Once upon a time I arrived in London from the Antipodes and frequented a pub known as The Unicorn and happened upon an Oxfordshire band called Desert Storm. Happy man with mind suitably blown…the end. Not quite. Where would this young band go? This was a number of years back and I’ve followed their progress both recorded and live with keen interest. Well, several albums into their career they manage to pull a rather heavy rabbit out of their hat. “Sentinels” finds the Desert Stormers in particularly rude health. Their mission statement evidently was to go down heavier, darker paths and the band’s pedigree suggests this will be a very interesting journey.

Their mission statement becomes obvious in opener, “Journey’s End” where there’s a more mature and ominous sound, especially in Matt Ryan’s bellowing vocals. The riffs have a real punch but the band have retained that ability to groove so sweetly and there’s an almost slinky quality on the first few tracks. The crusty edge of Down meeting the churning barrage of Orange Goblin make for some neck muscle warming moments. Indeed, Goblin’s engineer, Jamie Dodd was at the controls here so it comes as no surprise that Desert Storm have a new kind of heaviness. “Too Far Gone” and “The Brawl” combine to make the album swing and lurch from the get go. Ryan Cole and Chris White are at the forefront on guitars, stabbing those big riffs with sharp, concise solo’s. However, it’s on “Kingdom Of Horns” that their leap forward becomes more obvious and a maturity to their songwriting starts to shine through. Perhaps there’s a little less grit compared to earlier albums but it’s replaced with a wholeness and weight that feel purposeful and far chunkier.

The latter half of the album brings a more early Desert Storm sound. Tracks like “Drifter” and “The Extrovert” hark back to the “Forked Tongues” days with looser grooves that are custom made to lose shit to. Both simmer and grind away joyously before a return to this darker side on the introspective “Convulsion” which is brooding and edgy as all hell. Some Metallica tinged riffs give it an angsty, agitated vibe. This track is thunderous and weighty with some supremely powerful drumming courtesy of Elliot Cole and a driving bass line from Chris Benoist. A smoking guitar break completes what is a strong track at the back end of the album.

“Sentinels” sounds like a band on a mission. Desert Storm have created not only a very heavy album but flexed their muscles and progressed their sound and songwriting. I, for one would love to hear this album played live in its’ entirety. This is a powerful opus from one of the UK underground’s finest. “Once upon a time’s” ending was never so good.

(9/10 Johnny Zed)