Show me a band that fuses melodic riffing with a hard-hitting death metal core and you’ll garner my interest. Show me a band that pulls from Death and Horrendous while throwing in shades of the best fantasy series of all time (Malazan Book of the Fallen, for those curious), and you will most certainly have my undivided attention. Tarantino-esque intro aside, Horrified are an act that most certainly fall into the latter category, and have been receiving my rapt attention since I first heard their stunning third full-length Allure of the Fallen back in 2017. Their latest mini-album/EP Sentinel is a release that I’ve been waiting with high anticipation for, and having given it several spins I can assuredly say that, while it’s certainly a safer outing for the band, it most certainly does not disappoint. 

Sentinel clocks in at half-an-hour in runtime, and in sharp contrast to most melodic death metal records of recent renown (looking at you, Insomnium), wears it’s trimmed heft with a lot of grace. The album’s six tracks are all substantial, seeing good ideas through to completion without wasting space with needless atmosphere or mindless noodling. It’s a direct yet appropriately complex collection of tracks that, for once in the subgenre in 2019, is also infinitely digestible. 

That should not dissuade melo-death fans from giving this release their undivided attention, however. Opener “The Pessimist” is as widescreen a composition as the band has yet written, showcasing their fast maturing songwriting skills with variety and propulsion. Dan Alderson’s vocals rasp and gurgle in that familiar style made popular in modern death metal by Horrendous’ Damian Herring, while the guitars and drums attack the melo-death template with a more progressive bent akin to early Atheist, shedding just enough proggy light on the proceedings to keep things interesting throughout. Subsequent track “Crestfallen” brings out Horrified’s more aggressive, traditional death metal side, piling riffs on riffs at a frequency that should satisfy most fans of the genre. “Forgotten Thrones” ties the band’s more progressive and hard-hitting sides together in a track that is darkly triumphant and solo-heavy, leading us into the album’s finale, which is a full seven-and-a-half minutes of melo-death delight. Musically, it’s about all I could ask for from Horrified. 

On a compositional level, however, I cannot help but feel that this smaller release stays squarely in the band’s wheelhouse of comfort. Few sonic risks are taken, and when the music sounds this good that’s not a huge problem. But I feel that the band, based on their previous output, is capable of continued expansion into more adventurous territory. Especially after the crushing statement that was Allure of the Fallen, I anticipate that the band will continue to grow and develop their sound as time progresses. But those looking for an experimental diversion in Sentinel may find themselves slightly disappointed. But if you love what Horrified is and has been doing for the last few years, Sentinel will give you exactly what you love, and in an easily consumable package to boot. 

While I look forward to seeing the band stretch their proverbial songwriting wings with greater gusto in the future, Sentinel stands as a familiarly fantastic release, showcasing all that the band does well and then some. Coupled with its more concise runtime and straightforward yet appropriately complex style, there are few releases during this crazy month that I would recommend more highly for melodic death metal fans. Sentinel is an utterly solid collection of tracks that you should spin at your earliest convenience.

Sentinel is out now and is available for purchase and streaming on the band’s Bandcamp page.

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