Can it really be around four years since British groove monsters Desert Storm unleashed their critically-acclaimed Omniscient? It is undoubtedly true that time flies when you are having fun, the release still stirring our attention amongst the horde of new encounters submitted to us. Now the band has uncaged its successor in the bold shape of Sentinels; a dark tempest of a proposal which confirms the Oxford based sludgers as one of metal’s most compelling propositions.
Desert Storm has never been slow in pushing evolution in their sound but Sentinels marks their biggest step yet without losing the band’s trademark ear pleasing individual sound and character. Being ravenously heavy is one of their accomplished traits yet the new album manages to be a leviathan in that hue, almost oppressive at times in tandem with their darkest most tempestuousness creativity yet. Equally though, their imagination is at its most liveliest to date conjuring melodic intimation and mercurial adventures with magnetic prowess. It is fair to say that Sentinels did not quite bowl us over as immediately as the likes of predecessors Horizontal Life and Omniscient but there was no escaping its relentless persuasion and eventual captivation or the feeling that it is a compelling new step in the evolution and journey to even greater adventures with the band ahead.
The album immediately exposes its ferocity and the senses as opener Journey’s End roars into life, the distinctive snarling tones of vocalist Matt Ryan driving the skilful discord as riffs and rhythms gnaw away. Concussive yet carrying purposeful restraint, the song eventfully calms as a tantalising groove spirals through its breath, it leading ears into a waiting tempest of emotion and sound sculpted by the intimation cast by guitarists Chris White and Ryan Cole. Already there is something new and fresh about the band’s music, a sense of new adventure and exploration creating a web of contrasting textures and intensities shaping a song that made a potent first impression and only blossomed thereon in, much as the album over time.
The following Too Far Gone is swiftly into its sonic trespass, guitars again a searing intrusion and rousing incitement alongside the lumbering but tenacious beats of Elliot Cole and the dark hearted drawl of Chris Benoist’s bassline. A track tackling excessive binge drinking; a ”paradox of hard liquor being both the cause and the remedy of the sickness” according to Ryan partly inspired by the tragic tales of Bon Scott and John Bonham, it prowls and infests ears with a predatory but addictive quality taking the listener through alcoholism into death. As dark and menacing as it is, there is a certain catchiness which infests before The Brawl unleashes a tide of magnetic grooves and rapacious rhythms in the acclaimed Desert Storm manner. Emulating the title, Ryan entangles ears with his familiar ursine tones, guitars teasing with melodic fingering within the sonic winds. Its blues lining only adds to the temptation on offer, the song more expected Desert Storm rock ‘n’ roll but again with a keen fresh breath to its holler.
The melodic beckoning bringing Kingdom Of Horns into view is pure magnetism, its beauty bright yet melancholic and soon blessed with the harmonics of clean vocals as sonic winds contemplate their involvement. It is arguably the best moment within Sentinels, certainly a favourite passage which eventually breeds a raw and burly stroll still draped in melodic elegance and imagination. The song is superb, captivation at every turn and if a clue of things to come maybe the moment in hindsight the Desert Storm sound came of age which tells you it’s magnificence after all the goodness since the band emerged back in 2007.
There is a familiar classic metal lining to next up Gearhead and similarly that Desert Storm character which never takes much to tempt, the song jabbing and imposing its enjoyable personality before Drifter binds the listener in spicily searing grooves and rhythmic tenacity to incite and inspire physical and vocal participation. It too is prime Desert Storm so easy to devour for fans and heavy rockers alike as too successor The Extrovert, a bruising but magnetically grouchy stomp of riff and grooves with a matching aggressive rhythmic swagger and vocal drama. Cole simply controls the body from start to finish, his rousing beats commanding song and listener with devious prowess as the track gets under the skin.
The colder atmospherics and dark corners of Convulsion immerse and seduce next; the track looming up from its stark beginnings with an oppressive lumber and tenebrific air. That heavy suffocation though is the breeding ground for an eruption of pure metal virulence, grooves and hooks worming under the skin before new waves of heavy predation flow over the lusty enterprise. It never quite extinguishes their zeal though, instead embracing their spirit before Cole leads another highly persuasive surge of rhythmic and sonic boisterousness which teases and taunts from there on as another particular highlight of Sentinels is laid down.
The album concludes with firstly the melodic croon of Capsized, another song which almost deceitfully intoxicates, seducing almost straight away if not obviously until away from the album. Its melancholic calms have a volatility which erupt further on, settling down as the process repeats with increasing magnetism in just one more highly powerful and magnetic moment. It is left for the as good as three minutes of Outro (Thought Police) to complete the album, its stoner scented grooves and sludge thick examination providing a rich and provocative finale but one which feels like it is leaving unfinished business to take up and explore ahead.
As suggested, though Sentinels made for a highly enjoyable listen it did not make the same kind of immediate striking impression as its predecessors. It made up for it though with its thought provoking enterprise and an imagination driven creative tapestry, becoming more captivating by the listen as well as hinting that there is even bigger exciting times to come with Desert Storm.
Pete RingMaster 24/04/2018
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