Desert Storm – Sentinels
Review by Neil Ainger
With the release of 2015s Omniscient, I felt as though Desert Storm grew, though their output to that point was impressive in its own right. 2010s Forked Tongues was the first Desert Storm album I heard, having picked it up at a gig in 2012 where the band were supporting Karma to Burn.
The follow up in 2013, Horizontal Life, is not without merit either. There was something just that little bit different about their third release however. Whether it’s the better record of the three is up for debate but for my money it was just that little bit more accomplished, more focused. It was a band learning from their experiences and becoming more adept at doing justice to their explosive live shows in the studio.
On stage Desert Storm are loud and they are heavy. On stage Desert Storm carry with them an arrogance and a swagger befitting the meaty riffs and the gravelly tones of Matt Ryan’s voice which combine to create the sleazy, boozy and bluesy stoner sound the band have adopted over the last decade.
With Omniscient, the band continued down this path but were happy to stop off a little more along the way to reveal more strings to their bow and with the new release Sentinels, the band have simply taken one more step forward in this regard. Sentinels, simply put, is the band’s most seasoned and polished effort to date, as well as their most penetrative work lyrically.
The opening track Journey’s End and the accompanying video explore the issues of mental health, depression and anxiety followed by Too Far Gone, which tackles alcohol abuse and addiction. Heavy topics for sure, set to heavy music. Journey’s End sports perhaps some of the band’s biggest and meanest sounding riffs yet and Too Far Gone breaks down into a blackened groove amid Elliot Cole’s frantic beats. Together, they really send the message that Desert Storm are still here and are still heavy however they’re not entirely unchanged in the three years that have passed between studio albums.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a fan of Desert Storm you won’t be pulling out your hair or penning any angry letters. The trademark bouncy, bluesy riffs of The Drifter sound as though they would fit perfectly on the band’s debut album and the likes of Gearhead, The Extrovert and Convulsion all feel very familiar. They do all however sound that little bit more fresh and full of colour, thanks in part to Jamie Dodd who recorded and mixed the album. His previous work with Orange Goblin is the perfect experience to make this band sound as heavy and as brutal as possible. The growth in the band can be measured mostly by the track Kingdom of Horns. Beginning delicately with clean, ethereal vocals, the near 8 minutes that follow are an epic, melodic journey to every corner of the band’s musical make-up and back again, a journey the likes of which Desert Storm has never truly taken before.
For a band that all have jobs also, it’s kind of hard to imagine where they get the time to put out four records in 8 years and to tour as often as they do. Desert Storm work hard, seemingly in all aspects of their lives, and their work ethic is not without reward. Sentinels is the bands most accomplished, most skilled and, simply put, best record to date.
Sentinels is released 16th March 2018 on APF Records.