We Are Sentinels is a twist in the Matt Barlow narrative; taking the man away from his metal grounds alongside Pyramaze keyboardist Jonah Weingarten. It’s an entirely keyboard built project, with some atmospheric percussions to fill the sound. While far from metal, it has metal trademarks in its sound and structures, but also brings it’s own unique touch care of Weingarten’s soundscape. But if you’re in this for the metal, you will be disappointed. The album never delivers your average verse-verse-chorus build (Holy Diver cover excluded), but gathers from a proggy ground that would rather lend itself to a bigger universe, not confined to what is presented here. Weingarten constantly takes interesting turns and twists, and his touch remains as immaculate as ever, perhaps stronger than before (though a fleshy lead guitar to accompany him really does him good). Add to that a soundscape bigger in every way; more grandiose with the fitting backing choirs, more epic thanks to a versatile songwriting style that focuses both on the emotional tinge of Barlow’s voice and innate dramatic tinge that so well fit Weingarten’s style, as well as the movie big sounding soundtrack style that the latter brings in everything.
Fans of Pyramaze will instantly find recognizable ground, which really goes to show just how important Weingarten is to their sound. In much, this entire project is a continuation on how masterfully those four minutes that comprised Legacy In A Rhyme caught on, with its beauty. A big part of the album is the so called Winter trilogy; Kingdom In Winter, Dreaming In Winter and Battle In Winter, a twelve minute suite that probably does better when it’s not in the middle of the scorching hot summer (southern hemisphere readers can disregard the last part), which has some peaks in the first and last part, but the second is a little snooze fest that brings some of the most cringy lyrics on the album, which is sadly more prevalent than one would wish; instead of drawing big, huge scenes, Barlow is sometimes lent to lyrics like “I feel so blessed” and other cringe fests. Sure, this isn’t a metal album and the lyrics needn’t be offensive or badass, but the storytelling on album highlight Sirens Of Odysseus, about the Greek hero succumbing to the sirens, shows what could have been.
Covering classic Holy Diver is an interesting choice - while also being totally given, being as it’s likely the billionth cover of the song at this point. It brings a new style and sound to the classic metal track. It also showcases some of the weaknesses of the original material, which at times is too slow and to centered around what it was created as. With Holy Diver the boys have a metallic frame of reference and they stick to it, but the remainder of the music is written as is, while much of it could have benefitted from being written first as metal songs and then worked into a We Are Sentinels style. Because the cover is a good one, and utilizes more of Barlow’s range in the layered vocals scattered throughout, that would have done really well on much of the other material. It’s an interesting listen. Not something you’ll play non-stop, but a cool concept that ends up slightly underwhelming. A little like Tuomas Holopainen’s solo album, you know, the one about Uncle Scrooge? But with way fewer ducks.
Standout tracks: From My Tower, Sirens Of Odysseus, Soul On Fire