For just about anyone vaguely interested in the arts, being plucked from obscurity and thrust into stardom would be a miraculous dream come true. It’s even the premise of the regularly retold film A Star Is Born, proving that audiences never tire of vicariously living out their fantasies through screen characters. While Bradley Cooper may not have swooped in to the rescue, the story isn’t far from that of Josh Hardiman, the new vocalist for New Jersey progressive metalcore band Sentinels.
“I was a nobody” recalls Hardiman, “not working in any bands, doing nothing music related, just wasting my life in a dead end job”. To be able to jump from a job you hate, to fronting an up and coming metal band – who had just recently signed to Sharptone Records – seems an unbelievable turn of events. But due to a few phone calls and recommendations from friends in the scene, Hardiman ditched his job handling specimens in a clinical lab and was faced with the very real prospect of not only his life in music reviving, but reaching whole new levels.
Prior to Hardiman’s recruitment, Sentinels had been active for seven years with several EP releases under their belt, most notably, 2019’s Unsound Recollections. Balancing powerhouse djent riffs with jaw-dropping instrumental proficiency, the band sought to exalt themselves above their deathcore/metalcore labellings, and prove to the world how progressive they can push these extreme heavy genres. But as the band were entering the studio to record what would become their debut full length album, Collapse By Design, Sentinels found themselves without a vocalist.
As luck would have it, JT Cavey from Erra provided a recommendation in the form of his friend Josh Hardiman. Despite having little live experience, Hardiman was a strong studio performer, uploading vocal covers of his favourite tracks to YouTube. Seeing as the band needed someone to track lyrics that had already been penned, they took a chance on this stranger. “By the time I got [to the studio], everything was done,” Hardiman recounts. “I made some room here and there for things that could be different, but 99% was set.” Not only had drummer Dave Rucki provided the lyricism for Collapse By Design, but the vocal phrasing too, meaning there was very little influence that Hardiman was able to have on the record. “I’m glad that it happened that way as I feel this body of work is more cohesive, as it came from fewer minds”.
If joining an established band and immediately entering the studio with them was not enough, Sentinels’ album production was handled by Randy LeBoeuf. Having worked with The Acacia Strain, Invent Animate and Thy Art Is Murder, LeBoeuf is one of the leading names in modern metal production. “I didn’t really understand where I was at until I got there,” Hardiman reflects on his visit to Graphic Nature Studio, LeBoeuf’s studio in New Jersey. “I walked into the studio and started going up the stairs, and I started seeing vinyls of all my favourite bands growing up. And that’s when it clicked, I was like ‘oh, I’m here’.” Meeting the man behind the albums that influenced your life in music would be overwhelming for even those most resilient to being star-struck. To then have to perform in front of your idol? That’s a whole other challenge. Hardiman anticipated scepticism from LeBoeuf, him being the new guy brought in at the eleventh hour. “I think he’s a fairly hard guy to please,” reveals Hardiman, “but he let me know that he was into what I was doing, and supported me. He cheered me on and he was a major player in building my self confidence and helping me do the best performance I could on Collapse By Design.”
Confidence has been a substantial hurdle for Hardiman to overcome. Performing as the frontman of a band would suggest that there is no such issue, particularly since he has only recently joined the band, and is essentially among strangers rather than close friends. But feelings of self doubt, exacerbated by depression and suicidal thoughts plagued Hardiman upon his newfound position in Sentinels, especially with the looming approach of a run of shows supporting Lorna Shore. “I was having massive panic attacks the months leading up to the tour,” shares Hardiman, “The pressure almost broke me.” An overwhelming feeling of impostor syndrome enveloped Hardiman, feeling that he did not belong in the band. With his last live show occurring eight years prior, and now finding himself onstage in front of an audience just shy of 1,000, Hardiman doubted he could handle the daunting task at hand.
But as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect, and by Hardiman’s third show with Sentinels, something clicked. “I was like ‘ok, I get it, I feel comfortable here’. And it felt like this was the start of my story, this is the beginning of something great for us, and that just turned things around.” Hardiman recollects that after his lightbulb moment, he settled into the role, feeling comfortable and turning in fantastic performances night after night. “We killed it. We made a ton of new fans, and I’ve never felt more at home. I’m very grateful that I managed to push through all of that pressure and become who I am and where I am now.”
Collapse By Design is out now via Sharptone Records.
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