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Trails - Sentinels

AKelly   (133 reviews)

Posted: 06/26/2016 | Comments: 6 | Rate:

In case you haven't heard of Trails, they're a metalcore band from the suburbs of Philadelphia. Their sound is a bit hard to pin down which is a good thing since there's a dime a dozen local metalcore bands coming out these days. It's clear that they have influences from all over the place, ranging from Slipknot to an obvious comparison as far as vocals go, Attila.

The album starts off with "The Truth," a really nice ambient instrumental that reminds me of something Invent, Animate would do and builds dynamically into "Kingmaker." The heavier parts on this song are pretty standard metalcore fare, with riffing that would feel right at home in an As I Lay Dying or Lamb of God song. What grabbed me more in this song was the really melodic and memorable choruses. From a structural standpoint, this track was one of my favorites and was easy to follow. "Hawkeye" follows suit with very memorable and singable choruses. Some impressive lead work is on this song as well. It's always nice to see hear some flying around the fretboard rather than just lots of chugs and loud noises. "Return the Slab" is another one that structurally works pretty well and is easy to see why it was picked as the first single off the album. This track has tons of energy, grooovy rhythms, impressive technicality, and extremely dark but interesting lyrics. There's even a cool turntable scratching section in here, not much different from something Slipknot would throw in.

If you're familiar with the band, you might remember an EP that they dropped a few years back called Justify. On Sentinels, 4 of the songs from that EP got re-recorded and sound exponentially better. Honestly, these four songs ("Inertia," "If You Can't Live Under It," "Between The Lines," and "Justify") are some of my favorite on the album. That's not to say the new ones aren't good, but obviously since the band was sitting on these for a while, they were really able to shine. The songs have an extra snarl and grit to them that wasn't apparent before, mostly thanks to better vocals and production. The last song "Oubliette" may be my favorite on the whole record, bringing us back to the more ambient sounds found on the album's opener. For me, sometimes less is more, and this song nails that. There are songs that are faster, more technical, heavier-but this one will probably be remembered the most by those who digest the whole album, in my opinion at least.

Although those were aspects of the record I really enjoyed, there were a few things that I wasn't a huge fan of. First, the sang vocals at points seem pretty doctored with pitch-correction. At points they almost sound inhuman (for example, the opening of "Kingmaker"). On "Hawkeye," the intro sounds like it'd be more at home on a Mayday Parade song than on a metalcore record, as it sounds extremely close to being autotuned. The melodies, while memorable, at points seem predictable. Then there's the lyrics which are really hit or miss. I like the introspective nature of the lyrics at most points, where a lot of thought clearly went into them on songs like the title track or "Stimulant." That said, on other songs like "Hawkeye," the lyrics sound reminiscent of something you'd find in a middle school journal. Also, although the record sounds pretty good cranked through the speakers, it's hard not to feel that it's extremely processed. When I listen to heavy music, I like to feel the rawness and emotion throughout. It definitely sounds like this album was recorded with amp modeling, and I've never been a fan of that. I love to hear the feedback, grit, and warmth of a real amp. There's also some glitches and other "studio magic" type stuff going on here that will probably only be able to be re-created live with click tracks and backing tracks. Call me old-fashioned, but I definitely like things to have a more raw and human feel. The drums are also programmed which is pretty easy to tell when listening to a song like "Weakest Link." Someone would have to be Adam Jarvis-level to keep all those fills and blast beats in perfect time, especially with the feel changing up like in "Sentinel." My last concern with the record is that there's a lot of cool ideas, but they're not always structured in a way that is easy to listen to. For example, "Sentinel" has some of my favorite riffs and one of the best choruses on the record. But the rest of the song is pretty jarring to me, especially with all those drum fills happening all over the place. There's some more ambient guitar work which is enjoyable, but doesn't really fit the song, and neither does the jazz fusion-esque solo. That part transitions into a tasteful solo, but some of these parts just don't make sense to me in the context of the song. All in all, the album feels more like a collection of songs rather than a definitive album.

My gripes aside, this is a pretty solid debut album. If this band was a proverbial senior in high school, I would give it the "Most Improved" award from their EP until now. I would also give them a "Local Metalcore Band Who I Can Actually Sit Through A Whole Album's Worth of Material" award. There's a lot to like on here if you're a post-hardcore or metalcore fan. Some people may be turned off by the Fronz-like vocals done at points, but you can't deny the versatility of the vocals either. The guitars were also pretty impressive throughout the whole album. The band's talent is apparent, and I hope that the next release builds on the well-structured and memorable songs.

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