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JFH Music Review


Project 86, 'OMNI Part 1'
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Project 86
OMNI, Part 1



Artist Info: Discography
Genre(s): Metalcore / Rock
Album length: 12 tracks: 51 minutes, 4 seconds
Street Date: March 24, 2023


READER RATING:   


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



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JFH Staff's Second Opinion



After almost a quarter-century of reliable hard rock often straddling the line of metal, Andrew Schwab's Project 86 smashes down that door entirely with their heaviest effort ever, OMNI, Pt 1 -- not just an unsettlingly dark collection of songs, but the first of a two-part concept album that feels like the true musical distillation of bleak dystopia. Initial singles "Metatropolis" and "0 > 1" were an accurate representation of the depths of heaviness reached here, where Schwab spends much less time in his distinctive shout-singing and almost all of his vocal energy in a soul-scouring scream. Think "Sincerely Ichabod" as a baseline, but at the darkest and most intense moments of this album Schwab unleashes metalcore-style rage that I frankly didn't know he had in his arsenal, reminiscent of peak Spencer Chamberlain. Musically, this is mostly down-tempo and deeply detuned breakdowns, with almost a deathcore influence at times and moments of screeching chaos that make so much sense when you see the writing credits for the album: Schwab, Norma Jean's Cory Brandan (who makes a stellar guest appearance on "Skin Job") and Grayson Stewart, and Cory's brother and Orphantwin collaborator Matt Putman. The pronounced metalcore influence is therefore to be expected, and is a welcome directional shift for a band with this much history on the more radio-ready side of heavy music.

Dripping with all the requisite paranoid noise and ambience of a sci-fi dystopia concept album (and matching lyrics, the analysis of which I'll leave to other writers), this is downright scary music at times, only undone by the fact that there's just not enough of it; a good 15 of the 51 minutes consist of extended interlude tracks with creepy monologues that definitely get the mood right, but probably could be cut in half. Less about impressive riffing or catchy melodies, this is a truly heavy album that is all about dark atmosphere and catharsis -- just like the best Norma Jean and Underoath -- and while lacking many memorable individual tracks, it is quite successful at painting its bleak picture as an entire album, more than just a collection of songs. The three-minute deterioration into musical madness that ends "Spoon Walker" is not nearly as effective on shuffle as it is serving as the penultimate track of a concept album. I hope the music-to-atmosphere ratio increases a bit on the forthcoming Part 2, but OMNI Pt 1 is still an extremely effective blitz of dissonant metal that is certain to be one of the top heavy releases of the year and ensures that this legendary band will leave quite a final legacy in 2023. - Review date: 3/23/23, Evan Dickens of Jesusfreakhideout.com

 

JFH Staff's Additional 2 Cents


    Project 86 has spent most of its career on the heavier end of the music spectrum, but who ever guessed that they'd eventually embrace metalcore for nearly a full album? The final chapter for the band, OMNI, Pt. 1, does just that, with full-on metalcore chugging, double bass, and Andrew Schwab's powerful screaming that sounds as good now as it did 25 years ago. The album does give the listener plenty of moments to catch a breath, but when it goes, it goes hard, such as in the intense singles and the deep cut highlight "Skin Job" (which features guest vocals from Norma Jean's Cory Brandan). OMNI is certainly a surprising way for one of Christian rock's most beloved entities to call it a day, but it's an enjoyable one, and it makes me wish it wasn't the end. - 3/21/23 Scott Fryberger


    For over 20 years, Project 86 has been one of my favorite bands in all of rock music. They've often tread the line between hardcore/metal and melodic rock more than most bands in the genre, making fans of heavy music who don't quite usually like metalcore want to tune in. The first half of their final project, OMNI, Part 1, is the band's heaviest album to date. While a slight Drawing Black Lines vibe is definitely evident (especially in the opener and the few quiet tracks), there's far more screaming than ever here. Fans of the catchier heavy anthems like "Spy Hunter," "Sincerely, Ichabod," and "Fall, Goliath, Fall" will not find a single song in that vein (The closest thing to it is "Virtual Signal," but it's a stretch). I'm actually proud of Schwab and Co. for making the record they want to make and pushing their artistic boundaries past some of the listeners' comfort points, but for me, this may be my least favorite entry from the band since their debut album. - 3/22/23 John DiBiase


    If you are here for the heaviness, you won't be disappointed. As a whole, OMNI Part 1 is more of an experience than any Project 86 that came before it, but the extended sequences of monologuing, as well as a decreased focus on crafting catchy melodies, diminishes its replayability. Nonetheless, in addition to its brutal heaviness, this release is a must-listen for the story aspect, which takes their signature bizarre and extreme metaphors (that often serve as a social commentary) to a much larger scale. - 3/27/23 Christopher Smith


It's not very often that a band goes into making an album knowing that it will be their last, or at least advertising it as such. And yet, after being a band for close to thirty years, this is exactly what Project 86 has presented us with OMNI. Throughout the decades, frontman and sole remaining original member, Andrew Schwab has proven himself to be one of the most creative and talented minds in heavy music. I'm convinced it is solely due to Schwab's drive and passion that has kept Project 86 going in spite of member turnover, style changes, and a global pandemic.

On this, Project 86's 11th and "final" album, we're dropped into a futuristic world where the common populace is mostly under the complete control of OMNI, a tyrannical government. Lyrically, the songs seem to alternate from OMNI's perspective to that of rebels. And while the premise of the story feels familiar with movies like The Matrix or Equilibrium, the story never feels boring or recycled. And the music adds so much to the narrative. Make no mistake, OMNI is Project 86's darkest and heaviest album to date. To say that this sounds like no other Project 86 album is not hyperbole. While the music is a big part of that, there is also a new element of Schwab's vocals that I've not heard before - lower screaming, almost growls. There's plenty still familiar, namely, Andrew Schwab's signature yell/scream.

A few highlights for me are "0 >1," which features a guitar lead that sounds right out of the Songs to Burn Your Bridges By/And the Rest Will Follow era. "Virtual Signal," "Metatropolis," and "When the Belfry Speaks," lead the pack as the most brutal songs on OMNI, if not the band's entire discography. "Tartarus Kiss," the softest song - excluding interlude tracks "User Agreement," and "Trust the Science" - brings to mind the more experimental side the band explored on Rival Factions. "Skin Job" features a great guest spot from Norma Jean's Cory Brandon. This is the best Project 86 album in over a decade, and honestly, what more can you ask for from a band's last (or second to last) album? - Review date: 3/22/23, John Mark Amos of Jesusfreakhideout.com

 

 

. Record Label: None
. Album length: 12 tracks: 51 minutes, 4 seconds
. Street Date: March 24, 2023
. Buy It: Vendor Links
. Buy It: Shopify (Vinyl)
. Buy It: Shopify (CD)
. Buy It: Shopify (Cassette)

  1. Apotheosis (4:19)
  2. Virtual Signal (3:23)
  3. 0 _ 1 (5:26)
  4. User Agreement (2:31)
  5. When the Belfry Speaks (4:59)
  6. Metatropolis (4:58)
  7. Trust the Science (3:18)
  8. Tartarus Kiss (2:44)
  9. Skin Job (4:51)
  10. Icarus / Prometheus (3:08)
  11. Spoon Walker (6:41)
  12. Tears in Reign (4:59)
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