Sentry – Sentry (High Roller Records)

Friday, 1st March 2024
Rating: 9 / 10

Sadly, an icon in the metal realm passed away in Mark Shelton, leader of Manilla Road, back in the summer of 2018 after their gig at German festival Headbangers Open Air. The remaining members took a few years to form this new band Sentry, paying homage to his legacy. Kalli Coldsmith (Abandoned, Jamison Raid, Masters of Disguise) is the guitarist, joining bassist Phil Ross, drummer Neudi and vocalist Bryan Patrick in an outfit that recorded a two-track promo EP in 2023, leading to a deal through High Roller for this debut full-length album. Comparisons will probably abound as to whether the newer act will live exclusively in the realm of what’s already been established – or choose to follow their own musical desires.

Epic metal would most assuredly be an accurate tag for these nine tracks – although the performances and musicianship expand into different facets of doom, power, and thrash often within the same track to convey the best emotional atmosphere at hand. Bryan as a singer can reach the upper mountaintop as easily as he can be controlled or gritty if need be as far as range – many will feel the chill bump nature to his key verse / chorus melodies in more of a doom-like marching template for “The Haunting” or contrast lower register note holding against some savage bellows during highlight “Valkyries (Raise the Hammers)”. Kalli’s rhythm guitar work possesses this proto-metal meets 80s edge, his lead breaks naturally intuitive for the service of the song, while he allows space for the progressive bass lines from Phil to also rise to the occasion.

Another positive comes in the natural tones achieved through the drums of Neudi – you can feel the human authenticity behind every speedy fill, natural snare / kick combination, and the cymbal crashes impacting all the key powerful moments in a majestic, edge of your seat song like “Black Candles”. Acoustic guitars, distant bell effects, or horror-style piano parts also creep in here and there, while the occasional extreme riff elevates the energy without sacrificing the heavy metal mainframe on display. The record closes on a tremendous doom note with a rendition of “Incarnation Of Evil”, originally appearing on Candlemass’ third record Ancient Dreams – you can feel the epic landing, from the evil, narrative start through the sophistication of the smoldering lead fading out next to the sterling vocal performance to capture the essence of timeless metal perfection.

The advantage of seasoning, knowledge, and skilled musicianship allows Sentry to develop a strong debut album that deserves proper appreciation – hopefully leading into solid sales beyond a faithful audience seeking out this band whenever possible live. The second coming of Manilla Road this is not – rather a dynamic epic metal style that should plant wonderful seeds bound to full growth as the discography increases.

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