Project 86 Brings The Heavy With OMNI, Part 1

“Ready yourself for the end.” These lyrics were used by [Andrew] Schwab on Project 86’s 2009 album Picket Fence Cartel. At the time, it was simply a lyrical theme of sorts that drove the album’s opening track. Now it is 2023 and that line is taking on a more literal sense.

This is the beginning of the end as this album was announced that it would be the final album from Project 86.

Project 86 has been a band for 25+ years and their self-titled debut was released in 1998. Over the span of 25 years the band has changed stylistically, thematically and even personnel (Schwab is the only remaining original member). Through the changes the moniker of Project 86 has remained a constant in pushing the boundaries and creating thought provoking art/music (much of this due to Schwab’s lyrical approach). The dark(er) themes paired with religion (Christianity in particular) have always felt unique and appealing as they created a perspective that was outside of the “norm.”

OMNI, Part 1 is no different and may push the line ever so slightly more than has been done in the past. This time around Schwab collaborated with Cory [Brandan] and several other from Norma Jean who were on a hot streak after releasing the OrphanTwin EP Future Classic and Norma Jean’s Death Rattle Sing for Me (both were held in high regard in 2022). The influence is evident as OMNI, Part 1 just might be the heaviest album that P86 has ever released.

OMNI, Part 1 is definitely a concept album and is intended to be experienced from start to finish. This does include some interlude tracks similar to what was done on Truthless Heroes.

The album opens with “Apotheosis” which is the perfect opening track as it begins with a very simplistic guitar tune that feels like it is the beginning of an incoming transmission. Once the drums begin to roll in you can feel the anticipation of what is building and that everything is about shift into overdrive and not slow down. Some of the tones coming from the later guitar work and the bass feel very reminiscent of the Drawing Black Lines era. Lyrically, there isn’t much, but what is there packs a punch with the line, “This is the moment where we retake Eden.” “Virtual Signal” follows and carries some semblance of the Picket Fence Cartel era. The theme here is the driving force as it carries through seamlessly from track to track.

“0>1” kicks in with some soaring guitar work that bleeds into the chaotically intricate composition of the rest of the track all before dissolving into the bridge where it brings in an essence of Truthless Heroes before everything kicking back in with massive force. This is followed by “User Agreement” which is the first interlude track. For some this would be considered skippable, but to really get full context of the album it is best to not skip over. “When The Belfry Speaks” opens with a very sludgy bass/guitar riff behind a chant in Latin, “Profanus unio homo et machina.” This translates to, “The unholy union of man and machine.” It’s an interestingly thought provoking track that really leans in to the concept of the album as a whole.

“Metatropolis” (the album’s lead single) is another heavy track that is almost impossible to describe. There is so much going on musically and lyrically that is simultaneously visceral and surreal. This is the track that stands out on the album that feels like it was truly intended for the live setting. The next of the interlude tracks, “Trust The Science,” follows and feels a bit more skippable than the prior one. However, as previously stated, to get the full effect of the album these interludes are best left in. “Tartarus Kiss” also has a strong Truthless Heroes vibe to it and is the most “mellow” track on the album.

“Skinjob” (which features Cory Brandan) carries a glimpse of the Rival Factions era, but Cory’s contribution adds a significant amount of depth vocally. Schwab is no stranger to taking an aggressive approach, but Cory just carries a different gravitas. The combination of the two (Schwab and Brandan) is nothing short of brilliant and really gives the track some definitive layering. “Icharus/Prometheus” is the final interlude track, but is more of a spoken word piece. The musical backdrop is vastly different from the rest of the album and gives that gleam of hope against the bleakness that is encountered on the majority of the rest of the album.

“Spoon Walker” opens with what almost sounds like an alarm giving final warning for the impending doom that is imminently coming and then instantly kicks down the proverbial door and assaults your ears. There are elements of the track that feel like something from either Knives to the Future or Sheep Among Wolves. All of this leads to a sludgy breakdown around 2:30 mark (the track is 6:40 in length) and then descends in to somewhat of a continuation from “Icharus/Prometheus” before an even sludgier breakdown that carries the track to it’s culmination. “Tears In Reign” closes out the album and is where we get a glimpse of Wait for the Siren. Being the album closer it is the other side of the mirror to “Apotheosis” as it closes out with the same simplistic guitar tune. This creates the perfect atmosphere to be viewed as the finality, but also leaves it open enough for it “to be continued” when OMNI, Part 2 drops.

Ultimately, OMNI, Part 1 feels like the culmination of what Schwab has been striving to achieve his whole career. It’s heavy and thought provoking crafting a bleak landscape/story yet still finds a way to incite hope in the midst of all the chaos. It is a remarkably constructed album that serves as the perfect bookend on the band’s career.

OMNI, Part 1 is available now on all major streaming and digital platforms or you can order/pre-order the album (and the forthcoming Part 2) here. Pre-orders will be available throughout the writing and recording process (currently ongoing) and you can follow that journey via the Project 86 Patreon.

Project 86 – “Virtual Signal” (Official Music Video)

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