Most of the reviews that I write are dedicated to albums and artists which have been cornerstones of my musical tastes. Others, such as my last review, are recommended or given to me, and come out of left field. This newest addition to the blog has its feet planted firmly across the line drawn by my tastes. While I was only introduced to the entity known as Black Table a few days ago, they're new EP, Sentinel, approached me with open arms, embracing me with many of my favorite aspects of music. Still, just as you may happen upon a new friend who holds many of the same tastes, you may be greeted with certain characteristics that put you off initially and to which you must learn to adjust. Such is the way of discovery and growth!
Black Table is an experimental metal act from the New York/New Jersey area. That's not a very precise description, but they honestly aren't sure how to classify themselves at this point. Still, where you aren't prepared, others step up to the challenge. They have been described as “avant garde metal“ and “blackened metal meets post-metal with some progressive post-hardcore for good measure”. Is it any clearer to you? Honestly, to me they sound like an aggressive-progressive metal band with harsh vocals, which are somewhat reminiscent of Cradle Of Filth. This is where I find myself torn between two things: the music and the vocals.
Musically, this band makes me squirm with joy. Each track is filled with magnificent riffs, such as “To Tear Down”, which is like a hammer-to-the-head-from-the-starting-gun. The dual guitars, courtesy of Mers Sumida and Ryan Fleming, complement each other to great effect, doubling for power and layering melodies for depth. While there aren't any clear solos, the melodies make up for their absence through habit-forming musical themes. This is especially effective during the slower sections, where the melodic guitar motifs climb up the pillars built from the rhythm's chords, escalating as it does at the end of the opening track, “Heist”. The group knows how to use the drawn-out portions of the song to their advantage, never slowing so much as to come to an agonizing crawl, but just enough to let the listener breathe before heading into another huge riff. And I'd be seriously mistaken to forget the bassist, Matt Melon, and drummer, Mike Kadnar, in all this praise. Despite the addictiveness of the melodies, the bass lines alone could have satisfied me as a substitute for the lack of guitar solos, and evidence of this is found quite easily in his phrasing during the middle of “Sentinel”. Kadnar, as well, is a constantly stunning musician who impressed me with his performance from start to finish.
It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of growling vocals, partially due to aesthetics and partially due to not being able to understand the lyrics. Even less so am I a fan of the harsh brand of vocals presented here by vocalist and guitarist, Mers Sumida. However, just because I don't particularly enjoy a certain style doesn't mean that there is no merit in it. Sumida does a fine job bringing an atmosphere of urgency to the music, and despite my lack of taste for it, I must admit that her voice fits it surprisingly well! The track I've decided to share, “1942”, possesses a haunting choral intro, which is a testament to her diversity as a singer. Additionally, my favorite track on the EP, the eight minute long “Sentinel”, is also the song which I think best demonstrates her vocal ability. My only real complaint with her performance on the release is that I feel her singing on “To Tear Down” is weaker than the rest. Compared to the title track, the latter sounds thinner to my ears.
Despite my lack of taste for harsh vocals, the vast sum of the music was just too good for me to turn it away. As you may have noticed by now, minus one review (where it was requested), I don't do ratings. I consider numbering albums to be a pointless practice that tells you little about how you might feel about the music. If I write about an album, it means that I feel that there is some merit worth taking note. Black Table's new EP, Sentinel, is a grab bag full of delectable musical goodies that you should not hesitate to snack upon, regardless of when you're having dinner.
For more on Black Table:
Listen to and Buy "Sentinel" - Name Your Price!