Review Summary: "a tightly crafted nod to its spiritual dynasty"
Nucleus’ sound occupies a middle ground between Floridian-style technicality and Finnish esotericism, with a hint of Darkthrone’s Soulside Journey
spliced in for good measure. It sounds like a match made in Heaven, or at least it does on paper. Even the idea of merging Atheist’s buoyant rhythms with the extra-terrestrial decadence of Demilich should make the average death metal consumer salivate uncontrollably, assuming the product is pulled off with some tact, of course. Now, Sentient
, the debut full-length from this Illinois four-piece, is exactly that: a tightly crafted nod to its spiritual dynasty with enough personality to shirk the “derivative OSDM” tag. “Dosadi” follows in the wake of the eponymous prelude and announces its presence with gusto. Describing the riffs as “angular” and “warped” may be ostensibly accurate, but it feels like shallow praise given that these descriptors are thrown about so liberally when it comes to albums of this ilk. Regardless of its stylistic lineage, Sentient
feels extremely balanced. It effortlessly walks a tightrope between familiarity and eccentricity, which makes absorbing the content a breeze – a trait that obviously has its benefits, but is something of a double-edged sword.
In each song up to and including “Cube”, everything remains in a sort of well-oiled, mechanical locomotion. They use a limited set of motifs but make minor alterations to them as the songs charge forward, laced with just enough ear-candy to sate our auditory cravings. Use of pinch harmonics is ample too, but isn’t overly reminiscent of Immolation or Incantation as one might expect; Nucleus put their own spin on it. Such is also the case with the solo in the aforementioned “Cube”, as you could liken it to something from Mental Funeral
, but in doing so would only downplay the individuality on display here. ”Insurgent” turns the wick down a little, shelving a lot of the syncopated hoo-ha from the first half in favour of a tremolo dosage. Unfortunately, it isn’t that much
of a stylistic contrast or an apt breather, and the album struggles to maintain momentum from this point onward. It isn’t until the “Starflyer” finale that things pick up again, thanks to a progressive edge that eschews the self-indulgence often associated with this kind of approach, but the damage is already done. Even when hitting most of the targets – whether it’s creativity, proficiency, chemistry, etc. – Sentient
doesn’t evoke what perhaps it should. It all just boils down to a state of neutrality, and the response it merits is basically the same.