Despite keyboardist Jonah Weingarten and vocalist Matt Barlow having first collaborated on Pyramaze’s Immortal in 2008 (damn, a decade already), We Are Sentinels isn’t exactly power metal. The duo’s full-length debut is based entirely on what could be best referred to as “film score music” in layman’s terms. The idea honestly isn’t that shocking when you consider that Pyramaze made plenty of piano dominated ballads, but it would be a disservice to say that We Are Sentinels is just “Legacy in a Rhyme” on repeat.
Whether you like the idea or not, it’s certainly a well-executed one. The music really nails that cinematic vibe as Weingarten pulls out a variety of effective piano, strings, horns, harpsichord, and percussion sounds that never feel synthetic. The care put into these compositions is quite palpable; it’s not exactly catchy material but every piece has multiple layers that go beyond some guy droning away at a single synth line ad nauseum. There’s plenty of ambiance, but there’s also enough ebb and flow to encourage active listening.
Barlow’s voice also fits in incredibly well. He’s obviously not aiming for Iced Earth viciousness, but he’s still able to inject the broadest extent of his range into this material. He shows restraint when the dynamics call for it but he’s more frequently able to let loose his signature bellow alongside more metal friendly wails. Aside from a little extra layering here and there, there’s honestly no difference between his delivery here and his performances with Pyramaze or Ashes of Ares. It’s a true testament to his versatility and pathos as a vocalist.
With that, We Are Sentinels’ only real flaw is its acquired taste. The pacing does run admittedly slow at times and there are moments where tracks run together, but it is clearly meant to be consumed altogether. “Kingdom in Winter” was a smart single choice as the opening spoken bit sets the stage without feeling too cheesy. “Battle in Winter” also offers a memorable refrain and “Soul on Fire” comes the closest to heavy territory. I’m a little iffy on the “Holy Diver” cover but that’s just due to it being such a stock choice in general. It works well as a neat little bonus.
We Are Sentinels may have limited appeal due to its niche within a niche nature, but it’s a pleasant listen that makes good on its intentions. The compositions are well thought out and Weingarten’s lush instrumentation sets an excellent foundation for Barlow’s continually astonishing vocals. I’m sure there’s a market for this within the pair’s fan bases, and it would be nice to see it catch on in more classically-minded demographics. Think the Summoning crowd might be into it?
“Kingdom in Winter”
“Battle in Winter”
“Soul on Fire”