Alberta teemed with some of the best hard rock in the country in the ’80s, and among the cream of that crop was Sentinel. Hailing from the provincial capital, the band was formed in ’83 from the ashes of The Biz, a progressive rock outfit from Vancouver who saw one album released, A MATTER OF TIME.
While On the circuit, The Biz met Toronto native Mike Polly while he was fronting the west coast metal band Anvil Hawk. The Biz had him up to sing a few times, but a plan to have him become their new singer fell apart at the last minute. By 1982 The Biz had run its course, and now calling Edmonton home, bassist Richard Loubert, guitarist Ole Moen and drummer Ken Leckie recruited Sandy Lawson (ex of Headline, Ross Folkersen, Fair Warning and the guitarist in The Biz that Moen replaced) and Polly for their new group. Incorporating a harder edge than any of their previous projects, they began the ‘B’ circuit around Alberta, and soon moved up a notch and were on the road throughout western Canada.
By the end of the year, Loubert put down the bass and became the band’s manager. Taking his place was Rob Roggeveen. Soon after, Rick Hayton, formerly of Thor, was the band’s new drummer. They continued making their rounds, including taking the stage at the Edmonton Rock Expo in ’84, while writing their own material and putting their own stamp on metal standards and developing a loyal following in the process.
They signed with Ross Mackenzie of Mackenzie Management, who also handled White Wolf, and early in ’85 were in Calgary’s Thunder Roads and Smooth Rock studios with producer Danny Lowe. They laid down the tracks to a five-song demo and began shopping it around. That March they were featured on CFRN TV’s “Rock Light” latenight program, where they performed those five original songs (“Hands of Fate,” “Guilty As Hell,” “Pound It In,” “Take Good Care,” “Have Mercy”), as well as a cover of Rainbow’s “Man On The Silver Mountain.”
They continued peddling the demos and played for some reps from Geffen and RCA. Both were interested. But Geffen’s stipulation on a US deal centered around Lawson and Polly going to New York with a new band. After settling on them keeping Moen in the fold, Mackenzie found Dave Hiebert, formerly of Pretty Rough to take over the drums and then Mike Cillis to be the new bassist.
While RCA had offered a Canadian deal, Mackenzie had taken the original demo to an international music exposition in Cannes, France. Although he came home with four different offers to release the demos as an EP, they continued peddling the tapes, eventually catching the attention of Paul Birch, who signed them to his British label Heavy Metal/FM Revolver Records that summer. Things looked promising for the band, as their career highlight to that point included an opening slot on KISS’ Animalize Tour that year.
But before long, Erik Young replaced Hiebert on drums – around the same time that label reps convinced the band to change its name to High Command due to ‘Sentinel’ already being a German metal group. They continued tearing up the stage wherever they played, but when the deal with Birch fell through in the spring of 1986, they left Mackenzie Management, eventually spelling the temporary end of the band.
Following their demise, the members all went on to other projects. Lawson and Moen formed the short-lived Saxon-cover band called Riff Raff, which also featured the return to the fold by Hayton on drums. But by the end of ’86, High Command was back in business – with Polly, Lawson, and Moen, and new drummer Kenny Jones and new bassist Darcy Allen. But with the European deal no longer on the table, no manager to find them a new one, and the trend for bars going to DJs instead of bands, the band was dead again by the end of the year.
Lawson and Polly weren’t apart for long however – as they formed Havoc, a Whitesnake cover band in ’88, that lasted the better part of a year and a half. That band also came to an end when Polly and Lawson both enrolled in Edmonton colleges – Polly for Biological Sciences and Lawson took some Art classes.
Fast forward to 2005, where Lawson attended a reunion of of his first pro band, Headline, in Victoria, BC. They played the closing night at the Jazz Festival at the Central Bar & Grill, and Polly, now living in Whistler, joined them on stage for a few numbers. After Lawson spent some time in his new project, Crank, he hooked up with Polly again for the formation of the mostly covers band The F.O.G., which played western Canada on and off for the next few years.
In 2010 the lineup of Polly, Lawson, Moen, Cillis and Young reformed Sentinel and are working on new recorded material, hoping to finally put out their debut album.