Chicago-based debutants Nucleus mark their arrival on the death metal scene with Sentient; a thirty seven minute album that would make it quite difficult for many listeners to give them any kind of rotation spot. You see, an album like Sentient offers little to make it distinguishable despite bearing all the markings of a good death metal album. On one hand, the concise play time makes for an easy listen yet on the other hand, this listen isn’t actually made easy due to the album’s lack of character. Of course this lack of character is understandable considering that Sentient is the band’s first foray into the world of death metal but that is neither here nor there, especially considering how well some other bands have fared on their debuts.
Unfair comparisons to other bands aside, a detailed analysis of Sentient is in order in the hope that it may lead to reasons to illustrate its lackluster nature. The album starts with the minute and a half intro “Sentience” whose first half is an aimless, distorted haze of nothingness, and not the good kind you get from those 70+ minute post-black metal albums. The first proper song is the sophomore track “Dosadi” which features good musical arrangements but the production quality doesn’t really allow them to shine. The same track features an awkward lead guitar segment that just weighs it down and that is a characteristic that is frequently found throughout the album.
“Cantos” and “Swarm” are two examples of this overarching awkwardness, and in spite of the latter being more dynamic and exciting, they both also suffer from a heavy handed use of squealing harmonics which seem to serve no purpose. By the middle of the album, “Insurgent” comes in with a driving, energetic and aggressive aura which makes the album’s middle part a bit stronger. This hints towards the possibility of this album being arranged in the chronological order of composition, which is quite customary with debut albums. At any rate, by the time “Extirpate” rolls kicks off, boredom has already set in as the album doesn’t offer any variety up to this point.
One possible point of contention in this album’s favor may be the seven minute ending track “Starflyer” which comes with a dark and brooding atmosphere and is more varied in terms of tempo. While an interesting track such as this is placed too far down the track listing to ever really shake things up, it could be a glimpse of what Nucleus can actually do as a band if they are to refine their writings in the future and use this track as a launching pad to their future. However, as far as Sentient goes which honestly isn’t that far at all, a band like Nucleus could be fading into death metal obscurity in the coming few years if swift and radical changes are not made in the near future.