Project 86 has been around longer than their second generation of fans has been alive. After 20 years and ten studio albums, the hard rock veterans continue to deliver high-quality, critically-viable music. With their recently released full-length album, Sheep Among Wolves, P86 proves that not only do they continue to carry the torch of influence, but they still know how to do it in ways that are appealing and new.
Starting in California in 1996 as a heavier, punk-rock crew, P86 has gradually (and intentionally) transitioned into a full-on heavy metal band. Many millennials were introduced to them through the well-crafted lyrics and rock heavy sophomore album, Drawing Black Lines, which is now a cornerstone of the heavy-Christian-music canon. It was alarming, fresh, abrasive, and has stood the test of time.
To see the band transform with every subsequent release into a newly adjusted sound has clearly been a journey. Now that they have experimented with nearly every variant of the rock genre, it is interesting to see which direction P86 would take, given that – if they wanted – they don’t need to take any directions at all. Not coincidentally, the band has released their tenth LP in their twentieth year, self-funding the release through Pledge Music. (The band is no stranger to crowdsourcing the funds for their work; they have previously turned to IndieGoGo, Kickstarter, and PledgeMusic for EPs, acoustic releases, and albums.)
They made their way to the darker, heavier identity for Sheep Among Wolves. Following the quiet release of 2014’s Knives to the Future, SAW is loud, but, more importantly, that physical volume and vocal darkness carry an unmistakable statement of power. Although each song has a slightly varied metal and/or rock subgenre feel to it, the band’s message the consistent vein connecting the tracks. In the way that Project 86 has mastered, human weakness and desperation are brought to the forefront with the poetic arrangement of words, one of vocalist Andrew Schwab’s talents. It’s a unique gift P86 has mastered, this vague word crafting that carries
versatile healing and compassion.
Despite two decades releasing rock music, Project 86 hasn’t grown complacent, releasing albums for the sake of releasing albums. The band still has a purpose behind their art, and Sheep Among Wolves proves to be a heavier, deeper, and significant release.