Hard rock veterans Project 86 released what was arguably their best album to date in 2012 with Wait For the Siren. After another successful crowd funding campaign (this time through IndieGoGo) Andrew Schwab and company are back with the follow-up to their highly touted 2012 release. This time around, the funding goal was set much higher, but much bigger incentives and promises were offered; including the addition a 4-track acoustic EP. Wait For the Siren leaves some really big shoes to fill, but P86 is ready and willing to try to meet and exceed any expectations. Musically, the album takes on much of the heaviness of their prior, but more of the electronic elements from Rival Factions are added in as well.
Knives to the Future picks up right where Wait For the Siren left off and was written as a continuation. After an intro that runs just over a minute in length, the record kicks into high gear with "Spirit of Shiloh." "Shiloh" was the first single released and is a hard rocking track in true P86 style. The heaviness continues with "Acolyte March," another single released before the record. If Wait For the Siren was a call to war (or the beginnings of war) then the war itself is raging in Knives to the Future. This becomes pretty evident as Schwab belts out, "Your city belongs to me!" The war wages on in the hard rocking title track and Schwab sings, "No retreat; there's nothing behind me. We have no choice; we're never surrendering." The album finally slows down for "Son of Flame," the sister song to Siren's "Blood Moon." You will probably notice that the songs share a similar sound and this is most definitely intentional. "Blood Moon" was a song for Schwab's daughter, while "Son of Flame" is for his son. While the track isn't as intriguing as "Blood Moon" lyrically, musically it's just as hypnotic. "Captive Bolt Pistol" (another great P86 song title) raises the intensity back up. Just as intense as the music are the lyrics -- especially those that open the song for the first verse. While the first few songs carried an older P86 feel, this track is more along the lines of some of their newer sounds. Delayed guitar effects then open one of the album's best in "Ambigram." The chorus, "Meet me in my sanctuary where no enemy will find a key. Meet me in my sanctuary where iron and flame make your mark on me," is just downright infectious.
"Genosha" starts off with strings only before jumping into the heavy guitar and screaming. Schwab and the band continue the hard rock attack with the bass heavy "Pale Riders." The track interestingly slows down some for the chorus and injects more of the electronic elements that are spattered about. The hard rock and war metaphors continue with "Valley of Cannons." The lyrics here go a little darker and are a story about being captured, but like a good soldier, he does not give into enemy threats that demand "renounce your crusade." "White Capstone" is one of the more interesting songs present. The song is heavy, but also becomes very soft and electronic in the chorus. The entire song trudges along at a slower pace and offers a nice break to the endless barrage that had previously only been broken up by "Son of Flame." The final track, "Oculus," builds off of the foundation set forth by "White Capstone." An eerie keyboard plays in the background of the softest song on the record and the electronic feel is stronger here. As "Oculus" progresses, the music builds with another great story along the lines of "Take the Hill." The nearly-seven-minute song finally culminates around the four minute mark. The heavy guitars kick in and Schwab yells out the final lyrics, ending with, "I remember no more." The music diminishes down to piano only and as the final note is played, you realize just how epic of a finale you just heard.
As promised, Project 86 has also included a 4-track bonus EP (as part of the digital "Special Edition" version). These four songs are an interesting addition to say the least. They don't appear to be part of Knives to the Future, but the band considers them to be "an epilogue to the main narrative." These 4 tracks prove that P86 does acoustic music like they do Christmas music -- a bit weird and creepy; "Nocturnal" is the best example of this. "Firefly Without a Night" is arguably the best of the bunch though. "Transposeur" and "In Trenches" are, however, probably the closest thing to what one would expect from an acoustic song by most bands. These four songs aren't necessarily bad, but I don't recommend listening to them along with Knives to the Future -- at least not at first. They aren't meant as a companion to the record and could color your opinion of the album a little more negatively. The acoustic tracks listened to as an EP (as intended) could definitely provide a rather intriguing and entertaining listening experience on their own though.
Andrew Schwab continues to prove just exactly why he is respected by so many. For me, the man's lyrical prowess is unmatched. Themes and lyrics always seem to be new and enticing. This rings true just as much as ever on Knives to the Future. Project's latest is musically hard-hitting and lyrically challenging and on point. Be warned: These lyrics aren't for the faint of heart and are often dark and a bit violent. While, overall, I feel (personally) that this album falls a hair short of Wait For the Siren, it honestly isn't by much. Just when you think you aren't really feeling a particular song, you listen again and find something to enjoy from it. It's rare that a band can put together one album of songs you aren't tempted to skip through, but Project 86 have given us two in a row. Even better is that the albums go together and tell the same story. Topping everything off is some killer album artwork. P86 have been relying on fans to make music and in turn have definitely given them their money's worth. If you liked Wait For the Siren, you are going to want to pick up Knives to the Future immediately.- Review date: 11/9/14, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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