"The Cold White Light" (Century Media; 2002)
Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter
"The Cold White Light" represents Sentenced as a rock band -- and an invigorated rock band at that. The use of the term 'rock band' is quite deliberate as Sentenced have left their death-oriented roots far, far behind. Also, a nearly two-year break from touring and recording had done much to bring Sentenced to a place that leaves the performances sounding fresh and full of vim and vigor, even if they're no longer not exactly crushing tomes of depression and self-loathing.
I've certainly enjoyed the evolutionary path that Sentenced have taken, although many long-time fans of the band have not appreciated the quality band that Sentenced have become. The self-coined term "The Northernmost Killers" seems a bit inappropriate these days, but a 'killer' approach to the songs contained on "The Cold White Light" gives Sentenced a bit more focus than they've had lately. Nine of the ten songs on "The Cold White Light" are under the five-minute mark which is saying something as the band took pains to explore every nook and cranny of the songs contained on "Crimson."
As usual, Sentenced have made a great sounding record. The sound of the disc is deep and rich and loaded with the characteristic sound that is undeniably and unmistakably Sentenced. "Aika Multaa Muistot (Everything Is Nothing)" comes very close to sounding like fellow countrymen Amorphis and "You Are The One" isn't too far behind yet retains the essence of Sentenced.
Sentenced have injected a bit of dark humor into their music which, of course, suggests that they are no longer taking themselves or their self-imposed dire circumstances too seriously. The lyrics of "Excuse Me While I Kill Myself" makes that point very clear. The slim glimmer of hope that the band exhibited on their last disc seems to be shining a bit more brightly on "The Cold White Light." "Brief Is The Light" is practically an advertisement for the slogan 'seize the day' for the band realizes that life is short. "You Are The One" is a love song of devotion and loyalty like you've never heard from Sentenced before.
Of particular note are the blazing lead guitar lines of Miika Tenkula -- very impressive soloing is often hard to find, but that's not the case here. Tenkula's leads explode from the songs with the leaping grace of a gazelle.
"The Cold White Light" was produced by Hiili Hiilesmaa.
Sentenced: Ville Laihiala on vocals, Miika Tenkula on lead guitar, Sami Lopakka on rhythm guitar, Sami Kukkohovi on bass, and Vesa Ranta on drums.
For more information visit http://www.sentenced.org.
"Crimson" (Century Media; 2000)
Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter
With Finland rapidly matching Sweden for the sheer number of talented
bands produced per capita, Finnish metal heroes Sentenced carry on in the time honored tradition of perfecting the very essence of what they
are. After having made the switch from aggressive death metal to a more melodic mid-paced style with 1996's "Down", rapid improvement on 1998's
"Frozen", Sentenced succeed in taking musical mastery of their singular dark metal style to new heights with their sixth full-length
"Crimson." Sentenced now have perfected their style to go along with their
previously perfected "sound."
With "Crimson" Sentenced have added stunning new dimensions to their music; eloquent musical passages, extended bridges without vocals, and wonderful sequencing from song to song have allowed Sentenced to advance even closer to perfection. Ambition can be a dangerous thing, but Sentenced appear to be well versed in knowing when to pursue a challenge and when to exercise restraint.
The Northern Killers, as they are affectionately known in their homeland, utilize the complexity and maturity of their songwriting to examine the more serious matters of life. On the surface of things it seems that everything is bleak and hopeless in Sentenced's world, yet it is done is such a way that it makes things seem like that there is something beautiful on the horizon. You might not quite be able to make out what it is, but it is out there like a tantalizing dream.
The lyrics are a synopsis of life's harsh realities condensed to topics
like separation from being able to comfort a loved one, the 'suicide of love,' and copious amounts of self-loathing. However, some tracks
provide brief glimmers of hope with misery as a wellspring of growth and relief from the end of a dysfunctional relationship. It's not hard to
succumb to the seductive vocal melodies as each track has haunting inflections and unforgettable choruses. The vocal performances are
mature and varied throughout "Crimson."
"Broken" is a terrific combination of crushing power chords and supple lead lines while "Dead Moon Rising" is another magnificent track with solid roots in power metal without losing sight of the Sentenced style. Other superb performances can also be heard on the near-anthemic "Fragile" while "One More Day" showcases a vocal departure for the band that still manages to mesh well with the overall feel of the disc. The general thrust of Sentenced's music is not quite traditional power metal, but powerful nonetheless with dark overtones.
"Crimson" is a disc that avoids the predictable without straying too far from what can be enjoyed by a wide variety of heavy metal fans. The band's continued growth puts Sentenced at the top of my list for high expectations on future releases.
"Crimson" was produced by Sentenced with Hilli Hiilesmaa; considering this was the first time that the band had full creative control they did not fall prey to the traps of self-production. The production is crisp and intelligent.
Sentenced are Ville Laihala on vocals, Miika Tenkula on lead guitar, Sami Lopakka on rhythm guitar, Vesa Ranta on drums, and Sami Kukkohovi on bass.
For more information visit the official Sentenced homegrave at http://www.sentenced.org/.
Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter
The Northernmost Killers strike again with an enticing mix of power metal with subtle hints of Scandinavian melodic death metal and other quasi-progressive elements. My previous description of Sentenced playing a dark power metal style still holds true (read my review of "Love & Death" below). Sentenced's music is the foundation for picturesque lyrics that deal with a host of life's realities. Topics range from the death of desire ("One With Misery") to Nature's wrath as metaphor for crumbling relationships ("Dead Leaves"), suicidal tendencies over the loss of a lover ("The Rain Comes Falling Down"), eloquent immersion in hopelessness ("Grave Sweet Grave"), and the terse end of relationships ("Farewell"). There's got to be something about those dark Scandinavian winters that lead one to have a bleak outlook.
Musically, Sentenced's style is an efficient, technical, and compact style of metal that utilizes a two-guitar attack to support the band's grim outlook. The lead guitar breaks are particularly refreshing. "Burn" demonstrates the band still has the ability to kick it up a notch without losing their melodic edge as a lead-in to the equally blazing "Drown Together." The two instrumentals that book-end the disc are well-worth hearing - "Kaamos," which opens the disc, is quite impressive while "Mourn" is a fitting end to this sad, often somber, reflection of life's troubles.
I can still hear a multitude of influences in the band's work; perhaps Sentenced have found their unique tone, but have yet to find their unique style. For instance, the ballad-like "The Rain Comes Falling Down" recalls late '80s Queensryche and "Let Go (The Final Chapter)" is reminiscent of Iron Maiden to some extent. "Frozen" is by no means ground breaking material, but it is well executed with plenty of solid riffs and songs to keep any metal fan happy.
"Frozen" was produced by Waldemar Sorychta (damn this guy is busy!) and engineered by Siggi Bemm and Matthias Klinkmann. Mixing was conducted by Sorychta, Bemm, and Sentenced.
Sentenced are Miika Tenkula on lead guitar, Sami Lopakka on guitar, Sami Kukkohovi on bass, Vesa Ranta on drums, and Ville Laihiala on vocals. Keyboards were played by Tenkula and Sorychta. Additional female vocals were performed by Birgit Zacher.
For more information visit the homegrave of Sentenced at http://www.sentenced.org.
"Love & Death" (Century Media; 1995)
Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter
Finland's Sentenced is known for achieving metallic heights
and melancholic depths on each disc. This mini-CD is no exception. The Northern Killers,
as they are affectionately known, establish themselves quite well on this disc of four
songs and one cover.
Sentenced are not purely black metal or death metal; Sentenced is dark power metal that embellishes many genres into their own distinctive sound. Sentenced are cognizant and respectful of heavy metal's history, yet still forge new paths with each new track.
Sentenced are a treat to listen to as they clear any misconceptions that bands from Scandinavia play only extreme black metal or ABBA-esque pop songs. The dual guitar attack certainly helps maintain the strength of the rhythms while still allowing for inventive solo passages. The vocals are neither too clean nor too guttural - in fact, the vocals are a forceful, yet pleasing approach that affords the band the ability to shift the vocals to fit the mood of the song.
"The Way I Wanna Go" and "Obsession" meld technical metal and NWOBHM-era sounds into a style that should please both death metal fans and power metal fans. Traditional metal riffing gets a new workout as Sentenced force the listener to rethink the boundaries of metal classifications. The gothic touches of "Dreamlands" takes the Sentenced sound to new heights without losing sight of their strengths - Sentenced display a deft touch for arrangements on this track. The bleak "Love And Death" has fatalistic tones as the band extends its musical palette into more somber realms.
Sentenced dabble in pop territory by covering post-punk legend Billy Idol's "White Wedding" with an even more sinister delivery to this radio classic - it's not often that I actually like cover songs, but this is definitely one that will stick in my mind for a while.
For those of you seeking music that excites as well as covers a broad spectrum of emotions then look no further than Sentenced.
Sentenced is Taneli Jarva on bass and vocals, Mikka Tenkula on lead guitar, Sami Lopakka on guitar, and Vesa Ranta on drums.
For more information visit the band's official website at http://www.sentenced.org/ and check out The Northernmost Killers.
A classic. This record will kick your ass.
Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.
So-so. You've heard better.
Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.
Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.
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