Interview: Ace Stallings of Sentinel Talks ‘Age of Decay’

Pummeling hardcore/speed metal unit, Sentinel—featuring Ace Stallings (Mutually Assured Destruction), guitarists Mike Shaw (Mindforce, New World Man) and Jack Xiques (Age of Apocalypse, Colossus, Pillars of Ivory), bassist Evan Schlomann (Casket Architects), and drummer Will Hirst (Restraining Order)—have reassembled to release their raw n’ raucous LP on Convulse Records titled, Age Of Decay.

The 11-track full-length combines the band’s love for “classic speed metal influences and japanese hardcore,” as vocalist Stallings puts it, showing no mercy as it chews you up and spits you out.

Stallings-known for his more unique, moodier bellow within his vocals for primary project Mutually Assured Destruction-shifts his voice to employ a more gravelly scream that fits perfectly with Sentinel’s grittier sound.

“We all like Japanese hardcore and we all like NWOBHM, so I feel like that’s the DNA for the sound of Sentinel,” Stallings explains. “I feel it’s, like, 50/50 on the burning spirits influence with bands like Bastard, Death Side, and maybe Judgment, on this new material, and Discharge. Then, Iron Maiden, Exciter, Judas Priest, and speed metal stuff.”

Expanding the scope beyond the aforementioned influences, Stallings expresses an enthusiasm for digging into the nooks and crannies of different music movements that have influenced him over the years-both obscure and more popular-specifically working his way “chronologically forward.”

From his first CD-the Mortal Kombat Soundtrack-to some nu-metal and Metallica, Stallings eventually got into punk rock stuff like Agent Orange and other bands featured on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. He recalls friends showing him Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains, working his way chronologically from that point on with the Misfits being a big turning point for him. Through that, he developed a breadth of music knowledge that he carries with him as inspiration to this day.

“I liked early ‘80s hardcore, then people started showing me Cro-Mags and Youth Of Today and Gorilla Biscuits, so I started getting into late ‘80s NYHC. Then people would show me Integrity and Hatebreed … I worked my way through the hardcore genre.”

Over the years, Stallings has channeled that inspiration into becoming more active within the hardcore/metal community beyond being a vocalist. For close to 20 years, Stallings has been booking shows as a promoter and is able to do that on both coasts now. More recently, he also began chatting with hardcore musicians for his podcast, Forum of Passion.

“I book shows in both Virginia (Richmond) and California (Bay Area). I have a team that runs them for me in VA, but I’m often back for shows I set up in VA or stuff I’m playing out there. I just do a lot of flying these days. It’s a balancing act, for sure.”

Fast forward to 2021, as a way to get people out of their depression during the pandemic, Stallings recalls: “I got hit up by Mike Shaw, who I had become friends with via booking Mindforce and going to Mindforce shows.”

Sentinel guitarist/songwriter Mike Shaw initially hit up Stallings and cited a specific vocal part in a M.A.D. song (“Master Of Misery”), asking Stallings: “Could you do a band where you just sound like that the whole time?”

Stallings adds, “I’m almost doing a Lemmy (Motörhead) impression, by accident. The unfortunate thing is that when Sentinel started, I couldn’t really emulate it again for whatever reason, so my vocals ended up sounding a little different.”

Shaw’s electrifying riffage, predominantly heard on his work in Mindforce, tears a hole through each track on Age of Decay. The Sentinel material was written with the intent to burn through rippers and act as a hyperactive outlet for the busy musicians involved.

“Mike’s in a lot of crazy guitar music bands,” Stallings says. “For Sentinel, he just kept cranking out tracks. It’d be, like, Bam! ‘Here’s eight songs, can you schedule studio time?’ That’s how he is, it’s why he’s one of the greats for hardcore, currently. That’s how this record came together.”

To compliment the loud and fast nature of Sentinel’s music, Stallings vocally expresses disgust for the government “overreaching” and “using war as a tool to gain,” as well as “media disinformation” to fit opposing narratives.

“I usually don’t really care what I’m saying as long as it sounds good with the music. I do like writing. I wrote a book this year (Oneiromancy, a collection of short stories of science fiction and horror), but when it comes to music, lots of the time I’m far more style than substance.”

He continues, “With Sentinel, because of so many of the influences and, kind of, the world of D-beat-related music being a little more political, I felt I kinda needed to lean in on that a little bit more. None of the bands I did in the past have been political bands. Break Away was a straight edge band and talked about scene stuff. M.A.D. is almost fantasy-oriented or, like, evil depictions of things, you know? For Sentinel, I wanted to write about things that are happening in the political spectrum currently, and in my life.”

For Stallings, it’s the spirit of Sentinel that allows him to let loose and have fun, something he values greatly. “Mindforce, Restraining Order, and Age of Apocalypse are some of my favorite hardcore bands currently, so to be in a band with those guys is really sick. I’ve gotten to blossom a friendship with Evan as well, and he and I are working on a project together too. It’s cool to be in a band where stuff is happening, and records are moving and stuff like that. With M.A.D., It’s my baby, so I micromanage everything and organize everything. With Sentinel, I’m like, ‘where do I show up? Let’s bust a set.’ It’s way more plug and play.”

Age of Decay comes out tomorrow and you can pre-order it from Convulse Records.

Photo courtesy of Carl Gunhouse

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