Project 86 (and Andrew Schwab) have been a staple in the Christian music scene for 27 years now and this June will mark the 25th anniversary of their self-titled debut. Despite some apparent bad blood from former members and a steady rotating line-up since about 2010, Schwab has been a favorite lyricist among fans for years and P86 themselves have been beloved by many. From the classic Drawing Black Lines to the more recent and definitive Wait For the Siren, the band has asserted themselves as one of the best in the business. While some have been wondering when Andrew would call it quits for a while now, Schwab made it very clear when he announced the band's upcoming "final" album in July of 2021. The crowd-funded album included a stretch goal -- which was met and surpassed -- to make the final album a double album. It's been a year and eight months since that announcement, but here we are at the release of OMNI (Part 1).
OMNI is a concept album where Part 2 (the Brutality EP and Digital EP) will serve as the origin story. OMNI is set in a dystopian future where the government is a technocracy run by a corporation by the same name. There is no lack of dystopian future stories in today's entertainment industry, but OMNI feels a little more "old school" in design -- borrowing more from Ayn Rand or George Orwell than the modern stories like The Hunger Games or Divergent. The artwork is very reminiscent of the Bioshock video game series. The album art features a tower rising out of the water with "OMNI" emblazoned down the lower center portion. The imagery has an art deco look that just screams Bioshock, and the more scientific/technologically-centered story also gives a similar feel. "Metatropolis" was the first single to drop from the new album and we all knew immediately that this wasn't going to be your "typical" P86 album.
ONMI (Part 1) is undoubtedly the heaviest collection of songs that Schwab and Project 86 have ever released. Sure, the band has had some heavy moments like "Sincerely, Ichabod" or "SOTS," but a large portion of OMNI boarders on metalcore (and even djent), more than standard hard rock. The fact that Cory Brandan (vocally featured on "Skin Job"), Grayson Stewart, and Matthew Putnam (Norma Jean and orphantwin respectively) were involved in the writing process [*with Brandan and Putman assisting in production] should be a clue as to why this one is heavier as a whole. The album is a bit of a grower as you adjust to the stylistic changes (there are times you don't even recognize Schwab's vocals as he is using a more metal sounding growl over his typical scream-singing) and the concept/story itself, but after a few listens, the album really starts clicking. OMNI pretty much bounces around between songs from OMNI's point of view and the rebel's point of view. This even includes the interludes that are utilized to push the narrative forward.
The band has released three singles leading up to the album, and while these have been great listens individually ("Metropolis" is absolutely ridiculous), the remainder of the album is really where all the best parts are found. The djent-y "When the Belfry Speaks" has a great sounding guitar part with some brutal vocals from Schwab, the heavier version of Rival Factions found in the aforementioned "Skin Job," or "Spoon Walker," which features verses that sound like classic P86, coupled with a super heavy chorus are all wonderfully surprising. The lyrics in "Spoon Walker" are just as dark and heavy as the music. Schwab growls, "My stars will fall like blitzkrieg. An arrow in your hide; a hook into your jawline. Descend, descend death is your emissary. Atrocity collapse," or "I am become death: the destroyer of worlds. There will be no ruins; no trace of your failed attempt to abominate me." What I may appreciate most is the spoken word closer, "Tears in Reign." It outlines the fall of OMNI with the literary feel of the Bible and ends the album musically exactly as it begins -- things have come full circle and the rebellion will now restore and rebuild.
This album was a long time in the making, but the project itself was a massive undertaking. What was initially billed as "the last album" became a double album, and then a story book, and then a visual album (a short film partially seen in the "Metropolis" video). There is even supposed to be a game coming thanks to some folks in the P86 Patreon as well. If this is truly Schwab and Project 86's last ride, it's been a great one. OMNI (Part 1) is a fantastic start, but I'm already excited to hear Part 2 -- which is supposed to be finished by May 2023. I mean, how much more brutal can the Brutality EP get? This isn't my favorite P86 album, but there is a lot to appreciate. I'll always love Truthless Heroes, but I think that OMNI is the far better and fleshed out concept, however, this is likely due to the bloated version of Truthless Heroes that Atlantic made the band release (instead of what they wanted to release). I can't say where OMNI will fit in with the ten other P86 albums, but it certainly stands out in a lot of ways. This one has the potential to bring some older fans back into the fray and even make some newer fans with this much heavier approach. Project 86 will be missed, but this is a fitting [start to their] farewell.- Review date: 3/23/23, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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