Originally written by Tim Pigeon
All good things must come to an end. As the name of the album makes clear, Sentenced is putting the band to rest after this album on their own terms. After over a decade of music and a constant progression of their sound, no one can really fault them for moving on with their lives. Some may mourn the impending split (after a few scattered shows), some may say “good riddance”, and many others might not care at all. I’m in the first group. I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve released, from the death metal ofShadows of the Past, to the primordial melodic death masterpiece North From Here, and especially their recent offerings of remorseful Finnish goth rock. And keep that in mind. There is nothing too heavy at all about this album, save for about a minute-worth. It’s a rock album, but they certainly have a metal pedigree.
Much like the career path that Amorphis took, they gradually morphed from a death metal band into a rock band, in Sentenced’s case, much of this was probably due to the departure of bassist/vocalist Taneli Jarva and his replacement by the dirty-voiced Ville Laihiala. Hetfield-as-a-Finn-singing-in-English is one way to describe Ville’s voice. It’s got that same sort of timber that James uses on the Loads, but with bleaker lyrics and a darker sense of humor. Miika Tenkula and Sami Lopakka (guitarists) write the bulk of the songs and have a fairly recognizable style of playing. There are heavy but subdued verse riffs, melancholic but hopeful leads, occasional solos and acoustic guitar. Their guitar tones vary a lot, sometimes going very clean, other times using a softened tone on their leads, and sometimes going with fuzzy distortion for their harder riffs. Maybe they could be compared to howKatatonia would sound if they ever smiled…or maybe not.
On The Funeral Album they bring other instruments and sound tricks to the table, including some piano, harmonica, and bells. I’m striving to avoid making this too much of a fanboy review, as to call me an avid fan would be an understatement. On the first couple of listens, I felt that this one didn’t stack up to The Cold White Light, which ended up being my #2 choice of 2002. In the meantime it has grown on me feverishly, as most Sentencedinevitably ends up doing. But lets examine why I was a little skeptical initially.
First of all, there are more light songs on this album than on TCWL, and they are certainly capable of writing hard hitting rock, such as “Neverlasting”. The softer side is probably due to the mood and attitude of the band going into the songwriting process. Songs like “Her Last 5 Minutes” and “We Are but Falling Leaves” may force the less-patient to reach for the next-track button, although they are well-written ballads if you take the time to listen. Another note that could be taken as a positive or a negative is that much of the album sounds like a collection of tunes from their prior three albums. “May Today Become the Day” and “Vengeance Is Mine” sound just like the energetic tunes from TCWL, like “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”. Sentencedgive a nod to the Frozen LP with the amazing “Ever-Frost” and “We Are but Falling Leaves”. The gloom of Crimson leaks through at points, like in “Consider Us Dead”, while “Where Waters Fall Frozen” is such a goddamn tease – 58 seconds of dirty, North From Here-styled death metal.
As for MY biased opinion, Sentenced have written a superb suicide note. Between rocking tracks like “Ever-Frost” and “Drain Me”, and dirges that build to a climax, like “Despair-Ridden Hearts” and “End of the Road”, music like this is what the rock world has been sorely lacking. The emotion in the music is clear, and Ville has come up with his most sincere lyrics yet, which gives me hope for the new Poisonblack. This is up there with the exciting Down, but a very small notch below TCWL and North From Here – a fine endnote to their discography.
Sentenced are basically the leaders of the vodka-sodden, Finnish hard rock offshoot that includes bands like Charon, Entwine, and For My Pain, so if you are a fan of those bands and have somehow bypassed Sentenced, then by all means, pick this up. This is a no-brainer for fans of the band. Farewell, and thanks for the memories.