Project 86 - Picket Fence Cartel

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Artist: Project 86
Album: Picket Fence Cartel
Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: July 14, 2009
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. Destroyer
  2. The Butcher
  3. The Spectacle of Fearsome Acts
  4. Dark Angel Dragnet
  5. Cold and Calculated
  6. Cement Shoes
  7. A John Hancock With the Safety Off
  8. Two Glass Eyes
  9. Cyclonus
  10. The Black Brigade
  11. To Sand We Return

Never, ever judge an album by it’s cover. Just looking at Picket Fence Cartel might cause one to yawn and even when you open up the artwork there’s not much of interest inside. No lyrics, no pictures, just a simple message surrounding the words ‘Eternal’, ‘Immortal’, and ‘Creator’. Then, when the album starts, you are in for an intense rock experience that doesn’t let up from beginning to end. Not at all like the simple, clean artwork that covered the disc.

One thing you can definitely say about Project 86 is they have a knack from writing great melodies and vocal hooks. No matter what style of music they went with across their career, the hooks were always there. On their seventh studio album, Project 86 have yet again redefined their sound while keeping the listener glued to their headphones. The choruses on nearly every song are so easy to sing along to and pump your fists as Andrew Schwab delivers the powerful lyrics in many different ways. On ‘The Butcher’, I’m reminded of thrash metal bands as he bellows the lines out quickly and with such intensity that it’s impossible to not have your blood pumping.

It only helps that he’s singing of a man who is standing up to the devil and daring him to hit him or cut him up because no weapon can kill what’s inside of him. The first song, ‘Destroyer’, is likewise an inspiring song sung in a low, brooding manner of God telling Satan to ready for the end and how he was just a pawn. Song after song is filled with some sort of an uplifting or inspiring message to remind us who the real victor will be and we better be sure what side we are on.

The album keeps gaining momentum with ‘Dark Angel Dragnet’, a song with an already addictive chorus made catchier with an awesome synth line. Then there’s one of the best riffs on the album in ‘Cement Shoes’ that drives the song and the heaviest synth track in ‘A John Hancock With the Safety Off’. ‘Two Glass Eyes’ is reminiscent of a punk song at the start before it jumps to another level with the heavy guitar riff in the chorus. The last few tracks on the album aren’t as strong as far as standing out from the rest of the pack goes. As a result the album kind of trails off instead of going out with a bang and I don’t mean the songs aren’t heavy. ‘To Sand We Return’ also doesn’t seem to fit as a closer to such an intense album filled with memorable choruses.

Overall: Whenever there is a change the immediate question is ‘Was it for the better?’ and in this case it certainly was. They’ve created a hybrid sound by taking bits and pieces of their last few albums and molding them together. Project 86 then proceeded to add an extra dosage of heavy riffs and metal-esque vocals to craft what can easily be considered one of their heaviest albums yet. No, it’s not ‘Drawing Black Lines heavy’, but that’s already been done. This is a new breed of rock that is high on energy and low (or non-existent) on the soft ballads to put this right at the top of their discography. For a veteran band, that’s an accomplishment and a half.

Gems of this album are: ‘Destroyer’, ‘The Butcher’, ‘Dark Angel Dragnet’, ‘Cement Shoes’

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