Being into death metal since 1989/90, I will never again experience the groundbreaking experiences, feelings and shock of a musical form that just broke every barrier there ever was and re-wrote the rule book: listening to “Left Hand Path” or “Like an Ever Flowing Stream” and experiencing that WOW factor which has sadly not happened too many times since the glory days. Here we have Sentient Horror; a band formed in 2014 from New Jersey, USA, who have set about recreating that feeling of the glory days. Sentient Horror released a critically acclaimed album in Ungodly Forms in 2016 and I included it in my end of year list for another site I was working for at the time. I have been keeping an eye on these boys and they have now revealed their first EP, The Crypts Below through Redefining Darkness Records in Northern America and Testimony Records in Europe before their full length follow up to Ungodly Forms.
Opening with “Enter Crypts Below”, you can tell that Sentient Horror have left their mid paced Resurrection Through Carnage era bloodbath behind and are now more Nightmares Made Flesh era bloodbath. This could partly be due to the young rhythm section of drummer Ryan and bassist Ian that bring some youthful energy, telling the older experienced guys to speed it up a bit. The riff at the start of this song is just pure Swedish death metal at its best and with Matt’s vocals sounding as strong and visceral as they ever have, you can only appreciate the musicianship on show here. Rhythm guitarist Jon provides the stable backdrop that allows Matt to elevate his classic metal guitar leads which make the whole song complete. This is the sound that I crave and could not help but feel like I was almost thirty years younger again. Excellent start to the EP.
“Bled Dry by the Night” again ups the pace somewhat from the opening track to the extent that their fingers must be on fire. The songs really are more complex than their first EP and this should not worry fans of their debut at all as the songs are so much stronger. There is the obvious Swedish influence of Entombed, Dismember, Bloodbath and Edge of Sanity but Sentient Horror add their own touches to make this a death metal fan’s wet dream. I can’t stop moving while I type this review as the music just reinvigorates the old days. This band is so tight and it speaks volumes of how quickly they have gelled together.
“Hatchet Crimes” is where Matt’s guitar leads are at their prime, with lengthy solos that are so fitting to the music, you just have to admire the talent on show here. This is more mid paced than the previous tracks but still faster than the debut album. The riffs are slowed down somewhat but the drummer keeps up his pace with incessant double bass drums, which you all know I love, that keep the pace steady enough to get this head banging throughout the duration of the song.
The beautifully titled “Hell Marked” is a return to their debut with a much slower paced opening section that just oozes power before Sentient Horror, with almost blast beats and Matt’s screams, launch the song. There is an element to Hypocrisy in this one, especially with the added effects of the keyboard in the song. When it does come in, it certainly works but what is most surprising for Sentient Horror is that there are a multitude of blast beats in this song. As mentioned earlier, drummer Ryan’s youthful energy and influence has done to Sentient Horror what Martin Axenrot has done for Bloodbath in Nightmares Made Flesh. Blast beats in moderation is something that Sentient Horror should continue to do as I think it fits perfectly into their sound.
Final song “Darkday” had me puzzled as I was sure I had heard that song title before and I was correct when the opening rhythm solo kicked in as its their Edge of Sanity cover from “The Spectral Sorrows”. It’s incredible as to how close Matt sounds like Dan Swano in the homage to the Swedish gods that Sentient Horror worship. All I can say is that this is as close to the original as you are going to get and as worthy a cover as you will ever see.
Sentient Horror really have taken their time on the road, gaining experience from performing live and not being scared to up the ante. This EP is the result of pain staking rehearsal and taking chances that ultimately pay off. Complimented once again by the master of mastering and one of their idols, Dan Swano, he has once again added that final element to make the EP that was largely engineered by the band themselves. If you wish to relive that feeling of the old days, then you cannot go far wrong with Sentient Horror. Catch them on their upcoming European tour and I only expect good things to happen to Sentient Horror.
The Crypts Below is released on 30th March
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