Highway Sentinels – The Waiting Fire (Louder Than Loud Records)Monday, 25th July 2022
The evolution of projects has multiplied exponentially due to musicians possessing the tools at their own disposal to create music remotely, piece things together, and come off sounding as professional as if together as one in a regular recording studio. Highway Sentinels is another collective of artists started by Steven Rosen and Jimmy Waldo – the former a journalist and guitar enthusiast, the latter best known for his work in Alcatrazz and New England. The duo wrote songs in 2021 during the lockdown, piecing together a lineup to include singer David Reece, bassist Donnie Van Stavern, and drummer Mark Zonder – all proven musicians with plenty of ties to killer hard rock and metal acts for decades. The Waiting Fire is the debut record, a twelve-song odyssey with traditional hard rock and 70’s/early 80’s style metal inflections that sits in their collective creative wheelhouse.
The bluesy drive and Rosen/Waldo symbiosis between strong guitar/keyboard sequences sets up plenty of dynamic, uplifting melodic moments during “Face in the Crowd” and “I Don’t Care Anymore” – Mark choosing to display some interesting fills at key sequences beyond his groove-oriented main drum duties. Revisiting some older, unreleased songs like “Victim of the Night” (originally intended for Bangalore Choir) and “Afterlife” plus “We Won’t Be Forgotten” (from Jimmy’s previous work in Blackthorne) gives the record even more throwback charge, sure to delight the hordes who love anthem-oriented runs that get people up on their feet, screaming and shouting along to the key hooks and choruses. David’s versatility across the hard rock and metal vocal landscape remains a strong selling point – he knows when to use more warmth and charm for the infectious, commercially-driven opener “I’m A Loser” or lay back in the epic seven-minute, Black Sabbath-like arrangement “Tortured Soul”. Guest lead breaks come into play with axe slingers like Joe Satriani, Bumblefoot, Tracii Guns, Mike Flyntz, Paul Gilbert, Herman Frank, and Joe Stump all adding their stamp on the record – but this truly feels like a cohesive project where these mature musicians channel a love of old school hard rock/metal into a series of memorable anthems and mid-tempo rockers.
Much like a boiled dinner or a stew that needs time to congeal, Highway Sentinels on the surface may not seem that exciting to ears on first listen. Deeper exposure though reveals that The Waiting Fire is a solid, throwback outing, one that could be a hidden gem for many listeners.