Review Summary: Project 86 is here to stay
Project 86 has always been a band focused on growth. Frontman Andrew Schwab has even gone on record to say, “Our goal as a band has been to never make the same record twice.” Considering the massive lineup changes over the last few years, leaving Schwab the only founding member left, growth has been the only option for the band in order for it to survive.
The band’s previous release, Wait for the Siren
, was certainly a solid effort, and certainly worthy of Project 86’s legacy, but it still carried the weight of a band struggling to reinvent itself; at times, the intense-yet-melodic “P86 feel” was laid aside for the sake of sheer heaviness. As a benchmark release, however, Wait for the Siren
gave longtime fans hope that one day Project 86 would be able to recapture the magic that made their first few releases so well-loved. Knives to the Future
might not quite be the album to do it, but make no mistake: the new Project 86 is a force not to be toyed with.
First and foremost, the band’s new sound is much
heavier than they’ve ever been. While heaviness alone does not give music worth, the fact that much of the band’s reputation had been built on their intensity is only benefited by this. When heaviness in a song is called for, Project 86 is more than equipped to bring it on. Critics of the band’s lighter releases (namely Rival Factions
among others) won’t find much to dislike here in that regard. More importantly, the band has made leaps and bounds musically, drawing heavily from past iterations of Project 86; the downright hypnotic “Son of Flame” showcases an eerie, atmospheric sound that had long been absent from Project 86’s music, while the dark, groove-heavy “White Capstone” feels like a song that easily could’ve been on the band’s self-titled album. Even better is that, even while taking heavy influence from their older work, Knives to the Future
is anything but a retread; there are many well-constructed, catchy riffs that help Knives
feel modern all the same. The song “Knives to the Future” just might be one of Project 86’s best songs ever
Though Schwab’s songwriting skill cannot be denied, unfortunately his cryptic musings aren’t as invigorating in Knives
as they had been in the past, nor are they nearly as cryptic. Conceptually, the album takes place in a bleak, post-apocalyptic near-future, and while Schwab’s decidedly straight-forward storytelling here is visceral, it isn’t very deep. Lines like “I pulled the knife out of my spine / Still under heavy guns / Trying so hard to understand / The weight of all I’ve done” [Pale Rider] sound childish and almost serve to tarnish Project 86’s legacy of masterful lyricism. However, songs like the title track and the brutally heavy “Acolyte March” utilize anthemic chants that make it hard not to sing (read: scream) along. It may not be masterful anymore, but it sure can be good fun.
All in all, Knives to the Future
is another excellent entry in Project 86’s already impressive catalogue. Generally, the main issue is that the album panders a bit too much towards the modern-rock crowd; while keeping up with the times isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, when a band’s normally-potent songwriting must be sacrificed for simplicity, especially when said songwriting is what helped make said band unique, most people would much rather suffer through a rehash of old material than a total butchering of new material. Fortunately, Knives to the Future
is neither; it succeeds as being, as the cliché goes, “a summary of the band’s prior work,” while also sounding as fresh as ever.
Long live Project 86!