Horrifed
Sentinel EP

I remember reading a review of Horrified‘s 2018 full-length release, Allure of the Fallen, where the band was described as having a sound familiar to Horrendous, but without the prog attributes. While this isn’t my favorite description of the band’s style, it’s admittedly, not too far off either, and ends up working well since more metal listeners have probably been exposed to the sounds of Horrendous over the last few years as opposed to Horrified. Besides a similar sound and name, both bands roughly started about the same time and both bands have walked a similar path of progression from album to album, to the point that each band’s current material is quite different from their original/debut sound. Personally, I’m more drawn to the sounds of the U.K’s Horrified and their brand of sometimes doomy, and sometimes blackened, death metal. It simply resonates with me a bit more. Suffice to say, I was elated and surprised when Horrified dropped their all new, six track, thirty minute run-time, EP release, Sentinel, out of the blue on my unsuspecting self.

While there are definite hold over traits from Allure of the Fallen still within Horrified‘s sound, the ’90’s flavored progressive tech-death aspects of Sentinel‘s material have been raised and developed to immense levels. Whether or not this will hold over to a new full-length is anyone’s guess, but I can tell you that these six tracks of blistering and intriguing death metal brings to mind, more than a few times, a crushing conglomeration of Death/Control Denied, Pestilence, and even Asphyx that hits just right, soothing the soul of this death metal enthusiast. Every single note on Sentinel is a success in my book. The material is catchy and driving, full of heaviness, and doesn’t have to rely on an overt brutality or down-tuned gimmick to achieve any of their might and heft. This is progressive/tech-death the way I like it. Not a widdly wankery of 21st century shock and awe, but a thinking man’s metal, reminiscent of a time when some of death metal’s original pioneers  branched out to expand upon the endless capabilities and opportunities that this extremity we call death metal could, and would, ultimately become.

Album opener, “The Pessimist”, starts out subtly enough with some tasteful melancholic and slightly folkish clean picking luring you into a false sense of safety before transforming into a splendid display of driving, progressive, ass kicking glory. Every player, instrument, and performance lines up perfectly and really creates a fantastic aural adventure that would definitely bring a smile to Chuck Schuldiner’s face. The drumwork of Michael Jordan is fluid and adaptable to the material’s twists and turns, always complementing and never overstepping, while guitarists Dan Jordan and Daniel Alderson simply rip and tear, providing both menacing and interesting riffs as well as some thought out and well played solos that add a great flair. Though I have to say, it’s bassist, Lee Anderson, that is Sentinel‘s secret weapon; his playing is simply fantastic and fits well alongside mentions of bass legends DiGiorgio, Patterson, Choy, and Malone. The man’s ability to drive, complement, open up, and even lead the songwriting through much of Sentinel‘s proggy, tech-death is quite an impressive feat. Even during “Awaiting Restitution”, with its overtly more Allure of the Fallen driven attitude, Anderson’s bass lines add a warm, welcoming, and complete feeling to the material. Simply put, Sentinel, and Horrified itself, would suffer a bit if Anderson’s bass wasn’t present.

Whether it’s the already aforementioned tracks, the thrashing and pulsing rhythms and impresive lead-work of “Crestfallen”, the fluid, yet never too flashy for its own sake, Schuldiner-esque happenings of “Forgotten Thrones”, or the devoid of distortion, though full of beauty and heartfelt emotion, instrumental, “Celestial Tears”, Sentinel colors me impressed with every listen. Though with all of this already talked about awesomeness found on Sentinel, my personal favorite offering comes in the form of  EP closer, “The Perceiver”. A bit more of a rager, the track features some nice blast beats alongside a somewhat blackened tremolo riffed melody, as well as compelling guitar leads and moving bass lines that shine and propel the track. The drums are constantly moving in creation, not only driving, but also never becoming stale or borish, especially when the track opens itself up into subtle, almost jam like nature, showcasing some quality instrumentation and a feel of Allure of the Fallen driven doom, without really ever laying down any bonafide doom at all. Sure, overall it may not really be anything that hasn’t already been done before within the parameters of this style of death metal, but nonetheless, “The Perceiver” is quite a nice ardent journey of progressive death that mixes brutality, brains, and beauty. What more could you want?

I only have one complaint with Sentinel; it’s release date. Yeah, I know, Horrified probably don’t have much, if any, say so in the matter, but albums, be they full-lengths or EP’s really get done a disservice when labels choose to release them during the Christmas holiday season. I get that it’s the music “business” and that business means making money, not taking a pause for the cause so-to-speak, but December, and even November release dates can inadvertantly put a band on the back burner right from the get go. The fact is, most people/consumers are in a totally different mindset during the holiday season and buying/checking out new extremities in metal isn’t necessarily priority number one. Couple this with the fact that the majority of metal news/review sites and publications have their “best of lists” compiled and ready to post/print by October’s end, does nothing but hurt any noticement, notoriety, or accolades that would be afforded a band at any other time of the year. Horrified and Sentinel are a perfect case in point. If released at the beginning of fall last year, or even spring this year, chances are Sentinel would be on the lips of a lot more people. It is what it is though, and what Sentinel “is”, is a fantastic piece of material that many a metalhead will be singing the praises of after allowing their ears to be graced by its presence.

 

Kristofor Allred

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
April 3rd, 2020

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