Thunder, heavy breathing, troops marching and string section open Project 86’s highly anticipated Knives to the Future with an intro fit for a movie soundtrack. The trouble with ambitious album intros is that the rest of the album, and more specifically, the immediate drop at the crux of the forte, frequently doesn’t live up to the hype. Knives to the Future not only carries the hype, but vaults it over.
After the intro, it jumps straight to “Song of Shiloh” which brings back the good and heavy Project 86 fans have come to recognize. Even people who haven’t listened to the band since Drawing the Black Line (2000) will undoubtedly be able to pick out Andrew Schwab’s vocalization. New talent from guitarist Darren King (The Overseer), bassist Cody Driggers (The Wedding) and drummer Ryan Wood (7 Horns 7 Eyes) helps give Project 86 a different and occasionally sharper sound than any of their previous releases.
Not all tracks are notably solid, but they each possess a few noteworthy elements such as the soaring chorus of “Pale Rider” or the groove-oriented bass line that carries “Ambigram.” Every song is worth listening to at least a few times.
The album’s best moments come from the song “Genosha” which takes listeners by surprise with the inclusion of an eerie cello. The song hits some of Project 86’s heaviest and most memorable moments in their entire career. Any energy built from the first half of the album is funneled to this phenomenal piece.
The final two tracks (“White Capstone” and “Oculus”) bring a proper finish to the album. The former starts as heavy as usual before changing tempo at the 50 second mark. When the song starts to grow repetitive, Schwab proclaims one of the most powerful lines on the album:
“Tell me it was worth it / tell me I will make it / tell me all of this was not in vain / remind me of Your promises / remind me of Your faithfulness / remind me this was never about me.”
It would seem that “White Capstone” works well enough as the closing track, but “Oculus” carries the somber mood and takes it a step further to provide listeners with comforting closure to the album’s story of a soldier finding identity after war. Hopefully the band isn’t done making music, but I can’t think of a better ending to a career than the final notes of “Oculus.”
It’s incredible to see where this band has gone, musically and spiritually, from their self-titled debut to the angry Truthless Heroes and now with Knives to the Future. At 18 years, the band still hasn’t stretched their career too thin. Their music is just as edgy as it was at the height of their career, but it is now significantly more mature and reflective. If the quality of music is any indicator of their career, than they still have many years ahead.