Hard rock greats Project 86 are gearing up to release their crushing new album Wait For The Siren on August 21. To help aide in promotion, as well as highlight the deep meaning behind the material, UTG has partnered with the group to bring you a detailed track-by-track rundown of the meanings behind the entire record. Even more so than previous similar features, this one runs pretty long, so I’ll just stop typing now and let Project 86′s Andrew Schwab take the lead.
Fall, Goliath, Fall
I had a specific vision for this song. I wanted a song that would harken visions of epic medieval battles, where families fight for land against evil oppressors. The picture I had in my mind was a metaphor for the obstacles we face as artists in this industry, but I also wanted it to symbolize the plight of any underdog in any walk of life. We employed the use of a mandolin and a hammered dulcimer to give the song an epic, dramatic sound.
As I wrote with my friend Andrew Welch over Skype, and the song came together, I got chills, even before the vocals were written. I knew we had a special song. Then, when I actually laid down the vocals in the studio while recording the album version-which was the first time I had ever sang them-I almost came out of my skin with joy. It was one of those moments that justifies all the hard work and sleepless nights which come as a part of doing this for a living. It was one of those moments that only happens a few times in your whole career, and that is if you are lucky.
We have all faced insurmountable odds, or a seemingly undefeatable adversary at various points in our lives. When we encounter a Goliath, how will we respond? Will we cower in fear? Or will we stand confidently in our God-given abilities and fight? When he falls, we mount his head on a pike, high amidst our camp, as a monument to the source of our strength.
To be gentle and humble is to walk softly and carry a big stick. Or in the case of this track, a steady aim and resolute belief. A penitent man is someone who is slow to anger, but if you provoke his righteous indignation, beware. Gentleness is power under perfect control. An arrogant man, though he may possess physical prowess, is no match for a contrite man. The track is about a one-on-one battle between these two men. The prideful one stands no chance, though he may be the whom the oddsmakers favor.
The track went through many revisions since the original demo, and at one point was going to be cut from the record. When the chorus vocal was finished, though, we knew we had one of the strongest and heaviest tracks in our whole catalogue. Bruce Fitzhugh from Living Sacrifice really added a nice emotion to an already brutal jam; he sounds like the monster portrayed in the lyrics.
There is a conspiracy that surrounds each of our lives the very second we enter this world. From day one, we are inundated with influence, bombarded with messages which are meant to conform us to the pattern of this dark planet. We are told, through images on billboards, magazines, computer screens, and television that meaning is found in amassing possession, and in achieving recognition in the eyes of our peers. We are fed propaganda which attempts to convince us that outward beauty is of greater value than character, that happiness can be found in self-glory.
But our hearts tell us something is wrong in all of this.
The still, small voice inside our heads beckons us to uncover the truth. If we have courage to reject the stream of messages and imagery which surround as pursue a different path, peace will be found. But it will come at a price. In defying the lies friends will become enemies, brothers will become strangers.
If you listen, there is a bell throughout this song which drones as a call to all who have ears to hear: it’s time to wake up and open your eyes to the fact that this life is not what it seems.
Off the Grid
Sometimes relationships which begin as blessings can become prisons of dysfunction. And when they do, we must do whatever is necessary to escape. This is not always easy when we are entrenched in years of tainted history, so we have to careful and cunning in our strategy. With patience and persistence we dig ourselves out, even if we are not equipped with the tools necessary to make a proper tunnel. Determination to see light at the end drives us.
We cannot change the past. It does no matter who is to blame. When an ally becomes an adversary, and we have exhausted all options, we must find an exit.
The process of making this record was one of the most freeing situations of my whole career. It presented unique challenges from a songwriting standpoint, and I pushed myself creatively further than I had ever gone before. The end result feels like I crawled through a river of mire and emerged on the other side, liberated.
The problems in our lives can many times be traced back to our heritage. We were each handed down curses which follow our bloodlines. If they are not broken, these curses will haunt us and define us.
In order to be free, we must cut our losses. This may mean the steps we have traveled in the sand may be washed away. But in front of us is a path that is unencumbered and paved.
The analogy of the airship is fitting for me, as this “flight” would not have been possible without first confronting my heritage in the process. The stars are closer than they were before, and the faces of those who connected me to earth are distant.
The instrumentation on this track is unique in the sense that each piece stands independently, yet complimentary, to the others. The swing beat that carries the chorus is rhythmic departure from any other P86 song, which is why it’s on eof my personal favorites.
I had a desire to write a song that truly expressed my deep desires to leave this earthly shell in favor of the mystery of the other side. I don’t know what lies ahead but I do know I am getting closer to it with every waking breath.
The metaphor in this song is of a soldier who has been far from home for what seems to be an eternity. His commission is about to end. He leaves behind a legacy of imperfection. He carries with him permanent injuries and scars from war. He is weary and homesick. He does not know what awaits him, but he knows that it will be much better than the battle he has been fortunate enough to survive.
This is a more somber, reflective song. It was co-written by my friend Blake Martin who played guitar in A Plea for Purging.
The Crossfire Gambit
Inspired by the films Blade Runner and Cloak and Dagger, this is the most hectic moment on the record. The song was assembled from pieces of three different demos, which is something that has never happened before. The verse riff, especially when it breaks into the regular-time drums, is definitely of my favorite moments on the whole record. This just so happens to be the moment where my friend Brian “Head” Welch announces his dominating presence as well.
The night we recorded the guest vocals stands out for me as one of my favorite evenings in the whole recording process. I actually had Brian sing his parts before I had written the rest of the lyrics or vocal parts, so I built the rest of the song around him. I was standing outside in the parking lot when he was laying down his parts, and I can confidently say I have never heard a louder voice in my career. I heard him on the other side of the concrete walls, and he must woken everyone within three blocks of the studio.
This song is a little bit more poetic than most of the other material on the album, as I wrote it in a more stream of consciousness style that is reminiscent of earlier Project releases. The Blade Runner quote is a metaphor for the spiritual consequences of the “live for today” attitude I fight within myself. The song explores the limits of forgiveness.
This is the moment in the record, musically, where the listener gets a breather. However, the story contained in the lyrics is both intense and intensely personal. The song recalls the events surrounding the birth of my daughter not long ago.
It was a singular night in the heavens, as it was both a blood moon and a winter solstice. Also on that night, a storm called the Pineapple Express hit the west coast. It was the worst storm California had seen in nearly a century.
Her heartbeat filled the delivery room as the soundtrack to my anticipation. It was steady and strong for hours. But just before she was about to arrive, her heart rate fell and nearly stopped. He had abrupted. Emergency surgery followed, and I thought she was going to die. She was without oxygen for nearly fifteen minutes-which means, in many cases, brain damage, or worse.
As they took my wife into surgery, I had to wait outside the room. It was one of the most difficult moments of my life, not knowing what was happening. When they finally allowed me in the room, I cried harder than I ever have in my life. I placed my forehead on my wife’s, and asked heaven for help.
Then, I saw her come out. She was pale and lifeless. I was not permitted to go to her, as the doctors worked frantically to try to revive her. This was it…would she live? Then, they motioned me over, and there, looking up at me, was the face of God in the form of a little girl. Peace washed over me. I knew, immediately, that she was going to be healthy, which she was.
I have learned that trauma produces transformation in the human soul. It is the primary means by which we are humbled and grown.
Above the Desert Sea
Inspired in part by Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, this is a conversation between Abraham and Isaac at the very point that the father is about to sacrifice his only son. This is a glimpse into the possible words and emotions the two shared as Isaac was bound to the altar. The verses contain the words of Isaac, whereas the moody moments are those of Abraham.
You know the story. After two exchanges, the father is moments away from dropping the knife. As his hand descends, he is interrupted by the voice of a spiritual being, who tells Abraham to stop. Isaac lives. As a reward for obedience to his higher power, Abraham is promised that his offspring will multiply to numbers rivaling the stars in the sky.
Isaac’s lack of understanding of the situation is complemented by the tension of music behind his monologues, and Abraham’s resolute, calm determination is captured in the ambient layers behind his. This musical contrast helps highlight the communication gap between the two, and illustrates the drama of the situation.
During the demoing process, this song actually contained sections of The Crossfire Gambit. We actually split the original demo into two different songs for the sake of continuity on the album.
Ghosts of Easter Rising
We cannot possibly hope to accomplish anything of value with our lives if we do not first have vision. And we cannot possibly hope to stand in the face of whatever opposes that vision if we do not have the courage to defend our dreams. This track is about two things: courage and intention.
This is one of the most unique songs, from a musical standpoint, on the album. We approached the drums like a loop and treated the instruments almost as samples. The hammered dulcimer combined with the Uilleann pipe really added to the desperate emotions we wanted to convey, leading into the bridge, where the “battle” commences. It’s my favorite bridge on the album because the energy is very intense, as is the lyrics.
The picture is of a group of soldiers poised for battle, prepared to fight against an army of evil oppressors. They are willing to give anything for their cause, which is a righteous one. It is a metaphor for steadfastness in the face of anything which would seek to oppose our goals as people.
This is a story about true friendship and loyalty. In the song, I watch as a planet I had created (forged from relationships with friends who eventually proved untrustworthy) was imploding all around me. Volcanoes erupted, earthquakes shook the ground, the skies were falling, smoke and fire rained down from the heavens. I was about to die.
Then, out of the black sky, at the last possible moment, a ship emerges and lands in front of me. A door opens and a hand is extended, pulling me inside. As we ascend I watch as the planet finally collapses. Then, I fall into unconsciousness.
When I awake I am on a new world where there is none of pollution, pain, or evil which characterized the old planet on which I lived. It is a foreign, but beautiful place.
The story is a parable for the arc that was the person that I would eventually pledge my life to in marriage, and the role she played in my life when I met her.
Take the Hill
The character in the song receives a message from beyond on a shortwave radio. The message tells him that he is special, unique, and destined to do something very important. In his excitement, he shares this extraterrestrial experience with his peers and “leaders,” who laugh at him and tell him it wasn’t real. They tell him that he is not special, that he should fall in line and follow the herd, so to speak. He persists in sharing his message, for which he is banished from his “village,” forced to live in exile.
Then, he realizes he is not alone, that many others have had this same experience, and he meets his fellow misfits in the wilderness. They band together and march as one to retake the village and overthrow those who have attempted to cover up the truth.
One of my favorite tracks on the record, I believe this embodies the spirit of the band more than any other on the record. The subliminal messages in the intro and outro contain the shortwave transmission. The message is clear for those who have ears to hear…