A 20th Anniversary Gift That Delivers | Posted December-11-2017
For two decades, Project 86 has been an industry leader in the alternative rock genre. Their 10th studio record, Sheep Among Wolves, has been highly anticipated by P86 fans after a successful PledgeMusic campaign provided contributors the opportunity to hear the record in progress before it was mastered and polished.
The band promised a genre-defying 20th anniversary follow-up to their first two independent fan-funded releases, Wait for the Siren and Knives to the Future. Sheep Among Wolves delivers, featuring the intensity and musical depth that has defined Project 86 and ending 2017 on a high note for rock listeners.
The album starts off heavy and raucous with borderline metalcore tracks "Mhs," "Dead Man's Switch" and "Imaginary Me," featuring Darren King laying down thick guitars with ominous and mysterious but tight chord progressions while driving and heavy rock grooves provided by drummer Ryan Wood hold these tunes together nicely. All of it is blended perfectly with passionate and familiar vocals from frontman Andrew Schwab, serving to get your heart racing as this record takes flight.
The opening set is followed by what may be the best track on the entire record. "Freebooter" is a well-balanced hard rock song that slows the tempo down slightly, starting with softer verses and crescendoing into a chorus that will have you singing along.
The title track, "Sheep Among Wolves," is a rock anthem with the theme of the track tying the message of the full project together. You can read a recent interview with NRT's Associate Editor Mary Nikkel to hear more from Andrew Schwab about the concept of trying to differentiate between the "sheep" and the "wolves" around us.
The album lyrically and musically takes listeners on an emotional journey from an intense start to melancholy hard rock to an eerie, mysteriously victorious feeling in the end. Project 86 explores deep topics of living in faith while navigating the terrain of evil, allowing listeners the freedom to interpret the meaning of each song for themselves.
The Bottom Line: Project 86 delivers a 20th anniversary celebration in time for the holiday gift-giving season that is sure to please a supportive fanbase while earning new listeners along the way. Sheep Among Wolves is a good mix of songs from the full spectrum of hard rock sounds that have defined Project 86 over the last two decades.
Thrashing Music Filled With Hope | Posted September-13-2017
While riding the momentum of the Unleashed Tour with fellow Christian rockers Skillet, Spoken released their ninth studio album, aptly titled IX, on September 8.
IX features ten tracks and starts out with thrashing guitars, heavy beats from the drums and melodic-yet-fierce vocals on "This is Not the End," a song about perseverance and hope--a common theme throughout the record. The chorus sums up the message of hope: "This is not the end I know you'll make it / Through the unknown to where you belong / This is not the end I know you'll make it / Finding the hope in where you belong."
This is followed up by what is sure to become a fan favorite, "Stronger," which is another in-your-face rocker about overcoming life's challenges to be "stronger than you were before." Throughout IX, Spoken continues to drive home their message of hope with driven melodies and intense vocals. "Silence" is a cry of desperation for the band, asking for help to "see the world through their eyes."
One of the heaviest tracks on IX is "I Will Not Fade." This hardcore anthem punches fast with smashing vocals introducing a striking song about second chances to rise above mistakes instead of fading away. The following tune slows it down a bit with "Remember the Memories," challenging listeners and fans to contemplate what legacy will be left behind.
Every great rock album not only speaks to their hardcore fans, but also features radio-friendly rock ballads. Spoken comes through on this album with "The Light" and "Sleepless Nights," two easy-listening melodies to close out an otherwise heavyweight record. If there were any critiques of this record, it would be that the last three tracks were ballads, which leaves listeners wanting more heavy material at the end.
The Bottom Line: Restoration and hope are prominent themes throughout IX, a passionate, hard-rocking album sure to satisfy heavy musicl fans while speaking to the soul.