Review Summary: (Fairly) Widely considered the band’s best album, Drawing Black Lines is 55 minutes of intense, emotion filled hard rock and post hardcore, with just a couple bad stops along the way.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
It is the beginning of the new millennium. Rage Against the Machine has released what (we now
know) will be their final album. Nu-metal is in it’s peak, led by Deftones, Mudvayne, Slipknot; and very soon, Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory
will be released in October). These and many other heavy bands dominate popular music, but one fairly unknown band is about to make its mark with their sophomore album. That band is Project 86, and the album is Drawing Black Lines
It’s clear from the start that listeners are in for something excellent. Opening track Stein’s Theme
slowly builds from a single strummed guitar chord, adding a second riff and drums. After half a minute, this drops off for a quick bass riff and then explodes into the verse. In between a simple but surprisingly effective riff, vocalist Andrew Schwab makes his entrance, with rapid-fire delivery of (also) simple but effective lyrics. The chorus screams
anthemic, with the band backing Schwab’s shouting of: “We aren’t playing by your rules / We’ll never play the fool / So no, you cannot take what’s inside of me!
” It all ends in an unusual structure, going from a bridge, to a breakdown, back to the verse, and ending on the repeated breakdown. Last heard are muffled shrieks creating a somewhat creepy ending to the album’s knockout opener.
A good portion of the album continues in similar fashion, with plenty of hard rock bliss and hardcore influences. Guitarist/vocalist Randy Torres and lead vocalist Andrew Schwab are at the forefront of the assault, each giving a solid performance. As a sign of the times, rapping is fairly prevalent of many verses, although it often feels more fitting for a song than most from Mike Shinoda or Zach de la Rocha. Schwab has plenty of great shouts and screaming in his repertoire, and these are often backed by or alternate between Torres’ excellent singing voice. The crunchy, distorted guitars deliver loads of great riffs, along with nice clean parts and effects that barely ever sound boring.
The rhythm section of Stephen Dail (bass) and Alex Albert (drums) is not quite as good, but back the music pretty well. Albert plays what is necessary for each song, and this can include cool beats (see Chimes
) or interesting fills. Although Dail’s contribution is not heard very well in the overall mix, there are several times where his instrument isn’t drowned out by guitar. These accent the songs quite well, and one wishes you could hear him the rest of the time.
The band also displays some excellent melodies as well, with P.S.
containing the prime examples. The former is a near 6-minute piece that constantly switches from Schwab-led fury to Torres-fronted melody, fading out with haunting female vocals that end an album standout.
There are, like almost any album, problems. The sound quality is lacking a bit, and doesn’t quite to justice to a lot of Schwab’s vocals. It doesn’t take away from the overall quality, however, and can add to the album’s raw, unrestrained feel. There are two filler tracks – Star
. The first is another attempt at being atmospheric and melodic, however it ends up being way too repetitive, with Torres singing “How could I be?”
over and over again. The album’s closer is twelve minutes of techno and hard rock fused together, with Schwab’s vocals sounding absolutely terrible
. It’s a chore to listen to, and you wonder why they couldn’t have just ended with a satisfying 11-song album instead.
Drawing Black Lines
is an excellent sophomore album, filled with plenty of emotion, intensity and raw power, with only two problematic tracks. It is considered by most fans and myself (as well as Sputnik) to be their best achievement, and the place to start for a first time listener.
One Armed Man (Play On)
A Toast to My Former Self