Sentinel announce themselves forcefully and immediately. “Krieg,” the opening track from the underground supergroup’s full-length debut album Age Of Decay, begins with a counted-off thud and the heavy crunch of a power chord ringing out into the expanse. From there, the band swiftly brings in rapid-fire low-register guitar riffs punctuated by quick-hit blasts, then a madcap double-kicking drumbeat that takes off like a whole stampeding herd coming right at you. By the time Ace Stallings is barking about going to war and Mike Shaw’s lead guitar is squealing like a steed, it’s clear exactly what kind of band this is.
Well, it’s clear as long as you’re not too worried about genre taxonomy. Sentinel’s members come from some of the best hardcore bands going right now: Stallings from Mutually Assured Destruction and Shaw from Mindforce, plus guitarist Jack Xiques from Age Of Apocalypse, drummer Will Hirst from Restraining Order, and bassist Evan Schlomann of Casket Architects. Their music in Sentinel has the brutality of down-the-middle hardcore and the wild abandon of more conventional punk rock, but the most obvious inspiration is early ‘80s metal. It’s like crossover thrash as played by mad-scientist cavemen.
Some context: Convulse Records, the on-fire Denver label that’s releasing Age Of Decay this Friday, invoked crossover thrash pioneers Crumbsuckers and Corrosion Of Conformity and Japanese hardcore legends Death Side in their Bandcamp RIYL. Our own Tom Breihan has compared them to Celtic Frost. I speak from experience when I say noob-level metal fans might hear echoes of thrash’s Big Four, especially early Metallica. The point is that the songs charge ahead with the ferocity of the musclebound platoon from 300, Stallings roars his lyrics with the exaggerated snarl of an orc or goblin, and the instrumentalists go nuts without ever letting their technical prowess undermine the music’s all-powerful chug.
It will not surprise you that the guy who came to prominence with a band called Mutually Assured Destruction, who is now also fronting a project named after dutiful soldiers, has warfare on the brain. All throughout Age Of Decay, Stallings returns to the theme of bloody battlefields, martial law, and a looming armageddon that can only be avoided by rising up against corrupt leaders. Rebellion, vengeance, and execution are on the menu. Stallings’ growling delivery expertly balances the thrill of adrenaline-fueled violence against the dread of mass annihilation. When he shouts mantras like “Destruction is the doctrine of our world!” it’s possible to hear the kind of bloodthirsty fervor often associated with metal’s fantasy-blockbuster side, but also the real-life desperation of a man sobered by the real-life atrocities on his news feed.
His Sentinel bandmates provide a suitably epic but still gritty soundtrack for all those rallying cries. The power-chord riffs they build around each track’s central gallop are bound to incite air-guitar in anyone who’s ever hacked away at tablature in the back of a magazine. The lead parts whisk by you as if shot from a rocket launcher. The drums sound like the work of a whole damn army, not just one dude bashing a kit. All together, they kick up an ungodly racket. It sounds so much like a warzone that you can practically hear shrapnel shooting off in all directions in the background. Yet Age Of Decay is recorded in such a way that Sentinel never sound like grand otherworldly beings the way some metal bands do. They come off as five people in a room, making punishingly loud and physical music together.
They can’t possibly be in a room together that too often, though. I don’t know if the members of Sentinel consider this band a side project, but it brings together musicians from all over the US who are largely tied up with other successful projects. Hardcore bands are not known for their longevity, either. So maybe Age Of Decay will be both the first Sentinel album and the last. On the other hand, the band has now dropped three releases in three years, starting with their 2021 EP and continuing with their four-song demo from early this year. Everything they put out brims with a boundless enthusiasm that transcends the horrific subject matter. They clearly love making Sentinel records. Hopefully they’ll stay on the warpath indefinitely.
Age Of Decay is out 12/8 on Convulse.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2
• Tate McRae’s THINK LATER
• HEALTH’s RAT WARS
• James Elkington’s Me Neither
• Bory’s Who’s A Good Boy
• James Fauntleroy’s The Warmest Winter Ever
• Jerskin Fendrix’s Poor Things (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
• body / negative’s Everett
• Breeze’s Sour Grapes
• The Band Of Heathens’ Simpler Things
• Have Mercy’s Numb
• Kind Beast’s Dirty Realism
• Dais Records’ DAIS223 comp
• Barbara Manning’s Charm Of Yesterday… Convenience Of Tomorrow
• Thomas Bartlett’s Standards, Vol. 1
• Neil Young’s solo acoustic re-recordings collection Before And After
• Car Seat Headrest’s live album Faces From The Masquerade
• Philip Selway & Elysian Collective’s Live At Evolution Studios
• The Driver Era’s live album live at the greek
• Porcupine Tree’s CLOSURE/CONTINUATION.LIVE live album
• DJ Rashad’s Double Cup 10th anniversary reissue
• Wings Of Desire’s Life Is Infinite anthology
• Omar Rodríguez-López’s Amor de Frances box set
• Jensen Sportag’s A New Anthology From Cascine
• The compilation The Faithful: A Tribute To Marianne Faithfull
• The Killers’ greatest hits album Rebel Diamonds
• Arlo Parks’ My Soft Machine (Deluxe)
• Palace’s Part II – Nightmares & Ice Cream EP
• Nicotine Dolls’ How Do You Love Me EP
• Small Isles’ Everything On Memory EP
• HitKidd’s Renegade