Sentinel Beast – Depths of Death Reissue (Marquee Records)Thursday, 9th April 2015
To be a female-fronted thrash band in the mid-80s…either a blessing or a curse. Thrash wasn’t quite at its balloon-busting point (that would come around 1989), but it did invite all sort of new angles to come out of the woodwork, one of which was parlaying the feistiness of a female and placing it into the context of zippy thrash. For Sacramento’s Sentinel Beast, it was good enough to get them a deal with Metal Blade, who released the band’s sole album Depths of Depth in 1986. The album has since been reissued by Irish label Marquee Records.
Musically, the band doesn’t display a terrible amount of range, largely sticking to the primary tenets of thrash: Speedy tremolo picking, pounding, punk-laced drums, and spicy solos. The production, as expected, is bombarded with reverb, and has the unfortunate sound that virtually every other mid-budget thrash album of the time had. Then again, there’s a certain amount of charm with some of these jams. The punchy “Evil is Night” being the first that comes to mind, highlighted by an array of high-flying solos and rapid-fire vocal delivery from Debbie Gunn. The band’s eponymous song “Sentinel Beast” possesses a Slayer-like cadence pushing the BPM’s to the max, while their cover of Iron Maiden’s invincible “Phantom of the Opera” is done with the utmost detail in mind. (Gunn handles Di’Anno’s spitfire lines with ease and enunciation.)
Indeed Gunn is the make-or-break factor with Sentinel Beast. She doesn’t quite have the range or versatility of other female vocalists of the time (Leather Leone, Nicole Lee, etc.), although it could be argued her pugnacious personality and syllables-a-plenty approach to thrash vocals were a result of the times than the perceived limitations of her vocals. Nevertheless, the reissue of Depths of Death is a just one, giving Sentinel Beast another shot at achieving some long-overdue recognition.