Project 34 – Volume 2 (2019)

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From the release notes:

Sydney, Australia based Project 34 represents a journey through the unknown.

Project 34 released Volume 1 in 2018. Focusing heavily on atmospherics, chanting, hypnotic guitar loops and laced with vocals evoking the extreme range of human capability, Volume 1 set the mood for what is now to follow.

Volume 2 is a year of musical and artistic reflection through a timeless atmosphere. WIth the envelope pushed further, this is a release to immerse yourself in and be transported to another realm.

This is not a band, rather a boundary-less view within ones subconscious soul, unlocking the endless stream of creation once believed unattainable.

Project 34 features members of Australian progressive metal act Sanctium and many other guest performers who remain nameless so the music can truly do the talking.

My impressions:

“Volume 2” contains 10 tracks, with most around the 5 minute mark. Up front, this is not my usual fare, so I spent a good deal of time putting my preconceptions aside. The existence of boundaries elicits feelings of safety and predictability, so when I read that this work was ‘boundary-less’, I steeled myself to be challenged by the result.

“Breathe” is the first breath of the album, with simple guitars that are overlaid with precise percussion. Growling vocals emerge, but they are less prominent than is usual. At 2 minutes in the cacophony begins and the template of the album is revealed – a dense sound that is akin to an assault. It’s really complex, with a lot going on in every moment.

“Forever” begins in a manner that feels like the previous track, but it then morphs with the use of more structured guitar layers. It has a different feel that highlights the band’s stated lack of boundaries.

“Distant Eradication” continues the premise of the album so far, but with a different arrangement. It’s a bit more organic, with effects that reminded me of birds. That smile sweetly at you, then peck your eyes out. It has some melodic and acoustic sections, but they soon become more frantic.

“Birth” is fast and menacing, with some excellent guitar solos. It falls away, with little left at the end. It reminded me of regret.

“Deceased” is immediately dense and the use of feedback grated on me. Frenetic guitar work features. This track confronted me and just as my discomfort peaked, the track dropped back to the melodic. It then leapt back to the intense, before again fading away.

“Judgement” is short at little over 2 minutes, with an ominous bass line opening. It contains peculiar effects and sounds not used so far. Again, the creative process was front and centre. Very few vocals are used, compared to the other tracks.

“Mortality” scampers forward with scratchy feedback and I was again assaulted by sound. The use of echoes and reverberations added new experiences and at times it had an ominous simplicity. The guitars plaintively wail away at the end.

“Anguish” weighs in at just over 2 minutes and opens with a gigantic bass reverberation. It is machine-like in its sound, albeit a machine that seems to be running, but is malfunctioning somewhat. I was waiting for some form of explosion, but it didn’t eventuate. I was relieved.

“Last Breath” returns to the established pattern, but on this track it felt like the guitars had a life all of their own. It features a melodic surprise that had me wondering if this was the same album. Then, it returned to form.

“Never” concludes the album and it initially launches forward. It’s true to form with the growling vocals and a gritty, complex sound. Then, it all falls way, feeling like a promise left unfulfilled.

This album is indeed a challenging experience. It’s a hard listen – often dense and with a character that is confronting, but it also had me wondering where it would go next. The dynamic is an amalgam of instrument and voice, particularly guitar, with the guitar levels and arrangements changing in structure – sometimes a wall, at other times a whisper. The vocals are like a growl from out of a dark corner, with them less prevalent in relation to the instruments than I expected.

The closest that I could come to an experience in my life is one from my off-road cycling shenanigans. There is a section in a ride that I do when I am up for a challenge – it’s 22km of gentle climbing on gravel from Linville to Benarkin along the fabulous Brisbane Valley Rail Trail in Queensland, Australia. It’s a long, emotional, often torturous and confronting experience, that is tempered by some moments of joy as you ride through rainforest, balanced by the sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end.

This album is like that – an emotional, often confronting journey. It’s atmospheric and a great example of the creative process, eliciting a raft of emotional reactions in the listener.

Rating it was hard, so I’m going to do two ratings.

If you listen to it once and let your preconceptions about music rule: 3/10. But, where’s the fun in that?

If you listen to it a few times and put your preconceptions aside: 8/10. Plus, you’ll be all the richer for it.

Review by Greg Noble

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