‘Sheep Among Wolves’ Is Anchored By Musical, Lyrical Depth And Power

Courtesy: Project 86/TAG Publicity

Project 86 has, over the course of some two decades, churned out nine albums and garnered countless legions of fans the world over. It has done so all the while staying largely under the mainstream radar and going through so many lineup changes along the way. That continued success has come by taking new risks and giving audiences something new with each album both musically and lyrically. From full on fist-pumping hard rock to brooding, heavy works to more experimental works such as those presented in the band’s 2007 album Rival Factions and beyond, Project 86 has always worked to test its own boundaries. That willingness to take those risks, along with presenting deep lyrical themes is just as prevalent in the band’s latest full-length studio recording, Sheep Among Wolves as its predecessors, proving over the course of its 10 song, 35-minute body that after 20 years, why Project 86 is still so popular and at the top of its game. This statement is supported right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘MHS.’ It will be discussed shortly. The album’s closer ‘Metempsychosis’ is another of the featured songs that serves to support that statement. It will be discussed later. ‘Copper Wish,’ which comes a little more than midway through the album’s run, is yet another example of how this record shows Project 86’s continued strength. It is hardly the last of the album’s songs that could be used to support that statement, too. When it is set alongside the other noted songs, and those not noted, the whole of the album proves to be a work that is among Project 86’s best work to date.

Project 86’s 10th full-length studio recording Sheep Among Wolves is by far among the band’s best work to date. Considering that the band has been making music and fans for now 20 years, all while handling label and lineup changes, and working largely without mainstream radio support, that is a strong statement. It is a statement that is supported right from the album’s outset in the form of ‘MHS.’ This song is, musically speaking, everything that audiences have come to know and expect from Project 86. It is a solid, driving composition that harkens back to the band’s 2003 album Songs To Burn Your Bridges By and its followup, 2005’s …And The Rest Will Follow. That is evident in its bombastic guitar line and equally powerful drum line.

Lyrically speaking, it provides just as much depth as it does musically. Vocalist and founding member Andrew Schwab sings in this song, “Light up the beacons/I’m sending out the signal/Because tonight your revolution ends/The lampstand removal of unholy ritual/For violence the sirens will wail/Enough/I’ve heard enough/Of all your promises/Your deeds have made my stomach turn/Enough/I’ve had enough of all your crusades/Your throne is swallowed by the earth.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Your secrets unearthing/Your barriers are peeling back/To reveal your devilry/In blood runs the writing/On walls that are crumbling/So what will it take/For the sheep to say/Enough/I’ve heard enough/Of all your promises/Your deeds have made my stomach turn/Enough/I’ve had enough of all your crusades/Your throne becomes a crater in the earth.” Schwab seemingly is addressing someone who is not all that he or she seems to be as he states, “Your revolution ends” and “your secrets unearthing/your barriers are peeling back/to reveal your devilry.” That seeming statement is hinted even more in the song’s third and final verse as Schwab sings, “No mercy is shown/When mercy’s not given/Your halo will hang you instead.” He seems to be saying that the person claiming to be so good will do himself/herself in by his/her own lies and deception. This is of course only this critic’s interpretation of these lyrics. It could very easily be wrong. So it should not by any means be taken as gospel. That aside, Schwab has definitely crafted lyrically in this song a work that is just as certain as Project 86’s previous works to get listeners thinking and talking. When it is coupled with the song’s powerhouse musical arrangement, the whole of those elements makes this song a solid first impression for the band in its latest outing. It also makes the song just one example of what makes this latest album another standout effort from the band. It is not the only one of the songs that makes this album a solid work, either. ‘Metempsychosis’ is another of the record’s most notable works.

‘Metempsychosis’ is worth noting in large part because of its musical arrangement. The brooding, mid-tempo arrangement is unlike almost anything that the band has ever turned out in its previous recordings. It is driven in large part by a subtle keyboard line and drums. Those two lines are in turn joined with Schwab’s equal subtle vocal delivery to make the song even more engaging. The song starts very subtle, eventually growing in its presence, but never gets too loud. Considering the attention given to that part of the arrangement along with its instrumentation, the whole of those elements makes the song’s arrangement one of this album’s most powerful works. That is because it shows that for all of the hard-driving works that the band has ever crafted, it can create a song that is just as heavy without being heavy. Keeping this in mind, the song’s arrangement is only one part of what makes it stand out. Its lyrical content, when set alongside the song’s musical arrangement, shows even more the song’s power and importance in the album’s bigger picture.

Schwab sings in the song’s lead verse, “I float by/Apparitions/Emotions/So invisible/In search of/Some assurance/Hinging everything on a gesture/I’m taking every measure/To escape this rejection/Begging for a soul/To hear the cry for help behind the whisper.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “In hate with my reflection/I’m changing my complexion/My hope will lie in this/Metempsychosis/I’m taking every measure to escape this rejection/begging for a soul to hear the cry for help/Behind the whisper.” On a side note, metempsychosis is in fact a real word. According to Merriam-Webster, it is “the passing of the soul at death into another body either human or animal” (I.e. re-incarnation of sorts) Keeping this in mind, it makes these verses all the more in-depth and contemplative. It is possible that Schwab is using the term in a metaphorical sense here as if to sing from the standpoint of that person who feels invisible in society, wishing that he or she could become someone or something else. While this is not the only interpretation, it would seem to make some modicum of sense. If indeed it is what Schwab is trying to communicate, it is definitely an original way to approach an all-too-familiar topic in music both mainstream and otherwise. When it is considered alongside the song’s brooding musical arrangement, it would seem to make even more sense, and to make the song in whole all the more powerful. All things considered here, it becomes fully clear why ‘Metempsychosis’ is such a strong addition to SAW. Add in the fact that the band has rarely ever crafted anything along the lines of this work, and it becomes even stronger of an addition. Even as important as it is to the whole of this record, it still is not the last of the album’s most important works. ‘Copper Wish’ is yet another of the album’s most standout works.

Whereas ‘Metempsychosis’ maintains its brooding nature from start to finish, ‘Copper Wish’ leans more in the direction of the heavier, brooding works that Project 86 has crafted in years past. What’s truly interesting to note of this song’s arrangement is its easy comparison to works included in Drawing Black Lines (2000), Truthless Heroes (2002) and …And The Rest Will Follow (2005). That is evident in the balance presented in the song’s heavier and more subtle moments. That balance makes the song’s arrangement itself a solid strong point here. Its lyrical content, when set alongside that arrangement, makes the song even stronger.

Schwab sings in this song’s lead verse of draining the water “to drown the guilt” and “to flee the scene of our mistakes.” These are short, simple lines, yet boast the same depth that the band’s fans have come to know of the band. Not having a lyrics sheet to go by, it is difficult to decipher what Schwab screams at other points in the song. Even without that aid as a resource, what little can be deciphered solely by ear, it would seem that Schwab is perhaps addressing the sometimes extreme lengths that we as humans go to in order to try to escape the past. He even makes mention of “the great escape” and being “made the purpose from the pain” late in the song’s four-minute-plus run time. Regardless of what he is trying to convey here, it goes without saying that once again, Schwab has crafted a song that lyrically is just as deep as it is musically. Add in the fact that while such a style of arrangement is not rare, but also not overly common for this band, and the song becomes that much more impacting. When it is set alongside the other songs noted here and those not noted here, the whole of those songs shows completely why Sheep Among Wolves is such a solid new effort from Project 86 and in all honesty some of the band’s best work to date.

Project 86’s latest full-length studio recording Sheep Among Wolves is easily one of the band’s best albums to date. It is a 10-song collection of new music that boasts arrangements and lyrical themes that both by themselves and collectively will be equally appreciated by new and old fans alike. That is evidenced both through the songs noted here and those not directly noted. When they are considered together, they make this record not only some of Project 86’s best work to date, but also one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal offerings. It is available now. More information on Sheep Among Wolves is available online along with the band’s latest news and more at:

Website: http://www.project86.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/project86

Twitter: http://twitter.com/project86band

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