Projected – “Human”

“Debut album from Hard Rock ‘Super-group’ delivers a perfect blend of muscle and melody”

by Tango Sho’Nuff

It’s been done before.  A couple of guys from some band join up with a couple of guys from another band, get tagged as a ‘supergroup’ and release an album that pales in comparison to their respective bands back catalogs.  No matter how promising some of these projects look on paper, they rarely deliver the goods.  So needless to say, when word got out about Projected, I tried my best to keep my expectations low, no matter how alluring the lineup seemed to be.

For those of you unfamiliar, Projected’s lineup consists of John Connolly (Sevendust) on lead vocals and guitar, Scott Phillips (Alter Bridge/Creed) on drums, Vinnie Hornsby (Sevendust) on bass, and Eric Friedman (Submersed/Creed/Tremonti Project) on guitar and backing vocals.  While Connolly has provided backing vocals in Sevendust throughout their career, this is his first attempt at being a lead vocalist, again, further adding to my skepticism.

Luckily for me (and all fans of hard rock for that matter), Projected prove to be one of the rare cases where everything just clicks.  The music, the vocals, the songwriting, and the individual performances of each member all come together seamlessly to create one of 2012’s standout releases.  Not bad for a side project.

“Human” begins with the serene instrumental “Into”.  Bell-like harmonics float on top of a lightly phased clean toned electric, luring the listener into a false sense of security before segueing into “HELLo”.  Right off the bat, “HELLo” sets the bar very high and serves as the perfect introduction to what Projected’s sound is all about.  Pulverizing riffs and a driving rhythm section meld together with strong melodies and irresistable vocal harmonies.  While there are countless acts on the scene melding heavy riffs with melodic vocals, few if any do so with such stellar results.  Connolly’s guitar style has always been rooted in rhythm and there’s not a guitar player on the scene that can match the sheer chest rattling power of his riffs.  While most metal players opt to clutter their riffs with as many notes as possible, or simply dish out standard Euro-metal pedal point lines, Connolly’s focus is the almighty groove, and being a drummer-turned-guitarist gives his riffs a unique staccato feel, providing the songs with crushing weight but allowing them to breathe and be accentuated with melodic fills and textures.  His vocals are equally impressive and perfectly complemented by Friedman’s harmonies giving Projected a defined, yet familiar sound.

To be honest, the majority of the material on “Human” stays in this vein and rarely stray from it, but the songs are so well constructed, it never feels like the band is just spinning their wheels, there’s not a bad track to be found amongst the albums 11 cuts.   “Watch it Burn” and “So Low” follow suit with jagged riffs melded with infectious hooks while “Bring You Back” features the first of two guest appearances by Sevendust’s own Lajon Witherspoon.  Hearing John trade vocals with Lajon in the verses make it clear that this should be something they pursue more on the next ‘Dust record.  “12804” is a deeply touching tribute to the late Dimebag Darrell, a close friend of Connolly’s and serves to be the lyrical highlight of the album.  Eric (E Rock) Friedman does a fantastic job of adding an extra sparkle to the band’s sound with well placed fills and countermelodies.  And the way his vocals meld with John’s prove to be the key element that separates Projected from sounding like a carbon copy of the members other bands.   Another highlight for me is Scott Phillips performance throughout.  On tracks like “The Crown” and “Closure”, Phillips beats his drums with jackhammer-like authority.  While Alter Bridge have their fair share of aggressive tracks, this is hands down the heaviest material I’ve heard him play on and he delivers in spades.  Speaking of aggression, the albums closing track “Breaking Me” finds Connolly’s vocals sounding exceptionally brutal, making his frontman debut all the more impressive.

With “Human”, Connolly and co. have crafted a sound that will appeal to their respective fan bases and beyond.  With more melodic integrity than your standard metal fare, and more muscle than most mainstream rock, Projected prove to be the best of both worlds.  Not to downplay the contributions of the other members but I feel that it’s worth noting that this release should more than help bring John Connolly’s name into the upper-echelon of Hard-Rock and Metal musicians of his generation.  Since 1997, Sevendust has been one of the most original, consistent, and under appreciated bands in music (regardless of genre).  And while their writing process is truly a collaborative effort, the songs on “Human” show just how big a part of Sevendust’s sound John’s writing and guitar style is.  While not as technically advanced or ‘shreddy’ as a Dimebag Darrell or Eddie Van Halen, he possesses a unique and unorthodox style flanked by a firm disregard of the rulebook and a strong commitment to creating “music” rather than hot licks.

It’s a shame that the members individual schedules will prevent them from taking Projected out on the road for any extended period of time as these songs will undoubtedly slay in a live context.  But Connolly has assured fans that they will be playing shows once everyone’s schedule is more set in stone.  Until then, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of “Human” on September 18th, or you can pre-order it online at www.projectedband.com – take my word, you don’t want to miss this one.

9/10 stars

TRACK LISTING:

1 – Into
2 – HELLo
3 – Watch It Burn
4 – So Low
5 – Bring You Back
6 – 12804
7 – Alive
8 – The Crown
9 – Stella
10-Closure
11-Breaking Me

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