Review Summary: Worth the wait.
Sometimes when a band reaches a certain point in their long career, the question arises as to whether they have run out of steam and should just call it a day. As Project 86 releases their ninth full-length album after a jarring change of pace in their last two, this question is ever present in the minds of faithful fans. Will there be another “Rival Factions” with its shrill scream style, or another “Picket Fence Cartel”-esque album with odd melodies abundant? Project 86 smashes through all expectations with yet another change in style in “Wait For The Siren”, but this time around they are rearing their heads with their heaviest work to date. And such a change shows that they have aged very well indeed.
Anyone looking for familiarity here should leave it at the door; the old Project 86 is gone (quite literally, in fact). The only original member that remains is lead singer Andrew Schwab, and everyone else is fresh meat in the hardcore band’s lineup. Shuffling the crew can be a good thing at times, however, and it is heard here as a hard rush of fresh air into the sixteen-year-old band. For anyone who is an avid listener of Project 86, this redefinition of sound is not all that surprising; they are notorious for changing styles from CD to CD. But for anyone experiencing them for the first time, now is a great time to jump on board.
From the very beginning, a new heaviness is heard and felt that lasts through most of the album. There is more aggression here than in other albums and this lends even more to the low-tuned guitars and growly bass. Quite honestly, Project 86 is pushing the bounds of metal in a way: there are more full-on screams this time around as opposed to Schwab’s usual “yelling” style, and the riffs for some of the songs are frantic in a way that resembles Lamb Of God. The sonic punch that emanates from this album is a far cry from anything they’ve put out before. Even more surprising are the slower ballads, something not heard since the band’s fifth album, “…And The Rest Will Follow”. It’s almost like they have morphed into a completely different band in all aspects.
An enjoyable characteristic of “Wait For The Siren” is the clarity of all the instruments in the mix. The elusive bass guitar actually takes the spotlight for many of the songs with growled dominance. Honestly, this is some of the best sounding rock-style bass guitar out there; the tone is fantastic without being too gritty or plain. The bass grooves nicely throughout the entire album and lays down a fantastic foundation for everything else. Guitars are thoughtfully layered and complement each other well as they weave upper melodies and chug with the bass in the heavy sections. While it is obvious that Randy Torres and his unique guitar voicing are no longer here, the newer, simpler guitar work fits the new style well. There are parts that pay homage to Torres’ work and a keen listener who has heard other Project 86 albums will recognize the tributes. The drums are delightfully full and build on the heaviness that the album claims as its own. Add in Schwab’s unique vocals, which now include softer singing and rending screams, and the whole puzzle comes together in all its glory.
Speaking of vocal work, Project 86 has done something rather unusual on this album by bringing in quite a few guest vocalists, which include former Korn guitarist Brian Welch and Bruce Fitzhugh from Living Sacrifice. While this was certainly a welcomed addition to the record, a problem arises: there was not a part in the album that debuted any of the guests by putting them in the spotlight. Surely they add to the sound as a whole, but overall it seems almost insignificant due to everyone besides Schwab being nearly inaudible. The idea of bringing guests in is to showcase them along with the band’s music, is it not? Questions as to why such vocalists were even asked to perform arise when they are blended in so deep that they become nothing more than another sound in the mix. Careful, repeated listening will probably reveal them, but for the most part they take a secondary place and never truly shine.
Obviously the new heavy sound is the point of interest for this album, but this recalculated style does come with a price. Seasoned Project 86 fans will notice that many of the songs do indeed sound very similar, a stark contrast to albums of the past, and even new listeners will probably hear this problem throughout “Wait For The Siren”. But such a complaint begs the question: can there be too much of a good thing? All of the crushing riffs and heaviness may slightly run together, but it just sounds too good to be a huge problem. It will probably come down to personal preference whether or not the album sounds repetitive.
“Wait For The Siren” signals a new chapter for Project 86, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. The achieved heaviness that saturates this release is refreshing in every way possible, yet there is still an obvious feeling that this is a Project 86 album. While it would have been nice to hear the guest vocalists shine through, they still add to the sound that rages forth. Any repetitiveness aside, this is definitely an album for anyone trying to find a groovy, heavy, hardcore sound.