REVIEW: Sentinels – Idylls (EP/2013)


Artist: Sentinels

Album: Idylls – EP


The most beautiful things in life are often fleeting: brief, picturesque moments of sheer, surreptitious perfection. This is an “idyll” in its truest form: a moment of peace and beauty so pure it is hardly sustainable. Like a supernova, it can exist for just long enough to be marveled at from afar before collapsing inwards, disappearing into the limitless chasm of space and time from whence it came. The debut release from New Jersey based progressive deathcore outfit Sentinels, Idylls, lives up to its name in at least one regard—it is a beautifully composed and comprehensively written peace of heavy, relentless musicianship that evokes pure wonder in the listener. Unlike a true idyll, however, Idylls is far from transient or temporary, as it leaves a mark on the listener—and the deathcore genre—which will remain influential and prominent for eons to come.

The first thing that draws the listener’s ear when it comes to Sentinels’ Idylls is the enormous, groove-laden soundscape crafted by dueling guitars, battering bass and punchy, pummeling percussion. From the very second “Alias” kicks in, the listener is assaulted by incessant instrumentation that leaves them completely defenseless against the glory that is Idylls. “Trial_Error,” for example, is absolutely packed with fill-laden percussion that seems like it never truly repeats any section more than once—while the furiously fretted and insanely technical guitar dances overtop of it as if there were nothing there. “Continuity” is another track where the instrumentation is placed front-and-center, with bouncy, bass-heavy song structure that hooks itself firmly in the listeners ear and drags them through every component of the song—be it the galactic, sky-high grooves or the gutters filled with broken glass that punctuate the track’s groove-prone tendencies. These razor sharp and gutting pongee pits of fierce musicianship comprise the heavy and churning breakdowns which split the listener from head to toe, bleeding them dry and refusing to lend them any reprieve.

Sentinels’ insane instrumentation serves as a relentless vector for their compelling and emotional lyrics—a facet of Idylls that the listener might not expect. However, despite the galactic grooves and sinister shred that pours out of the listener’s speakers like magma, Idylls is home to lyrics that are written as beautifully as the stellar soundscape that surrounds them. “High Costs, Low Lives” is one such example of this—featuring lyrics that beautifully display true bitterness and perseverance, as well as copious amounts of aggression and irritation. While these themes—anger, frustration and fury—are in no short supply on Idylls, they are not the only themes to be had. “D.R.E.A.M.S.” is a keen example of this, as it throws the listener for a loop—while it has likely the most straightforward instrumentation on the EP (make no mistake, there is still tons of technicality, even at Sentinels’ most basic moments), its lyrics are probably the most adventurous and immersive. On top of it all, while the musicianship prevalent on Idylls serves as a vicious vector, it is nothing compared to the vocals and how they deliver these moments of ethereal beauty and bitter, brooding hatred alike. “High Costs, Low Lives” is home to a positively relentless vocal assault (aided by two guest appearances) which is nearly as visceral as the lyrics they deliver. Meanwhile, “Resilience” has a beefy, heavy vocal tone that fits the message of the song with a poetry that is nearly impossible to describe.

At the end of the day, Sentinels do nothing but justice to a genre which is rapidly reaching its carrying capacity. There are more groovy, “djenty” deathcore bands popping up every day, such that it seems hard to differentiate between them—this is far from the case with Idylls. Sentinels use marvelous musicianship to paint a picture of a galactic chasm; a void that seems simultaneously too big and too beautiful to possibly fill. However, with brilliant, visceral vocals and poetic, bitter and misanthropic lyrics alike, this pit of perilous and punchy musicianship is carefully filled to the brim, packed with a poison that will take over the listener’s mind and body, controlling their every thought and every move. “Trial_Error” and “D.R.E.A.M.” are two tracks which convey this in its purest form—as both are perfect culminations of Sentinels’ comprehensive mastery of technical, innovative deathcore—even though both tracks are very different in their own respect. Likewise, “High Costs, Low Lives” features a steady-handed, nearly beatdown feel to it that catches the listener completely off-guard, knocking them backwards out of their chair, only to curb stomp them while they’re down.

With its remarkably short run time and incredible, intangible beauty, Sentinels’ debut EP does seem as if a true Idyll. However, Idylls leaves a lasting impression on the listener with technical, lacerating instrumentation and vicious, visceral and emotive lyrical and vocal work. Ultimately, Idylls will become a bastion to progressive deathcore bands for years to come—an obelisk of perfection that nearly every act will attempt to imitate, though few will likely be able to succeed.



For Fans Of: Borderlines, Substructure, Visionaries, Structures, Vildhartja

By: Connor Welsh