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Bittersweet - 72%

gasmask_colostomy, October 1st, 2014

Sentenced were a special band and it was a shame that everything ended as it did, petering out in 2005 with their weakest album. Right from the start of their recording career, Sentenced were sliding into less and less heavy territories and 'Crimson' sees them just about at their most accessible, though in my opinion not their most creative.The unique and magical ear for melody that Miika Tenkula had shown on 'Down' in 1996 is still present here, but the majority of the anger and bitterness that made that album so energetic is gone here. The perfect analogy for Sentenced would be the man who is used to having the whole world against him and by the time they reached 'Crimson' he had begun to realise he would never win.

The style of this album is quite soft (maybe 80% rock and 20% metal), which is immediately apparent from the opener 'Bleed in My Arms', which starts with strummed chords and a gentle melody, cruises through the verses on a chugging riff, and descends into the near-stagnation of a teasing lead guitar interlude before it builds itself up again into the emotional crescendo of the final chorus. The formula is fairly conventional and can be used to describe most of the songs on 'Crimson'. The guitars do not have much real bite to them and bass and drums are largely unnoticed apart from on the verses of 'Dead Moon Rising' and 'My Slowing Heart' respectively. The songs would be nearly perfect for radio if they were not so bittersweet. And that is the word that describes this album - it is bittersweet. A quick look at the lyrical themes reveals lost or doomed love, depression, alcoholism, and apathy, Ville Laihiala is singing slower and deeper than on the preceding album, and the verses brood and chug while the choruses soar and emote. The technique is reliant on Laihiala's performance, the strength of the lyrics, and the band's ability to capture a mood.

It is a great formula, but a little predictable, especially from a band of Sentenced's quality. There is a tendency for any two songs to sound similar because of their similar dynamics, and the fact that the lead guitar is more restrained than on previous albums doesn't provide as many musical signposts as one might expect from the band. The stronger songs tend to be that are more lively or more varied, like the subtle-then-explosive 'Dead Moon Rising', the subtly menacing 'No More Beating As One', or the doomy, melody-driven 'With Bitterness and Joy'. All of them have absolutely essential singalong choruses, which is a major strength of the album. The clear highlight, however, is 'Broken', which feels utterly vital compared to the mid-paced songs here: it quickly drops into an impishly playful and frighteningly catchy melodic run that dominates the song, rushes through the verses in an odd, one-breath sentence, pushes on into the chorus, bursts out with the opening melody, and climaxes with a lead section that instinctively raises the heartbeat.

A couple of songs feel weak because they are too long, too slow, or do not have enough good ideas to keep them interesting. 'Killing Me, Killing You' is an example of all three, because it hangs around for five and a half minutes on the meagre appeal of piano-led verses and a chorus engineered to grab the attention, but which leaves little impact. The problem could be solved by cutting about a minute from each of the songs that drift (three or four at last count), either by increasing the tempo or shedding flat instrumental interludes, plus encouraging Tenkula to let rip for at least twenty seconds. Alternatively, it would be just as easy to accept that Sentenced had attempted to release a more laid back, conventional rock album with 'Crimson', and be glad for the fact that they left the genre with their distinctive, bittersweet, stamp.

This album deserves to be huge - 80%

erebuszine, May 1st, 2013

I think I have finally figured out why labels refuse to send out lyric sheets in promo packages - they can control almost all the perceptions that will result from a person listening to an album: they design or veto the album artwork, they shape the production, they influence the bands this-way-and-that in order to increase sales (Nuclear Blast trying to turn Dismember into a trad-metal band? Come on!), they spread hype and boot-licking reviews from sycophantic critics across the horizon, or all over advertisements, announcements, emails, magazines, radio, and the promo sleeves themselves, etc. - but one thing they can not censor (not yet anyway) are the words in a song. Face it, a song can be as musically traditional as possible but the lyrics can change the entire effect of the message by being subversive in any number of ways (some bands thrive on this formula). Now I know it is increasingly rare for the music audience out there to even grasp, in a limited way, the lyrics that they often find themselves singing along to (Nirvana proved that beyond reproach), but Sentenced is a band whose lyrics remain dangerously personal and, in my opinion, completely contrary to the 'fashionable' image their handlers want to spread throughout the metal world. The music may have changed over the years, filtered piece-by-piece through every paradigm of 'progression' that has been bandied about by journalists (yes, those people who endeavor to explain to others just what is going on in front of their own noses) ever since the Swedish death metal scene rediscovered alternative rock, trickling ever so slowly through the metal world's recalcitrant attempts at labeling and categorizing everything under the sun, but their lyrics have become, if anything, always more personal, closer to the first person singular, and ever more explosive in their potential to reach across to an audience that is doubtlessly drowning in a desperate search for empathy. Wasn't music supposed to be all about communication? Did I imagine that? If music is a universal form of communication, how much more powerful is it when allied with lyrics that are expressively confessional in this confessional age? Suicidal in a suicidal age? Sentenced seem to me, at times, to be tailor-made for this generation.

Let me tell you how I understand this album: the entire thing is a prelude to, or turning away from, the central two songs on this disc: tracks five and six, 'Broken' and 'Killing Me Killing You'. The latter may have been the single, the song that the powers that be chose to precede the album's release and grace the airwaves in this band's native Finland (or across Europe, actually), but it is 'Broken' that I think makes this entire record, and the track that firmly cements this collection of songs in my mind as being worthy of enthusiastic acclaim. Gifted with a stirring intro that will have fists and heads banging, a main riff to die for, catchy beyond belief (with hooks that will stay in your consciousness for days), and a twisted wheezing guitar riff in the breakdown sections (I hope that's a guitar) that sounds like nothing as much as a rusty bed-spring squeaking (instantly bringing to mind all the little goth girls that will be sweating on dorm room beds under their drunken dates with visions of Ville dancing in their heads while listening to this opus magnificat, making that corpus move to the sugary croonings of Finland's dark prince of suicidal romance - what is it called when something reminds you of something else that has not even happened yet? Reverse serendipity? Insanity?), a rousing solo, choruses and vocal melodies that are textbook-perfect, etc. this moving piece is a work of art - that rarity in the metal scene - a really great song.

But all raving aside, Sentenced are a true enigma in their own time: they are talented enough to escape all the restrictions that normally shackle the hands of musicians who are not secure outside of genre restrictions, and they are able to effortlessly reference those same genres while stubbornly staying clear of all of them. Death metal, black metal, heavy metal, new metal, alternative, rock, radio-friendly pop melodicism? What does any of this mean to Sentenced? They transcend these pigeon-holes, hurdling boundaries with dignity and grace always intact. A lucky band, then. Dark and drama-driven one moment, they are equally uplifting the next. Groups like this do not come along very often, and I can only watch with surprised detachment the progress of their career - where will they go next? Who knows? One thing I do know, however: if there was ever a band that had the potential to rise like a phoenix out of the metal underground and dash into the mainstream, onto radio and deep into the hearts and minds of music fans across the world, Sentenced are it. This album deserves to be huge. I wish them luck.

UA

Erebus Magazine
http://erebuszine.blogspot.com

Slowing Down The Heart - 92%

Tlacaxipehualiztli, August 2nd, 2011

This album is definitely the best thing recorded with Ville Laihiala. After releasing very weak “Frozen” which really froze my heart almost to death, I believed that Sentenced could create better stuff. When I saw the front cover for the first time, I thought: “yes, for sure this is fine picture, better than the previous one, so let the music fill my senses…”.

The production of the album is very similar to the predecessor. In spite of changing of the studio (this time MD and Tico-Tico, Hiilesmaa as producer), the sound doesn’t differ a lot. I can hear only ‘fuller’ and ‘richer’ guitar tunes. But the main and essential difference is the undeniable quality of these new songs. On “Frozen” I found only two songs keeping top level, here there is no filler track on “Crimson”. This album has no intro on the start and listener is attacked by “Bleed In My Arms” which is in fact standard song coming from “Crimson”. The powerful riffs are the base here, while excellent sound of guitars fills the air (production!). “Frozen” is defeated! But there is also one very important thing: Finns didn’t invite a woman who could sing and help the vocalist. Both previous albums were ‘enriched’ with these female vocals and, believe me, it was the worst moment on the album (though there were no many offerings from Birgit Zacher, the overall mark of “Down” and “Frozen” is effectively beat down). In short, these vocal performances completely do not fit to the music of Sentenced.

Ok, let’s back to some better things. To the SONGS! The first part of the album, three tracks, is maintained in rather mid tempo and I call them as typical metal tunes in Sentenced style. Of course in top level definitely, so the start is perfect for me. But the best is yet to come. When third “Fragile” ends, “No More Beating As One” fills my mind. Here “Crimson” polishes and gains impetus. Although the chorus is similar to one song from “Frozen” (hopefully to the best one, “For The Love I Bear”), I can admire very hard and heavy guitars (Tenkula/Lopakka duo!), really crushing riffs. What is interesting, the song has a short (luckily!) keyboard patch and excellent solo lead lasting about seventeen seconds. The song turns into another pearl almost imperceptibly. Its name is “Broken” and in my opinion it is the best track on “Crimson”. Fast, energetic opening, stanza without hard guitar riffs (but bone crushing bass lines are present here as well) and the chorus: great Sentenced melodic metal tunes! In addition there is another Tenkula very interesting solo performance which is too short once again. “Broken” ends suddenly and the piano opens the next song nicely called “Killing Me, Killing You”. Again the band proposes calm stanza (piano/bass/drums/vocals) and before the chorus guitarists join the team. In the end of the track there is one interesting thing which enriches it: Laihiala sings with piano only. When the song reaches its end, you can see that Tenkula doesn’t play his solo in this track. What a pity…

Practically the next tracks confirm first class of this album. “Dead Moon Rising” has powerful riffs and once again interesting guitar work, “The River” (I call this semi-ballad because of its calm and quiet atmosphere) with really beautiful, relaxative tunes and the same situation as in the previous songs: short solo lead… The next one “One More Day” has a great opening melodic guitar line, both music and lyrics are very pessimistic. In turn “With Bitterness And Joy” reminds me of the first “Bleed In My Arms” a bit, yes, here we have longer solo lead and excellent ending of this killer song. At a foot’s pace Sentenced goes into the last crimson pearl called “My Slowing Heart”. This song has completely another quality, in spite of its rather simple construction, it is not forgettable. Everything here is based on mightful yet crushing, marching Tenkula/Lopakka riffs with slow choruses and the strangest solo on the album. “My Slowing Heart” really differs from the rest nine predecessors and I think it is the best thing to close “Crimson” up.

To sum all things up: this album I put next to the two classic immortal Sentenced releases: “North From Here” and “Amok”. Of course “Crimson” isn’t the best stuff composed by Finns, however third place in their discography is obvious for sure. By this album I quickly forgot about “Frozen” and even “Down” (esp. female experiments), musicians changed the studio and rose from the ashes on motherland ground. After crimson production, they showed two more albums to the metal world, but they didn’t maintain this masterly level. The last path has name “The Funeral Album” and Sentenced died. Just like the spirit and main songwriter Miika Tenkula (due to heart failure, rest in peace man…). All happened on February 2009 and I wonder here about the last song of crimson album “My Slowing Heart” as some kind of prophecy…

Gothic rock/metal/whatever done decently - 71%

Shadespawn, March 15th, 2009

This release from Finnland's well-known metal band Sentenced is actually not as bad as I may make it in the following lines. Love songs, self-pity, oh what the hell... this is their hit album and was also the first Sentenced release to hit my collection. I borrowed it from a friend a couple of years ago and listened to it while taking a walk in summer. After listening to the other releases from Sentenced I have to say that the production has made a vast improvement, which is not necessarily important for a really good record. While not really reaching "Down" in content and substance, this record is my second favorite of their softie material (stuff after Taneli Jarva left). The music itself is solid and at times even majestic. The lyrics aren't as whiny as other releases, which makes this quite enjoyable, if you like "gothic" sound in metal.

The album artwork is a bit strange, looks like some kind of skeletal sliver incased by some kind of red nova or.. ring? Whatever. Weird cover which does not represent the music at all. That itself not being a major issue, I know a lot of people who judge a book by its cover (or an album by its artwork in this context). The only thin silk line that can be drawn throughout Sentenced's becoming is the compositional creativity and talent of the band's deceased guitarist Miika. Again, if lyrics aren't of any concern for you, then Sentenced is the right band to add to your collection.

Musically, the song structures progress with a classical rock approach. Intro, verse, bridge, chorus, with alternating clean and distorted guitar parts cause the music to be on the easy-listening edge (from the heavy metal fan point of view). Occasional soli climax songs on certain songs (ex. Broken) and the universal grooving mood adds to the musical consumption. Songs vary from low-tempo ballads (such as "Killing me, killing you") to mid/high tempo stand outs (Bleed in my arms and No more beating as one). The overall disposition is still sad, mirthless and at times painfully apathic and/or suicidal. This side of Sentenced has always been a hard part to coexist with. There is a great difference between the woeful, majestic mourning sorrow of, say, "My Dying Bride", the depressive/subordinative thematic of "Katatonia" and the cheesy "I don't want to live anymore" topics of half of Sentenced's songs. That's where they (and with they I'm suggesting Ville) fit in with the gothic scene more than with heavy metal.

Still, I like this record. It's fun, has really great moments and if you're in a sorrowful mood, you can easily get through this unscratched (unless of course, you're an emo, which makes you always "scratched"). Hell, just get this if you're into gothic rock, a depressive maniac or in love with Ville, which makes you a wussy faggot. For those of you more into the heavier stuff, check out older Paradise Lost stuff.

"What can I do now except continue
and open a bottle once more"

Good idea guys, time to hit the sack.

Sentenced - Crimson - 78%

DarkDryad, July 6th, 2004

Sentenced, the eternal debate: are they or are they not metal? Well whatever it is, it is not bad. I would call their latest albums gothic metal, with hard rock influences. Crimson is a good album, many songs on it are solid. The first time I heard the album, I fell in love with, however, as the number of times that I listened to the album progressed, the less I liked the album. It starts off very good, but then becomes quite boring and repetitive, every song sounds quite similar. I hate saying that a band is boring, but I have lost great interest in Sentenced since the album Frozen.

This is a dark and very depressing album to listen to. Again, the lyrics are like all of their previous albums: suicide, sadness, etc. Home In Despair was the track that made me discover, and like, Sentenced. It remains one of my favourite songs on Crimson. Fragile is the best track on the album, it has a very nice chorus. Sometimes it feels it would be better for you all, if I ceased to exist or never was born at all, is a good example to demonstrate the theme of most of the songs on the record. There are not really any stand-out tracks, every song sounds the same, but sounds good.

This is a short review, but what more can I say, you have to listen to it and judge it yourself. If you enjoyed Frozen, you will definitely like this album. It receives 78/100 from me, it is a good album, but after a few hearings, becomes uninteresting.

DarkDryad