Review: Seth Sentry ‘Strange New Past’

Australian hip-hop hero Seth Sentry, drops his brand new album Strange New Past today. With this extensive, but collection of tracks Seth unpacks a suitcase of memories, baring a little bit more of his soul to listeners than ever before. Exploring his emotions, identity, and success, he casts a nostalgic glance that will strike a chord with suburban youth past and present.

The Melbourne MC waxes lyrical on opening track How Are You, talking about duelling identities and honesty. A tone of frustration runs through the lyrics that are delivered with a gruff rumble: I feel alright/I got everything I didn’t want/ I got paid/ I got my name in slightly bigger font. Grappling with fame and expectations of happiness, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour – something we hear a lot more of throughout the next few tracks. Finding a balance between the serious and the silly, he now couples his jibes with self-aware reflections bringing a welcome maturity to his rhymes.

Listeners are likely already familiar with single track Run receiving ample airtime in the lead up to the album’s release. It serves as an anthem to anyone who has ever been young, bored and broken the law. Although he hails from Melbourne’s outer southern suburbs, Seth has a way of conjuring poignant images that can apply to almost any fringe locale: There’s a bunch of Frankenstein’s up on the Frankston Line/ Dead folks scratching their neck bolts/ It’s not their fault cause they were just never given chances/ Zombies in button up FILA pants doing the thriller dance. It’s these realities with twinges of sadness that make the album so accessible.

This brand of storytelling continues throughout, littered with self-deprecating jabs about Sentry’s own intelligence, especially apparent on track Dumb. However, with literary references to Dorian Gray, Hunter S. Thompson and Carl Sagan, chances are the rapper is a little wiser than he is letting on. His self-esteem seems to be doing just fine though, displayed on the borderline egotistical, brash and incredibly impressive second single Hell Boylittered with a gorgeous jazzy bass and soulful sampling. This track is the most prominent on the album with the deft production values of long time collaborator Styalz Fuego.

In a recent interview with us (which you’ll be able to read soon), Seth explained that working with Styalz allowed him to find a balance between a hardcore hip-hop album and one that’s accessible to people who don’t necessarily like rap music. Having worked with many pop artists, Styalz balanced his obsessively detailed lyricism with hooks and singalong melodies. “He’s got a real pop sensibility” he said. “I always come at things from a lyrical point of view – I just wanna rap good. And he’s more like, ‘let’s make a good song… so I think there was a good balance between us.”

Equally listenable and stunningly detailed, it’s an incredibly impressive rap album, marking a completely new chapter in the rapper’s book.

Listened to in succession, the songs start to blend together with their radio friendly beats and habitual themes, but as stand alone’s there are some real ear-worms that will burrow in and scratch for days. An album that delves deep into Seth’s past – including many topics he’s never discussed openly before, including those about his father and family life, he told us that he spent a lot more time honing in on his own past here, than he did on his last album. Much of the album feels like a kind of confessional – one of those letters you write to people, but never send them. When we asked him if it was therapeutic to sift through his past, he answered, “Massively, yeah. A lot of these things were things I’d never really talked about… I just didn’t put a filter on it this time. Normally I work so hard on getting the right concept for a song and stick to that, but this time, whatever my first instinct was when I heard the music, was what I wrote about. And it felt good! I felt lighter afterwards, but it was definitely a struggle. I write a lot of revisions on songs, I’ll draft and re-draft things, so I have to keep putting myself back into that headspace every time I wanna go and add a new part to it or rewrite the lyrics. That was exhausting.

It might have been exhausting, but it’s really paid off. Flexing his lyrical muscles in a way we hadn’t heard on his previous album, he’s proved to be one of, if not the best wordsmith in the country.

Giving further homage to Seth’s small town roots, the album will be backed by a mammoth 48-date tour spanning the entire country, for which he’ll be joined by Dylan Joel and our mate Ivan Ooze (who sent us a wicked playlist a few days ago). If you would like to catch him live, check here for all the details. Oh, and click here to purchase that sweet, sweet music.