Project 86 - Wait for the Siren

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Artist:  Project 86
Title: Wait for the Siren
Label: Independent
Release Date: 08/21/12
Reviewer: Lee Brown

Tracklisting: 

  1. Fall, Goliath Fall
  2. SOTS
  3. Omerta’s Sons
  4. Off the Grid
  5. New Transmission
  6. The Crossfire Gambit
  7. Blood Moon
  8. Defector
  9. Ghosts of Easter Rising
  10. Above the Desert Sea
  11. Avalantia
  12. Take the Hill
  13. Wait for the Siren

In 1998, the music world was falling in love with Aerosmith’s newest hit “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” The Backstreet Boys were soaring to the height of their popularity, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra was leading a pack of bands trying to bring swing and rockabilly back into the zeitgeist. Far more importantly, however, 1998 was the year that a little band from California named Project 86 released their self-titled, debut album. Project 86 was a “rapcore” meets hard rock album produced by a fledgling Christian label that was itself just finding its stride. In light of this, if you were a fan of the music industry at that time trying to guess which band the music world would still be talking about in 2012, you’d probably have guessed wrong.

Almost a decade and a half later and having watched “hit” bands come and go like lightening flashing across the sky, Project 86 remains a dominant force with little sign of slowing down. Despite having weathered label issues, band member changes, and everything else the music industry could throw, Andrew Schwab and company find themselves set to release yet another awe-inspiring album certain to further establish their legacy as one of the most tragically underrated bands this world has to offer.

Perhaps the biggest reason P86 is able to remain relevant while their peers have slipped away one by one is that they very quickly found their core “sound,” but never shied away from playing closer to the fringes of that sound than most bands are comfortable with. So, while many other bands find a signature vibe and then produce cookie-cutter albums until oblivion, Project finds new and innovative ways to produce diverse and yet somehow signature soundscapes for each album.

It should be no surprise, then, that Wait for the Siren builds upon the epic sound Project 86 has formed over the years and yet it takes the band to places they’ve never gone before. As frontman Andrew Schwab hinted at in his exclusive interview with IVM, the band added a hammered dulcimer player, an Uilleann piper, and a mandolin player into the mix for this new album. Add to that the fact that more guest artists were featured in the recording process than ever before (see the interview linked above for a list of the amazing talent that helped form this album), and the results are nothing short of amazing.

Wait for the Siren feels a little like a concept album at first glance. From the cover art to the track names and into the lyrics, the imagery and the atmosphere of war time sonnets begins to emerge. Unlike P86’s Truthless Heroes, however, Wait for the Siren’s true concept and backbone is a hopeful faith in times of adversity set against the recurrence of Old Testament imagery. As only Schwab could do, the lyrics double as powerful reminders of the spiritual war we find ourselves in while still in this world.

Perhaps the song that best captures this is “Take the Hill,” which pictures a message of hope being squashed by the powers that be because of its disruptive nature. Through this beautiful imagery, Schwab closes the song with a battle cry that seems to best sum up the band’s place in the world: “Still driven to dispel myths, still escaping the sinking ship, still dropping flaming arrows to the middle of the village, still dodging their attempts, still fighting indifference, still amassing countless numbers as we march to take the hill.”

Musically, Wait for the Siren features some of the band’s hardest songs to date with “Fall, Goliath, Fall” and “SOTS.” It also features some of their most etherial and beautiful songs in “New Transmission” and “Ghosts of Easter Rising.” The  way the band is able to effectively mix these two extremes produces an album that is balanced and completely interesting. If I were to step out on a limb, I’d say that this album should have no problem bringing fans back for another listen even 15 years from now.

For me, however, the heart and soul of Wait for the Siren comes down to two songs. Although tracks like “Fall, Goliath, Fall” and “Omerta’s Sons” are powerhouse songs that demand attention, “Ghosts of Easter Rising” and “Above the Desert Sea” are really what solidify this album for me as not only one of Project 86’s best efforts to date, but also one of the best albums of the year. In so many ways, “Ghosts of Easter Rising” feels like the spiritual successor to “Open Hand” from Drawing Black Lines. Not only is the song beautiful and etherial, it is also a battle cry for every believer that picks right up where “Open Hand” left off so many years ago. Just as I stood with my fist in the air at Creation Fest years ago chanting “Three nails to protect us,” I can easily close my eyes and envision a throng of believers in Christ proclaiming; “By Your hand, we make our stand. They’ll heed our command, and flee this land.”

“Ghosts of Easter Rising” is made even more powerful by the fact that it is followed by “Above the Desert Sea.” Where “Ghosts…” proclaims a bold faith, “Above the Desert Sea” shows what it means to put feet to that faith. And what a way to do it. Set from the perspective of Abraham as he holds the knife above his head to slay Isaac, the imagery is haunting as Abraham cries, “I know you came from me, this blood is in your veins… but to trust is to obey.” Schwab is a master of creating imagery with his words, but with this track I could almost feel the pain in Abraham’s heart as he wrestled with the dichotomy of wanting to save his only son while knowing he must put his trust in God.

The album closes with the title track, “Wait for the Siren.” Despite the fact that the song is almost entirely instrumental (there are key words from the album played in the foreground here and there), it somehow brings together the sum total of the theme and soundscapes from the rest of the album and brings them nicely to rest.

Overall: Wait for the Siren continues to bring a new and diverse sound while still being distinctly Project 86. The concept of the album is impactful and the instrumentation is at once different and yet makes you feel like it is an old friend. Each track brings its own flavor while still managing to blend perfectly into the aroma of the whole for a release that keeps you coming back for more. If you are a fan of supporting amazingly talented bands that are in a class by themselves, then this album is certainly for you.

RIYL: Blindside, P.O.D., A Plea for Purging, Brian “Head” Welch