PROJECT 86: “Omni pt 1” (Album Review)

I’m an old-school fan of Project 86. I remember when their self-titled debut hit the scene in 1998. It sounds like it was heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine. Their sophomore album, Drawing Black Lines found incredible success and was one of my most-played albums during my high school years. As the band matured and put out more albums, their sound evolved as well. While their sound has fluctuated greatly over their nearly three decades of existence, Andrew Schwaub’s thought-provoking lyrics have not. He is still as deep as ever– challenging listeners to ponder some of the most controversial subjects we face. 

With this latest release, he thrusts the evolution of artificial intelligence, humanity’s desire to escape death, and the consequences of that pursuit straight into the spotlight, all while doing it in an extremely creative way. “Omni” might be considered the band’s eleventh studio album, but Schwaub would rather it be labeled “part one of an immersive Sci-fi horror media experience.” That’s right, this is only the first part of a double album– one that introduces listeners to a fictional world that is really not so far from our world’s current reality and trajectory. 

Musically speaking, this is the heaviest album the band has ever put out. No contest. This is probably due to the album’s co-writers: Cory Branden (Norma Jean), Grayson Stewart (Norma Jean), and Matthew Putman (ex-Living Sacrifice). If you’ve already heard the singles from this album, no doubt you were shocked by the massive sound and heavy vocals. Well, friend, just wait. The whole album is colossal. My suggestion to any first-time listeners would be to set aside some time to just sit back with your eyes closed and let this album play front to back without any interruptions. Let it play in all its ghastly glory.

The album starts out with “Apotheosis,” which starts like an intro track but builds up the intensity until it sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Virtue Signal” and “0 (is greater than) 1” both hit hard and I doubt any listener will be disappointed with either song.  The latter-mentioned was released as a single at the end of January and gave fans a taste of the dark theme surrounding the album. “When the Belfry Speaks” is like listening to the innermost thoughts of a possessed soul. The band’s first single, “Metatropolis,” premiered just before Christmas last year. I remember hearing it for the first time and wondering who was screaming the aggressive vocals. When I realized it was Schwaub himself, I was blown away! To be honest, I haven’t given the band much attention over the last decade, but this track was enough to get me excited about them again.

After an interlude and a short, yet eerie track called “Tartarus Kiss,” the aggression picks back up with “Skin Job.” Throughout the song, there are hints of that classic Project 86 sound peeking through, but it’s no less heavy than the songs that precede it. “Spoon Walker” is the album’s longest track, coming in at just under seven minutes. The song fluctuates between fast-metal, ambiance, and doom; all the while having Schwaub scream like never before. The album closes with “Tears in Reign,” a massive anthem with spoken word layered overtop. 

“Omni part 1” is not just music. It’s a work of art. After listening to the album in its entirety, I am convinced that Project 86 is no longer the band I grew up with. The sound on the band’s 1998 debut is far from anything you will hear in 2023. The dark themes heard in “Drawing Black Lines” are merely a shadow of the opaque abyss that surrounds “Omni.” The uplifting spirit you feel when listening to some of the band’s later albums is nonexistent on this record. Although its name hasn’t changed, Project 86 is a completely new entity. This is without a doubt the band’s best work. “Omni” is terrifying in every aspect and I cannot recommend it enough.