Opponent Defies Characterization On Sentinel

Metalcore as a genre type is a word that means everything and nothing simultaneously. At one time it referred the combination of elements from extreme metal with hardcore/punk, especially the breakdowns. Bands that typified this style of music includes At The Gates, Zao, and Converge in the 90’s and Avenged Sevenfold, As I Lay Dying, and Killswitch Engage in the 2000’s.

But as the broad genre of metal continues to expand, it seems any band that doesn’t easily fit into a clearly defined style (deathcore, black metal, thrash) gets labeled as “metalcore.” It’s like when your mom would call any band that has screaming in it “screamo” without understanding what that meant.

Enter Opponent, the newest band signed to Solid State Records. SSR is a label known for some of most important bands in metalcore in the 2010’s including August Burns Red, The Devil Wears Prada, and Haste the Day.

Some label Opponent as metalcore. This is an unfair modicum that doesn’t capture the scope of their sophomore album Sentinel. For one, there are no breakdowns on the album. There’s really no hardcore element at all. Secondly, the vocals are rarely ‘melodic.’ Guitarist and vocalist Andy Maier will occasionally interject cleaner vocals, but those too still have a roughness that is more similar to Joe Duplantier of Gojira or Troy Sanders of Mastodon than Shane Blay of Oh, Sleeper or Josh Gilbert of As I Lay Dying.

Even the comparisons to Ryan Clark and Demon Hunter (which I think have more to do with Ryan Clark discovering them than any musical resemblance) are not entirely appropriate, as Clark has a very distinctive melodic clean vocal presence.

I say all of that to say this; if you approach Sentinel because you expect another generic metalcore album, or avoid it altogether, you will be seriously missing out on a great record. So, what can you expect from Sentinel? First, you can expect a very tight performance. As a three-piece, Opponent plays with cohesion and precision. Their sound is full. Secondly, you can expect to hear a variety of metal influences. The earlier part of the record has a polished, modern thrashy sound with elements of groove metal. Maeir can not only riff for days, but he’s also a skilled lead guitarist. Opponent is full of blistering solos that hearken back to 80’s Kirk Hammett.

The second half of the record takes a turn towards progressive death metal. “Shadows” and “Rival” employ atmospheric guitar tapping. These create a wicked combination with the harsh/clean vocals and death metal growls. Again, this all sounds more like Gojira than Demon Hunter. The drum and bass are exceptionally percussive and groovy.  And the final track “Remember” has a pummeling, djenty riff that closes out the album with perfect brutality.

If you are not thrilled with some of the flagship Solid State bands experimenting with lighter sounds (we’re looking at you TDWP), then Opponent is not to be missed. Follow them on Instagram, catch them on tour this Fall with Demon Hunter, and stream Sentinel HERE.

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