Release DetailsRELEASED ON 12/17/2012
Sentinel does something pretty important by reminding the listener that any given style can remain relevant if it's interpreted by players with some quirk and style.
There's a sharp distinction between concepts like "new" and "novel," and it's important to be mindful of that gap when talking about an EP like Black Table's Sentinel. You likely won't find much that's new on Sentinel. Instead, what you'll hear is a novel interpretation of several recognizable sounds, ranging from Americanized melodic black metal to spacious post-metal. Rather than moving forward in any recognizable way, Black Table takes styles already existing in the broad musical consciousness and pulls them inward to interpret them as something not necessarily new, but certainly distinctive.
Opening track "Heist" utilizes a formula of thematic introduction, repetition and modulation that fans of Wolves in Throne Room or Woe should find familiar. The three-note measure that commences "Heist" is echoed throughout the song in several slightly different iterations. Where Black Table finds distinction is in the flights of improvisation that depart from the from the song's central theme. Of note is the performance of bass player Matt Mellon, who for most intents and purposes, assumes the responsibility of the lead guitarist throughout Sentinel. Across most of the EP's 25 minutes, Black Table leaves ample space for core melodic themes to resonate and be adorned by Mellon's wandering bass vamps.
"To Tear Down" is probably the most interesting track on Sentinel, though it's far from my favorite. On it, the band substitutes their penchant for melodic refinement with an exercise in angular and off-beat riffing. It feels like a departure, and more than anything else serves to remind that Black Table is still very much a young group in the process of determining just what sort of band they are going to be. My hope is that they don't end up sounding too much like one that makes anodyne and arrhythmic black metal.
The novelty of Sentinel is probably best demonstrated by closing track "1942," the intro of which is just a thunder-crack away from being a dead ringer for the seminal intro to Prayer For Cleansing's The Rain in Endless Fall LP. The pterodactyl shrieks of vocalist Mers Sumida serve only to strengthen my suspicion that these players are, at least subconsciously, influenced by the style of melodic death metal exported by American acts like Undying and Hamartia in the early 2000s. But Black Table never really lingers for too long in one place. As was the case on "Heist", Black Table on "1942" introduces a melodic idea and runs it through as many moods as possible while Mellon's bass playing adds textures throughout the song's arc.
I don't think Sentinel is a particularly great EP, but it does something pretty important by reminding the listener that any given style can remain relevant if it's interpreted by players with some quirk and style. In Black Table's case, that distinction is found in the band's ability to embellish constantly evolving melodic figures with lead guitar and bass performances that flourish but don't overpower. While not a new approach, it's a refreshingly novel one from a band talented enough to be defining their own voice so early in their career.