It is no small challenge to try to invent a new style of metal, because undoubtedly, the band will get lumped into one of those predefined categories of music that probably will not represent the intent of the band. Then again, how can you best describe a band like We Are Sentinels - one that combines one of the world's best composers/songwriters (Jonah Weingarten) with one of the world's most iconic voices (Matt Barlow)? Well imagine how you felt the first time you heard the Iced Earth song "I Died For You" or "Watching Over Me" and then remove the guitar. That would leave you with.... "ballad metal."
It sounds like an oxymoron, but as an avid fan of metal ballads (the less metal the better, actually), the thought of getting an album's worth of emotive soaring ballad material with no guitars or drums sounded both intriguing and challenging. With plenty of star power behind it, We Are Sentinels seeks to win over fans of music, not just metal. I will not lie...this album will prove challenging for the average metal fan to get through, especially those who tend to skip over the slowest (and most times, the best) tunes. Hey, bands like Van Canto can survive without guitar, right? Even piano/keyboard virtuoso Kyle Morrison - the closest to full on "Pianometal" - still utilizes guitar and drums. So what We Are Sentinels presents is fresh and exciting, especially if you approach it as something to be felt as much as it is to be heard.
We Are Sentinels presents an entirely new type of 'metal' - one that requires a lot more from the keyboards and orchestrations, where all the drama and build up combined with Barlow's distinctive (and 'heavy' in of itself) vocals providing all the 'power' needed. So 'ballad metal' (my own term) is now born. So what can you expect...just an album of building intros? No...but definitely a soundscape that reflects both story and emotion. The duo demands that you look beyond the typical boundaries of music and feel the power and heaviness through other sources - much like a person who loses the ability to see has their remaining senses enhanced. This is 'power metal' to be felt in an unplugged environment.
The pinnacle of the self-titled debut comes with the highly introspective "Battle in Winter," which presents the beauty of Weingarten's backdrop and forceful power of Barlow, who's low end is unmatched in the world metal. The song is as metal as it gets...you can almost hear guitar, and most certainly feel the war, in Barlow's voice as he cuts through the orchestration with: "In the winter time, when all seems so lifeless, a battle is waged between the wrong and the righteous..."
Other tracks that stand above are the gorgeous "My Only Sin" and "In Memorium" (both showcasing the true talent of Weingarten's songwriting, the latter of which expresses shades of Pyramaze's beautiful ballad "The Tides That Won't Change"), the cinematic "From My Tower" and bombastic "Soul on Fire." The band's version of "Holy Diver" is perhaps the most unique of the oft-covered tune ever heard!
We Are Sentinels present a fresh and new take on metal, one that may not appear so metallic on its face, but metal that needs to be felt. The album challenges listeners to utilize the other senses to define 'heaviness' and feel the emotion - one that overflows with the combination of Weingarten's orchestrations and Barlow's iconic and brilliant vocals. Yes, it is an acquired taste - but if you approach the album with an open mind and open heart, I promise it will take you on a very unique and emotional journey.
Label: Independent (2018)
1. From My Tower
2. My Only Sin
3. Life, Death, Rebirth
4. Kingdom In Winter
5. Dreaming In Winter
6. Battle In Winter
7. In Memoriam
8. Sirens of Odysseus
10. Soul On Fire
11. Holy Diver
12. Don't Know What You've Got ('Till It's Gone)