Release DetailsLABEL Stormspell Records
RELEASED ON 6/16/2009
posted on 11/2009 By:
Back in the yore days of the mid-1980's, a band named Sentinel Beast achieved a certain cult following with their quality debut album Depths of Death. While the band was working on material for their sophomore release, they suddenly split up, leaving a set of songs firmly in the demo vault. Luckily for us, guitarist Barry Fischel decided to get a band together and finally give those songs a professional release. The result is the appropriately-named Fischel’s Beast and this EP, Commencement, a fine little time capsule of progressive power-thrash that will not only please fans of the Sentinel Beast material, but likely bring in newer fans as well.
As “Commencement” leads directly into “Forbidden Territories,” the mix of power, thrash, speed, and prog becomes evident, flowing throughout the song’s multiple sections. Just when it appears to settle into a standard verse-chorus format (an extremely catchy verse and chorus, I might add), an extended instrumental section breaks things up. Guitar and bass interplay shares time with guitar solos from the very able Mr. Fischel, while shifts in rhythm are provided by drummer Ed Klinger. The quality of the song is exemplified best by how seamlessly the extended instrumental break leads right back into the vocal sections, solidifying an excellent beginning to the EP.
Commencement utilizes this general song structure throughout, varying the style between and within each song. For example, “The Phoenix” adds a touch more prog during the instrumental section; “Fate of Kings” introduces some groove-thrash to the intro; and closer “Where Am I” boosts the pomp and bombast, with vocal melodies occasionally calling to mind late 70s Rush. While none of these songs quite match the quality of the “Commencement”/”Forbidden Territories” tandem, each stands on its own, especially during the instrumental breaks, and together add up to a fist-pumping 35 minutes.
Emphasizing the quality of the instrumentalism is not meant to undermine the vocal abilities of Anthony Cross. Quite the opposite, Cross excels throughout, showing similarities to John Bush, particularly in his lower registers, and also to Matt Barlow when he aims high, such as on “One Man’s Cry.” His abilities help to ensure that the sometimes limited lyrical quality can barely make a dent in the quality of these tunes.
Fischel clearly worked hard to find the right musicians for the job, as Fischel’s Beast play together like a veteran act. A delightfully old-school production helps each element of the band’s sound to come through clearly: the power-thrash riffs, soaring vocals, deft drumming, catchy choruses, and prog-ish instrumental breaks. If this combination wets your whistle, give Commencement a listen, regardless of whether or not you had even heard of Sentinel Beast prior to reading this. It’s a time-traveling good time which covers a wide variety of traditional metal forms, and thusly should appeal to a wide variety of metal fans.
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