment, every agony, every peak and every valley melts into your hands.”
Interestingly, it isn’t until repeating the album that you realize the musical theme underlying the intro track is taken from the final song, creating emotional bookends that when played back to back suck you right back into the journey.
Never content to rest on past success, Project 86 has created a beautiful, powerful, and complex album that has further stretched the band’s creative muscles. The story is one of pain and sadness, but also great hope in the shining light that breaks through the darkness. I highly recommend Knives To The Future.