Sunday, July 22, 2007

Project 86 - Rival Factions / Concert Review

Project 86
Rival Factions

Tooth & Nail 2007


I stood, sweat soaked, left ear muffled and possibly damaged, watching the members of Project 86 packing up their gear on the stage. What had just occurred: a frenzy of five bands, showcasing their talent for aggressive heavy rock branching in different directions respectively. The first four were edging towards the new breakdown- oriented heavy rock with raspy high screams and deep growls, some giving a fresh approach which was nice. The temperature in the small venue was sweltering, but I stayed cool under a lone air vent in the ceiling for most of the show. That was until Project 86 took the stage.

I have long been a Project fan. It’s been about a decade. Now, weathered from the major label storms and finally feeling comfortable to make the music they want, their shows are a world apart from the ones of their beginnings.

This time around they’re promoting Rival Factions, their sixth album. An almost 180 from their previous album, it’s more punk, more gothic, more industrial, and musically a far cry from what Project fans would come to expect. But lead singer Andrew Schwab is unwavering in his signature speak/scream vocals and poignant,
aggressive lyrics. On Rival Factions, he becomes more of an exhibitionist, as an attempt to be as forward and honest with his mistakes and beliefs.

On stage Schwab sings with pointed finger toward the crowd, teaching them of his gained wisdom from personal tragedies and experiences. The band plays fierce and calculated behind him.

Rival Factions in many parts looks at the band itself, the expectations it has faced, the success and failures it has had in its over ten year existence. Schwab, in the middle of it all, poetically and hopefully looks forward to continuing, simultaneously looking back to where he come from. In the most memorable track on the album, “The Forces of Radio Have Dropped a Viper Into the Rhythm Section” Schwab compare himself to analog tape, and in the digital world he declares “you don’t expect me to rear my head, but I’m not dead.”

Well after midnight, they took the stage and proved how alive they are.
Standing less than two feet from guitarist Randy Torres as he bangs out the distorted riffs on his Gibson, I reminisced back to the four or five times I’ve seen them over the years. I noticed they had aged, but that they still know how to make good, original hardcore music, and still stand apart from the new artists that come along and play more of the same.

They played a solid show. My usual complaint is that their shows are too short, and not full of surprises for a long time fan like me. This time was about the same, but they pulled out a few I hadn’t heard before, which was nice.

Their new angle with Rival Factions channels Depeche Mode in songs like “Molotov” and “Normandy,” and in songs like “Put Your Lips to the T.V.” they bring more energy than they’ve ever had. It’s definitely a new approach in a time where most rock comes out sounding generic and uninspired.

During the stage break down, Randy Torres took a break from packing his gear, and sat on the edge of the stage. I’d had conversations with him in the past, and my sweat drenched self has a question for him. Why such a difference in sound with the new album? “Well,” he began, obviously drained from the tour, the heat, and the late night, “we just didn’t want to make the same album twice.”

I left him at that, because when rock radio all blends together and many bands are indistinguishable in their genre, what else needs to be said? No Project album is perfect, but they are always reaching. For new sounds and dynamics, for changes in culture, and for hope.

-Mark Wingerter

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