I am a tremendous Manilla Road fan.  Unfortunately, they are one of the few bands I never had a chance to see live, prior to the passing of founder/vocalist/guitarist Mark Shelton – a true metal genius.  RIP Metal Brother.  From the ashes, we will rise and what we have here is 50% Manilla Road and 50% members from Germany, of all places.

Phil Ross played bass for Manilla Road from 2016-2018 and was on the last full-length album, To Kill a King, in 2017.  Manilla Road brought in Bryan Patrick (one of them double first name jobs) as their drum tech in the 80’s, then joined as a live vocalist and at the start of the 2000’s became a full time member.  This took some of the pressure off Mark when playing live and singing, and the 2 would switch off singing live and eventually, Bryan became their main live vocalist and was on the studio albums, along with Mark still singing on them, from 2001 up until the end of Manilla Road.

Rounding out this stunning album, from Germany, Neudi, on drums, and Eric Kaldschmidt on guitars.  Phil is in the band Ironsword with Neudi and Neudi and Eric in the NWOBHM band Jameson Raid – so there are many connections that brought forth Sentry and if you were a Manilla Road fan, well Holy Poop on a Stick – you will be floored with this debut album, which I never realized the band, have been around since 2019, but this is their first release.

8 original songs and an unreal cover song of the classic Candlemass tune Incarnation of Evil round out this close to an hour length debut album.  “Dark Matter” opens things up with some killer drumming, truly, it’s like a drum solo and the music in the beginning almost sounds like it’s going to be a full-on thrash metal song, but it settles down once Bryan’s searing vocals come in and he sounds incredible with his tones-this bastid has not missed a beat and then the song breaks into an NWOBHM fast gallop and then slows back down.  The vocal phrasing and tones are extremely soaring and catchy and the guitar work….well captures the true spirit of Mr. Shelton.  Excellent melodic with power metal guitar riffing and the rhythm section sounds like a band that has played together for quite some time.

“The Haunting” is up next and has some nods to ancient Candlemass, hence them covering a song, by them, from the Ancient Dreams era.  Bryan even has some Messiah Marcolin vocal crooning going on and this song really sounds like Candlemass circa 1988, in vocals as well as the tone and pacing of the guitar.  Close your eyes, listen to this song, and you will hear what I am saying.  Excellent epic song with a lot of classic doom metal thrown in.

“Heavensent” starts with a slow buildup, some thunder noises, and then the song begins with beautiful yet very emotive vocals and the bass and guitar work is exceptional.  The opening cymbal hits are also the perfect addition.  Bryan’s tones are spot on with soaring vocals and gruff moments at times.  This song could have been on the best Manilla Road album – Crystal Logic.  It has those haunting and emotive guitar melodies as the song continues along.  The main vocal chorus moments are some of the best I have heard, since well….Manilla Road.  This is the best song for 2024, hands down.  I press repeat quite a lot on this track. You are going to want to hold up your horns when listening to this and if the band ever plays live, this must be in their live set.  This song sends chills down my spine when I hear those main chorus moments and I admit to being a little teary-eyed when listening to this song, because it soooo reminds me of something Mark Shelton would have written.  It’s a beautiful song.

“Valkyries (Raise the Hammers)” and “Awakening” are quicker-paced numbers that have varying tempo shifts and then there are the more classic power metally/NWOBHM/doom metal moments on songs like “Funeral” and “Black Candles”.  The production is excellent and the mix captures everything you would want to hear on an album of this magnitude.

Sentry keeps the spirit of Mark Shelton and Manilla Road alive and there are many original ideas on this debut album.  I would love to see this band live…but unsure given the band members varying locations.  As a release for 2024..this is the sleeper hit this year.  Came out of nowhere and has been in constant rotation ever since.  AOTY??  I am unsure, but at the very least will be in my upper tier of releases, when 2024 comes to a close.  This is a brilliant album!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
April 9th, 2024


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