There’s a particular appeal to progressive death metal. Combining the ferocity of death metal with the more introspective and calculated approach of prog is inherently intriguing. Not a lot of bands attempt this, and many who do end up on the wrong side of boring. Repetition of elements and motifs, extended passages and slowing down death metal don’t necessarily make it progressive. That’s why when a band is able to find a good formula and distinguish their sound, they deserve recognition. Enter Sentient Ignition. This young Californian band has made a very compelling statement with their debut release Enthroned In Gray, and demonstrated that they understand exactly what mixture of ingredients will lead them to success.
Since they’re a newer band, their sound needs explaining. A good starting point would be to imagine Black Crown Initiate, but without the repetition that feels unnecessary. Adding melodic flourishes that range from the neoclassical to old-school power metal, gets one pretty close to the sound of Sentient Ignition. More specifically, the band utilize melodic death metal-influenced riffing, death metal drumming and a decidedly prog-oriented approach to buildup and release with their writing. There’s an effortlessness to it all, a sense of instant mastery with which the band switch gears between heart-wrenching and headbang-inducing. Combining familiar chords in creative ways and then articulating their notes in unconventional arrangements is their modus operandi. Not often can a segment in a song engage the listener both emotionally and intellectually, but there’s a good balance of both to be found here. Sure, we’re not talking mind-blowingly obtuse and complex intricate technical wizardry here, but restraint and making larger something out of simpler elements is perhaps more difficult than that.
There’s another aspect of the band’s methodology that is particularly noteworthy, and that’s the vocals. Like any progressive (death) metal vocalist worth their salt, Sentient Ignition’s frontman delivers a mix of clean singing and screaming. The latter would have been adequate enough on its own, as there’s a solid range to them. While generally on the raspier side, the delivery can pull off all the staples from high screeching to low growling. While that alone gives the band a leg up, the singing is the real show-stopper. Traditionally, bands in these circles follow the Opeth school of thought and have serene, pristine vocals. Sentient Ignition’s approach is a lot more interesting, as they apply a style that’s tortured, emotional and unique. More akin to yelling, but not to be consued with the typical metal yell-singing, the vocals here are almost reminiscent of power metal or heavy metal, but with more grit added in. It’s a very distinctive sound that isn’t really applied often, and this really helps the band define their own niche of a sound, and it works incredibly well with the melodic texture the rest of the instrumentation creates.
In the end, Enthroned In Gray is as stellar as a debut album can get. Balancing the intricacy of prog and extremity of death metal, then combining it with a creative melodic flavor enhanced by a very unique vocal style, they’ve found a perfect mixture. Sentient Ignition have come out of the gate swinging really hard, and they have a bright future ahead of them.