About eight years ago, five gentlemen from Alma, Quebec put a start to Projet RL (the letters of which pay tribute to one of the town’s streets: la Rue du Lac, most likely to underline its personal significance for the band members). From its humble beginning as a group of friends who picked up instruments to jam together, their journey has been the one devoid of glamour and instead paved with mandatory hard work with its ups and downs, but also joys of maturing as musicians. Years passed, and after countless hours of rehearsing, numerous local gigs, and a handful of self-produced CD-R releases, a difficult decision to disband was made, ending the short trail that was their recorded output with Earthburnt. This album is easily the most accomplished and diverse music these young individuals created in their short career. All the fun aspects of playing heavy music together, disregarding the canons, fashion, or critics’ opinions, have been successfully captured in the band’s own tweaks to the familiar styles and sound, making the record a minor curiosity and a worthy rundown of their collective journey.
Projet RL’s utter dedication to lo-fi becomes evident as soon as the record’s opener, ‘Nature’s Will’, kicks in with its fuzzy guitars and steady rocking rhythm. Making no secret about their inspirations dating three to four decades ago, the band completely nails the dusty, bluesy heaviness-soaked guitar sound that many newer bands riding the waves of various nostalgia revivals are trying to emulate. Showing that their chops go beyond the purpose of mere imitation, Projet RL builds confidently upon the pushy guitar grooves of yesteryear by throwing in some more somber elements of their own, letting those gradually dissolve, and eventually turning a lighthearted rock-out into a moody post-punk introversion. On ‘Ghost’, the band takes a turn towards a more direct, punky approach. The gruff guitars are still here, this time supporting the rhythm section, carrying the track towards the delay-heavy middle passage which finally resolves in a full-scale doom riff-o-rama.
Changing moods is certainly one of the record’s more prominent features: The band is unafraid to switch gears and toss things around within the scope of each song, and does so in the most playful of manners, leaving behind traces of some applied jam session remodeling. A number of styles are employed to convey the mood variation more distinctively. There is stoner doom with hazy-yet-firm riffing and down-tuned guitars (‘Addicted to’), punk with its reckless drumming patterns and characteristic bravado (‘Ghost’), lethargic and emotional shoegazey moments (the opening of ‘Stonewind Travel’ and the title track), post-punk’s bassy spookiness and vocal melodrama (‘Bummer’), and just straight-from-the-gut garage rock with sparks of psychedelia thrown in for good measure.
The presence of slower, more melancholic styles nicely counterbalanced by the unpolished overt enthusiasm of the overall delivery is another noticeable aspect of Earthburnt that is further reinforced by diversity in the vocal department. Normally, existing somewhere between the euphoric madness of Snake (of Voivod fame) and the fragile frustration of Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling, the vocals have evolved since previous releases and now also employ a more dramatic, even gothy approach in some songs, which underlines the darker emotions the band seems to be aiming to express through their music. As far as expressiveness is concerned, the lyrics are regrettably the weakest point here. Engaging in topics of lost love, death, and overall dissatisfaction, they occasionally come off as unnecessarily angsty, crass, and fairly generic, proving the choice of writing in a non-native language to be an unfortunate one. Luckily, the record’s inherent bluntness and agile instrumentation helps to divert the attention from this minor misstep.
The guitar work, at times exceptionally raw, never gets out of touch with a melodic edge, creating an engaging listening experience. With every new listen, Projet RL’s brilliance of bridging transitions between moods and styles becomes more apparent; these compositions, with all of their twists and turns, still retain the main power of a live rock-band. The songs have enough staying power and punch packed in.
Not without its flaws, Projet RL’s final record is a slow burner that glows with artistic innocence, holding tons of charm for those with an open heart. Serving as an unintended epitaph, Earthburnt sums up the potential of a band on its way to carving its own identity while incidentally reminding us about the importance of the first milestone: one’s local scene.
01) Nature’s Will
03) Addicted to
04) Stonewind Travel
06) Earth Burnt