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Shadows Of The Past

Sentenced - Shadows Of The Past ©1991 Thrash Records
1. When The Moment Of Death Arrives
2. Rot To Dead
3. Disengagement
4. Rotting Ways To Misery
5. The Truth
6. Suffocated Beginning Of Life
7. Beyond The Distant Valleys
8. Under The Suffer
9. Descending Curtain Of Death

Every journey starts with a first step, so the saying goes. In the case of Finland's Sentenced, their early material was standard death metal fare of the era, with a slight variation on the theme. The band would eventually morph into a gloomy Gus goth band with metallic overtones and a veritable slew of yawn, but the early stuff definitely falls into the heavier than lead category. The music was a rumbling, tempo-shifting sort of death metal, with a perhaps a bit more fluidity than some of the other acts of the time. The vocals were appropriately gutteral with a bit more "range" (we're not talking Michael Kiske range here, incidentally) than some of the grunters out there. But Shadows of the Past, regardless of intent and the level of heaviness contained, is typical of the majority of Sentenced's entire career in that it's a monotonous, faceless slab of generic music. Even in their early days, they lacked character and anything that would make them fully stand out from the crowd. Despite the thick production, Shadows of the Past has about as much impact as a sparrow on a jetliner.

Ultimately, the band would go through a series of musical changes that would take them far from their humble beginnings. With a couple exceptions (namely Amok), Sentenced would spend their entire existence churning out platter after platter of mediocre music, so in a way Shadows of the Past was a harbinger of their future.

The CD was originally released on a tiny label and subsequently repackaged by Century Media with bonus tracks from their Journey to Pohjola demo tape from 1992, as well as new album art.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2007

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The Trooper EP

Sentenced - The Trooper EP ©1993 Spinefarm
1. The Trooper
2. Desert By Night
3. In Memoriam
4. Awaiting The Winter Frost

One of the most prized possessions in the Sentenced back catalogue is the famous The Trooper EP, which of course features a cover of the Iron Maiden song of the same name. The EP shows the band in fine form, developing nicely from North From Here before truly exploring Maidenisms on 1994's Amok. The true gem of the album is "Desert By Night", a lengthy but close to perfect song that contains all the vital bits'n'pieces: snarled vocals, melodic and tasty guitar leads, significant arrangement choice and orchestration that moves the song to a new level. The title track is a frantic version of the famous Maiden song with vocals spit out like rusty nails. Interestingly, the band seem to have sampled Bruce Dickinson's "Whoa-oh-oh" chorus part and included that into the mix. Otherwise, the cover is nearly flawless. "In Memoriam" is a bit more along the lines of material from North From Here: fairly deathy and rumbling. The Trooper is a great little EP from a band who was very close to their creative peak and thus makes it worth finding.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999

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Sentenced - Amok ©1994 Century Media
1. The War Ain't Over
2. Phenix
3. New Age Messiah
4. Forever Lost
5. Funeral Spring
6. Nepenth
7. Dance On The Graves (lil'siztah')
8. Moon Magick
9. The Golden Stream Of Lapland

Regardless of what the nay-sayers say (which is "nay"), Amok to me is easily the epitome of Sentenced's musical career. Their earlier works lacked a bit of the necessary songwriting that I look for in music and their post-Tanelli Jarva works have been nothing but tepid, tiresome attempts at dark rock. Amok simply took the high road and churned out an album's worth of Maiden-esque, rollicking songs that put all the emphasis on writing memorable music. Complete with very intelligent leads, powerful galloping riffs and subtle extra touches such as the female backups, a few synths, Amok was nothing short of a great album. Though the band arguably rode the coattails of Maiden-esque old school metal a bit too much, you can't deny good songs when you hear them. Jarva's voice was still a raspy roar that was given a lot of space and echo within the mix.

I'm certain that there are many out there who did not appreciate Sentenced's dive into more traditional metal constructs, but generally Amok is a good example of what a song can do for a band. Easily the band's best.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Love & Death EP

Sentenced - Love & Death EP ©1995 Century Media
1. The Way I Wanna Go
2. Obsession
3. Dreamlands
4. White Wedding
5. Love And Death

Sentenced has a solid history of releasing smashing EPs, with Love & Death being no exception. Within the first thirty seconds, the band makes the statement about how to rock, with the awesome "The Way I Wanna Go". The sound of the EP is a natural extension of the Maiden-esque style displayed on 1994's Amok while providing just the slightest hint of evolution. "Obsession" is somewhat amusing, having more of a retro-thrash feel than the other songs. "Dreamlands" comes off as a bit more atmospheric, but it's followed up by a fairly straight version of Billy Idol's "White Wedding". The title track rounds out the EP with another Amokish song. Needless to say, this EP is quite solid but unfortunately it marked the last appearance of original vocalist/bassist Taneli Jarva (listed as Jarwa in the credits) in the band. Though his low growl wasn't always pretty, it was distinctive and gave the band a strong identifying voice. Regardless of the downturn following this EP, Love & Death is a document of a good band at their prime.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1999

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Sentenced - Down ©1997 Century Media
1. Intro--The Gate
2. Noose
3. Shadegrown
4. Bleed
5. Keep My Grave Open
6. Crumbling Down
7. Sun Won't Shine
8. Ode To The End
9. 0132
10. Warrior Of Life
11. I'll Throw The First Rock

Yeah, we were all excited after the Love & Death EP. Sentenced was onto something. A certain panache for this hybrid death/gloom/classic metal thing they were playing. And then vocalist/bassist Taneli Jarva left.

Sounds like trouble.

The remaining members Miika Tenkula (guitars), Sami Lopakka (guitars) and Vesa Ranta (drums) didn't fret. They picked up a new singer by the name of Ville Laihiala and Miika assumed bass duties for the recording of Down. And considering they lassoed the Professor of Production, Waldemar Sorychta, into the studio, expectations were quite high for this album. Were we let Down?

Well, a little. Ville is a very capable singer. But the comparison to fellow Finnish boys Amorphis is inevitable. Ville uses that not-quite-melodic, but definitely-not-death rasp that marks modern Amorphis. But the comparison stops there. Sentenced still uses their Maidenesque classic guitar romp, though not as heavily as they did on Amok. But with the exceptions of the instumental "0132" and "Crumbling Down (Give up Hope)", the distinctions between the songs are not as evident as they could be. Generally, this is a very generic album that really lacks a strong identity, especially for a band who has spent years building on its name.

By no means a terrible album--rather, it's very very bland--Sentenced needs to spend a little more time together before that killer album comes out.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/1997

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Sentenced - Frozen ©1998 Century Media
1. Kaamos
2. Farewell
3. Dead Leaves
4. For The Love I Bear
5. One With Misery
6. The Suicider
7. The Rain Comes Falling Down
8. Grave Sweet Grave
9. Burn
10. Drown Together
11. Let Go (the Last Chapter)
12. Mourn

Somewhere along the line, Sentenced became as bland as bathwater. It would be too easy to blame it on the new singer Ville Laihiala who had the rather large shoes of Taneli Jarva to fill, but something has gone entirely wrong for Sentenced since Amok. The Finnish band's last studio album, Down, was initially interesting, though each successive listen proved it to be rather flat overall. Frozen should have been the album to bring them back to the forefront, but unfortunately it just shows their new hard rock approach is here to stay. The mid-tempo songs tend to fade to the background rather quickly, making it very difficult to find the motivation to ever put this into my CD player. While I have no qualms with bands taking new directions, it is usually beneficial for a band to make the new direction something worth hearing.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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Sentenced - Crimson ©2000 Century Media
1. Bleed In My Arms
2. Home In Despair
3. Fragile
4. No More Breathing As One
5. Broken
6. Killing Me Killing You
7. Dead Moon Rising
8. The River
9. One More Day
10. With Bitterness And Joy
11. My Slowing Heart

The band's official website invites you to join them in misery and listening to Crimson is precisely that: an entirely miserable experience. Continuing on the downward spiral initiated by Down, Sentenced has fully engulfed themselves in lumpy oatmeal styled metal, neither having the true valium inflected morose nature of true gothic music nor enough edge to be considered extreme. Rather, this tepid lack of musical personality comes across as bland, tired and exceptionally uninspired. As with too many bands who aren't playing to their potential, Sentenced can't be faulted for their musical abilities, but they certainly can be faulted for playing such ear numbing music. This might be the sort of thing Metallica would put out if they put their sad songwriting skills to use after hearing a couple goth records. I'd like to find something positive to say about Sentenced in this review, but after a trifectum of thoroughly unenticing records, I can safely pull the zipper on the body bag. This miserable experience is over.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2001

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The Cold White Light

Sentenced - The Cold White Light ©2002 Century Media
1. Konevitsan Kirkonkellot
2. Cross My Heart And Hope To Die
3. Brief Is The Light
4. Neverlasting
5. Aika Multaa Muistot
6. Excuse Me While I Kill Myself
7. Blood & Tears
8. You Are The One
9. Guilt And Regret
10. The Luxury Of A Grave
11. No One There

Somewhere along the line, Sentenced altered their career path in pursuit of the most dreadfully dull band in Europe. And over the course of several albums (all of them, incidentally, are after original vocalist/bassist Taneli Jarva left the band), Sentenced has excelled at creating entirely lifeless music. The Cold White Light is another in a series of truly mediocre music that will leave your memory as fast as it enters. We're talking the total wallflower of the high school dance, the quiet guy at the party who blends into the furniture. This album flutters by as harmlessly as a butterfly and is actually about as pretty as a moth trying to divebomb your back porch light. Your cat might attack, but that's about the extent of the moth's impact on the world. This album falls into that category. No impact, no drive, no enthusiasm, lackluster songs. It is as though the band decided the only way they were going to be a musical outfit is if they strived to write only forgettable music. And they are succeeding.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2003

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