DESERT STORM – Sentinels – ALBUM REVIEW

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.

Desert Storm - Sentinels

DESERT STORM talk about Sentinels LP and tour plans – INTERVIEW

Neil Ainger talks to Desert Storm about Sentinels LP and tour plans

I first saw Desert Storm live in Trillians, Newcastle with Karma to Burn and Druganaut in 2012, and then again with a similar line-up at The Cluny in 2014. You’ve shared stages with countless other great names in metal now. Who’s been your favourite to play with so far?

Ryan – They were cool shows for sure, Karma To Burn are always fun. We’ve had cool shows with Orange Goblin, Honky, Corrosion of Conformity and Weedeater to name a few. 

Your fifth album Sentinels is released on March 16th, your first release on APF records. Having been playing the hell out of it this past week I’d have to say this is your best, heaviest and most assured record to date. What can you tell us about the writing and record process and everything that went into making it?

Chris B – We set out with the intentions of creating a more consistent sounding, consolidated body of work. Lyrically the album touches upon more personal issues and subjects closer to us. Lyrics like this help people relate a bit more I think, as perhaps some of the issues they are dealing with too.

Ryan – Musically the album was written the same way we have always worked. Starting around a guitar riff myself of Chris has conjured up and if the rest of the band are enjoying it, we end up jamming it and adding more ideas until we have some kind of structure. Whilst the music is being rehearsed Matt will sit writing lyrics and contemplating vocal melodies….these will all be laid down last. 

As for recording most of the record was recorded with Jamie Dodd (Orange Goblin) in Hackney London at Flesh and Bone Studios, except Journeys End! We wrote this after and really wanted it on the album, but recorded that in Oxfordshire at Wordworm studios (where Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath sometimes records) with Steve ‘Geezer’ Watkins.

Opening track Journey’s End and the accompanying video touch on addiction, mental health and suicide. Are these issues important to you as a band?

Chris B – I think mental health is an issue that we all resonate with as a band and something that needs to be recognised. 

Ryan – It was a way of creating awareness, which is very important. Many people suffer from issues such as depression, anxiety, paranoia etc, including some of us personally. It’s important people can relate and seek help if required.

It’s no surprise that the new record sounds as brilliant as it does considering it was recorded and mixed by Jamie Dodd. Given his work with Orange Goblin, he must really understand what it is you’re aiming for?

Chris B – It was a really fun process working with Jamie Dodd, as he challenges to push ourselves of be more creative with our production, without being too intrusive.

Ryan – Yeah Jamie was great. It’s always nice when you work with an engineer that is also willing to suggest ideas to help bring some tracks to life. 

The tour for the record has begun. You’re off around Europe and have more dates back in the UK in July and August. What can fans expect from the live shows?

Ryan – Yes, currently in Czech Republic whilst we do this interview! The tour has been great and the new material is going down very well! Selling a lot of the new record too! Everyone can expect very loud riffs and lots of the new tracks in the set, as well as old stuff!

Another big UK support tour announced very soon for June as well. Keep your eyes peeled!