Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Sparkling sorrow - 86%

gasmask_colostomy, September 17th, 2015

Every time I think of Sentenced, the same thought goes through my mind: 'What a waste.' The eventual descent into sloppy mediocrity, the subsequent break-up of the group, all culminating in the tragically early death of Miika Tenkula, who was a prodigiously skilled guitarist right to the end. However, there's another thought that mostly accompanies regret: that thought is of hope and comfort. Until the last couple of sloppy albums, Sentenced were always capable of sounding hopelessly mournful and concomitantly full of life and inspiration, to the point where even the manic depressive lyrics of songs like 'Noose' and 'Sun Won't Shine' from 1996's 'Down' were dazzling bursts of light showing a way forward out of a very gloomy tunnel.

'Frozen' is a pivotal album in the band's discography and is probably the best representation of their output with Ville Laihiala. The vocalist's strong, moody baritone took Sentenced away from the extreme territories of the early material and brought a popular catchiness to their sound that continued to expand, gradually obscuring their metal roots. 'Frozen' captures the Finns just at the point when that catchiness had arrived at the forefront of the sound, but the liveliness of the rock band had not been dulled, nor had they forgotten all of their tricks from the heavier end of the spectrum. The songs here are characterised by fast-paced choruses, sparkling melodies, upbeat drumming, and an occasional pensiveness that sweeps in like sudden winter rain on a clear frosty day. I'm critical of the filler that made 2000's 'Crimson' feel like hard work at times, while I'm also aware that 'Frozen' doesn't have the creative boldness of 1996's 'Down', sticking to a reasonably simple formula for 9 of these 12 songs (the others are largely instrumental), but never allowing that formula to make the songs seem predictable.

One thing that is apparent about this album is that the pace of the songs is very varied, with a contemplative nostalgia to the longer numbers like 'Dead Leaves' and 'The Rain Comes Falling Down': this contrasts with the deliberate speed of 'The Suicider', 'Burn', and 'Let Go (The Last Chapter)', which means that the mid-paced songs don't dominate the album and cause momentum to stagnate. The songs with more energy generally work a little better, since the emotion comes as much from the band as Laihiala, who attempts too much on 'The Rain Comes Falling Down' and can't quite carry such a weightily emotional song without much musical character. There are only two songs that think outside the box of fast song/slow song and both of them work very effectively, producing the most pleasant surprises of the album. These are 'Dead Leaves', which uses its simple melody as a device for both intensifying and relaxing its progress, while the chorus reminds me of Amorphis in the way it turns a natural image into a deeply felt personal emotion. The other unexpected song is 'For the Love I Bear', which doesn't so much ignore musical genres as show a middle finger to their face: the band manage to weave together one of Tenkula's inimitable melodies, a sparse gothic verse with admirably crafty bass, a blood-rush of a chorus, a melodic doom riff that bridges to a playful solo - a solo that even sounds like laughter at its beginning, perhaps since it was audaciously detonated by a loud belch.

There are other highlights too, and most of them are generated by Tenkula, either from his melodies and leads, or by the riffs that sometimes rear out of songs and command a reaction. 'The Suicider' and 'Grave Sweet Grave' are both strong mid-album, the first because of its adventurous pace and instinctive excitement, the second because it receives such a drenching of lead guitar brilliance that I'm tempted to pee my pants in an attempt to imitate the refreshing warmth and release of the tone. There are some keyboard moments in a few of the slow and mid-paced songs that possess some of the frozen wonder of Katatonia's 'Dance of December Souls', particularly on 'Drown Together', which sounds slightly empty until the first chorus, when it rolls in with a swathe of feeling and melody, leaving the rest of the song awestruck and delicate, though without compromising the fullness of sound.

The band give a strong performance, but I'm left feeling underwhelmed by the lyrics and a few of Laihiala's vocal efforts. Sentenced had often dealt with depressing subjects in the past, though 'Frozen' sees a morbid repetition of one theme running through at least half the songs here - that of suicide. I don't have a problem with the subject, and in fact it suits the band and became one of their defining characteristics, yet I do wish that they had found a suitable way to keep it from becoming one-dimensional and predictable, since suicide is certainly neither simple nor predictable. It doesn't give the album an obsessive character either, more of one that couldn't quite look outside itself and bring in other influences. Songs like 'Drown Together' and 'Dead Leaves', which take a more romantic stance on death and endings, are more interesting and memorable, while even 'Grave Sweet Grave' and 'Farewell' manage to make something of the subject due to their celebration of death and a stronger musical character.

'Frozen' doesn't have quite as much invention to recommend it as 'Amok' or 'Down', signalling the end of the band's most creative phase and the beginning of their tenure in the precincts of melodic metal. However, the simpler style is offset by energetic playing and lots of hooks, resulting in an album that remains dynamic and memorable long after the first few listens. It also maintains the band's signature bittersweet character, which can leave the listener feeling both uplifted and heartbroken as 'Mourn' comes to its end.