It’s always interesting when an upcoming band who’ve been earning their live stripes releases new material, to serve as a litmus test for whether that growth can translate from one environment to the other. In the case of Sertraline they’ve been steadily but consistently making waves with prog- and tech-metal scenes, even with a rather disproportionate amount of material to their name in just one EP released in 2017 and a few scattered singles. But that live reputation has become where Sertraline have gotten the most mileage, and a good number of support slots and festival appearances have not only seen their presence balloon within the underground, but seen the hype steadily build for their new EP Clouded Minds & Silver Lines. It’s not a new tale within rock music, but it’s one that’s yielded plenty of success stories in the past, and Sertraline are going in all the right ways to be added to that illustrious list.
It’s why it’s so fitting that the most immediately striking thing about Clouded Minds & Silver Lines is how professional it sounds. Sertraline clearly have ambitions to enter metal’s bigger fields, and they’re pretty much on target with this EP, forging a sound that may still have elements of naivety to be ironed out, but generally feels robust and developed beyond their years. For what will ultimately be viewed among their most significant platforms to take those leaps up from, Clouded Minds & Silver Lines is difficult to fault in terms of a connector to inevitably bigger and more impressive things.
And it’s worth noting how, among that, Sertraline have demonstrated the proactivity to move beyond simply hugging the wall of the influences and begin to develop a sound of their own. The rooting in tech-metal stays rather blatant, like with the spacier, more clinical chug on Screaming For Sleep, but the slugs of post-hardcore in the mix – particularly in the vein of bands like Dream State on Inside Out – make the overall sound less harsh and acute at the edges, and more well-rounded overall. It’s a sentiment buoyed by the performance of vocalist Lizzie Parry, not only in cleans that are reminiscent of the more polished, soaring works that come from Anavae or Greywind, but in a formidable scream that definitely has shards of something much more blackened than traditional metalcore in it (in a few ways mirroring the comfort at slipping into blast beats on Mean To Me II). It’s a much more dynamic listen than might initially be expected, and it’s all spliced together with enough cohesion to avoid feeling disconnected or like a superficial sum of its parts. As for the production though, it’s definitely not bad in blending what are ostensibly polar opposites of heavy styles in tech-metal and post-hardcore, but there’s something about it that feels a bit muted, and could definitely be heavier to really emphasise how much power Sertraline have at their disposal. Parry is a powerhouse vocalist and that remains intact throughout, but the mix balancing isn’t quite at the same level to feel as even or effective throughout.
Even so, there’s some impressive work done on Clouded Minds & Silver Lines, especially when it’s at such an early stage that Sertraline are defining themselves and laying down claims for their own musical individuality. There’s a lot of inherent positives within that, to the point where it does admittedly make up for some weaker, or at least slightly lesser moments. It’s most prevalent within the writing, in which a lot of the same mental health are hit and the big, empowering cries of 2205 feel pretty worn-out at this stage, but it’s hard to say any of this actively weighs the EP down too much. If anything, it opens up the doors for Sertraline to look into more interesting avenues to relay the same messages, like the cries for empathy when that so often seems to be a lost art on Inside Out, or even just a more visceral response to unwanted self-destruction on Mean To Me II and Isolation. More so than the instrumentation itself, Sertraline’s writing feels much more indicative of a newer band still looking to find their feet, but it’s not to such a degree that it drags everything else around it down. The most work to be done is undoubtedly in this area, but like with the production, that feels like something due to come naturally over time with more experience.
Honestly, for such an early stage in their career, the fact that Sertraline have already gotten this far never ceases to be impressive. They’ve done a lot to forge a creative path ahead, but even now, this is almost surprisingly solid in terms of a band knowing exactly where they’re going, and how to do it in a way that’ll stand out. The need for tweaks and small improvements prevents this EP from being a real barnstormer in the vein of earlier works from Creeper or Puppy, but the fact that Clouded Minds & Silver Lines isn’t a million miles away from aspiring to hit those heights is nothing to scoff at. Of all the bands worth keeping an eye on over the coming months and years, Sertraline are pretty near to the top of that list of the strength of this release; there could be something special in the pipeline with just a bit more time.
For fans of: Dream State, Periphery, wars
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Clouded Minds & Silver Lines’ by Sertraline is released on 15th May.