Album: The Primordial Ruin – EP
The end of the world gets a pretty bad wrap—and rightfully so. After all, it is the end of our existence as a species. However, take a second to imagine the corollary; after the great flood, global heat-death or plague-born extinction event, there will finally be…calm. Violence, horror and destruction give way to true serenity, leaving nothing but scarred remains of a once densely populated planet as its legacy. While it’s harrowing to imagine, it does seem to be one upside to the end of all things—even if you wouldn’t be around to enjoy it. Much akin to an ethereal calm birthed by global eradication, Sentinel’s sophomore EP, The Primordial Ruin, is a calculated balance of hard-hitting, ruthlessly heavy metalcore and progressive, peaceful atmosphere. Telling a story with brutalizing breakdowns, tediously technically riffs and dream-like drifts of ambience, The Primordial Ruin is a thought-provoking, punishing release that illustrates the next step in Sentinel’s evolution.
Sentinel begin their debut release with an explosive salvo of energetic instrumentation that dwarves the Big Bang. Tediously building up from subtle drumming and flowing, formless guitar, “Hubris” climaxes with a pulverizing, stuttering breakdown that hammers the listener into submission before fading back into the aether from whence it came. In this manner, Sentinel proceed—painstakingly oscillating between aggression and ambience with precision and power. Percussionist Jake Hamilton gives a flawless performance on The Primordial Ruin, dictating the flow of each track. “Hubris” witnesses his percussion play an instrumental role in building up the band’s dynamic before sending t tumbling down with a lurid, languishing breakdown. Hamilton’s percussive prowess is not simply limited to transitions, however: as his fleet footwork throughout “The Terrible Lie,” as well as the fills that dot “The Primordial Ruin” give Sentinel a fluid, quickly moving canvas—aided by bold, beefy grooves from bassist Ben Connelly. Connelly can best be heard crushing along with Hamilton’s breakdowns during the chug-friendly moments of “The Terrible Lie” and “Odium,” as well as bridging the gap between percussion and guitar during “Nadir.” Often times, however, Connelly plays a simply structural role, obscured by the onslaught provided by guitarists Dale Lee and Jamie Marinos. Lee and Marinosdo almost exactly what you would expect from the riffsmiths in a progressive metalcore band—but they don’t stop there. Tracks like the incredible, aggressive “Odium” highlight this. Working side-by-side with surreal, shearing electronics and programming, Lee and Marinos add technicality and intelligence to each moment of The Primordial Ruin. In “Odium,” this means crafting breakdowns that bewilder the listener with off-kilter time signatures. In “Hubris” and “The Horrible Truth,” this means expertly striding the tightrope cast between progression and punishment—aggression and atmosphere—as if it were a common-place sidewalk.
Where Sentinel’s instrumentation is a brilliant combination of ambience and anger, it is emotionally rigid, rarely taking its own initiative in reaching out to the listener and connecting on a personal level. However, with the consideration and creativity of frontman Brandon Hoogendorp’s intense vocal performance, this becomes a moot point. Hoogendorp is a tremendous force, dominating The Primordial Ruin with both uncompromising range and unbelievable emotion. “Hubris” and “Odium” favor Hoogendorp’s stamina and range—as he expertly flows from soaring shrieks to guttural growls—while “The Terrible Lie” and “The Horrible Truth” both favor his ability to connect with the listener. Here, he uses a raw, visceral scream to tear open his own rib cage and bear his heart, connecting with the listener using nothing but raw, unfiltered passion. These moments do what Sentinel’s musicianship cannot; rather than feeling like a dull djent band with the emotional relatability of a spoon, he lets the listener in, holding nothing back.
Sentinel leave no stone unturned when it comes to crafting an album that will appeal to any fan of heavy music. Instrumentally, The Primordial Ruin is a beast—boldly tearing the listener limb from limb with brash breakdowns and skin-peeling riffs, while still taking the time to show off the band’s more subtle set of skills: dreamy, dynamic atmosphere (“Revelations” is dedicated solely to this purpose). Vocally, Hoogendorp does what the rest do not—roaming across a diverse vocal spectrum to keep the listener’s head and heart completely invested in the EP. Hoogendorp gives birth to even the stale portions of this release—however, this does provide backlash in the form of moments of “Revelations” which lack Hoogendorp’s touch, therefore seeming almost too-long and too-soft in comparison to the remainder of the EP. Ultimately, if Sentinel’s sophomore EP is a lengthy and immersive dream, these brief moments are tidbits of lucidity that disturb the entrancing experience presented throughout the remainder of the release.
Calm and desolate, the end of life on earth as we know it brings a disturbing, placid tranquility to the world. Barren rock and scant dust floating in the aether, there is no sound—save the far-off Echo of Sentinel’s latest release, The Primordial Ruin. Barbaric enough to serve as the soundtrack to Armageddon, but calm enough to linger after judgement day subsides, Sentinel are taking leaps and bounds in the right direction—and above the efforts of their peers.
For Fans Of: Volumes, The Contortionist, Nexilva, Substructure
By: Connor Welsh