Release Date: 13-12-2019
Label: Testimony Records
Death metal loves horror and often seeks to reflect this fascination not just with the concept or the emotion, but also the state of being in terror. Case-in-point: Horrified, a UK death metal band that have been unleashing their horror onto the world since 2013. With three full-lengths and a live cut under their belt, they are back to follow up their 2017 full-length Allure of the Fallen with an EP (loosely called so, since it’s 30 minutes plus in terms of length…)
If we get down to brass tacks: Horrified play a proggy variant of (Somewhat old school) death metal. What you have here are twin guitars delivering angular, complex riffs on riffs on riffs; soft-spoken, restless bass that’s all over the place; drums that crank out straightforward, death metal staple riffs as often as they go into staccato, jazzy rhythms; soaring solos and… well, vocals (more on that later.)
Before anything else though, I have to say that the production on Sentinel is stellar. It’s organic, well-balanced and giving ample space to every instrument and the breathing room between them creates a wonderful, if slightly confined, ethereal feeling. Combined with the nuanced performances and the intricately-written songs, this makes it an album that demands attention. One minor downside to this is that things don’t quite get to the “thunder in the guts” feeling, but that is quite minor.
The gripe I have with Horrified here is that the arrangements don’t anchor properly, resulting in Sentinel being a bit hit-and-miss if you aren’t paying full attention. This is definitely the prog elements shining through, so it’s a matter of taste here – personally, I like a solid riff rather than the winding path that Horrified invariably takes. Putting that aside, however, I can say that the guitarwork throughout the album is excellent, peppering songs with many peak moments. This is more apparent in the longer tracks, The Pessimist and The Perceiver (an epic closer) but more straightforward cuts like Crestfallen and the softer-spoken Awaiting Restitution also deliver the goods.
The same thing, though, I can’t say for the bass. It’s quite amazing the amount of work being pulled out of the bass guitar here, and the production makes sure that we hear it, but the lack of a solid, distinguishable bassline sticks out like a sore thumb, reducing it to just something plodding away at all times.
So far so good? Well, there is one big problem: Horrified (and/or Sentinel) sounds almost exactly like Horrendous, sans some of the epic scope that the latter seems to effortlessly achieve. The album quickly becomes impossible to focus on with any certainty that it’s not a Horrendous spin-off. Related to this is the fact that Horrified uses the horrific (heh) vocal style that also mars Horrendous’ releases. I’m sorry, but the guy sounds like he’s barely holding on, let alone actually performing. With the rest of the music working hard to dazzle, the vocals just sound like they couldn’t find a decent screamer on Fiver so they pretended that this worked.
But ultimately, the question is whether or not Horrified warrants a listen instead of re-visiting a Horrendous album. I say it does. Sentinel offers quite a bit of material in such a short span, and while they demand your undivided attention, they also reward you for it. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Go check it out.
Daniel Alderson – guitars, vocals
Dan Jordan – guitars
Lee Anderson – bass
Michael Jordan (no relation) – drums
01. The Pessimist
02. Awaiting Restitution
04. Celestial Tears
05. Forgotten Thrones
06. The Perceiver