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The Northernmost Killers STRIKE! - 90%

CoffinText, February 27th, 2009

“The goals I've set to myself are far beyond mortality
To dominate, desolate everything weak that cannot stand alone!
And losers shall drop...
One after one…”

Sophomore efforts usually tell a lot about a band. So it’s always best to apprehend a band’s debut album as a display of raw ideas, simply put together for the sake of making music and/or getting the listener to generally identify what a band is all about. However, it’s perfectly obvious, that through Metal’s entire existence as a genre, there have been many bands that release pretty basic material on their first album, and then one or two years later, release a ground breaking record that has the potential to change the face of rock and metal music alike. A few famous examples of rapid progression from debut to sophomore album are as listed; Metallica (Kill Em All/Ride The Lightning), Iron Maiden (self titled/Killers), Mercyful Fate (Melissa/Don’t Break The Oath, although this is debatable to many) and Judas Priest (Rocka Rolla/Sad Wings Of Destiny).

In other words, the full dynamics and potential of a band are not often reached with their first release. Sometimes it even takes two, three or more records for the skills of a band to truly shine. Sentenced belongs in the group of names that I just listed above. If you’ve read my review for Shadows of the Past, you’ll notice that the overall point of the review states that although the record itself is good, it’s still pretty damn typical for Death Metal. This is definitely NOT the case with North From Here. To claim that the band had progressed in any way would be an understatement.

One of the more chief aspects of the album are the vocals. It was a wise choice for Miika to consider the band’s bassist, Taneli Jarva for the spot as the band’s lead vocalist. When it comes to performing harsh vocals, this guy seriously hits the nail on the head! It also gave Miika the opportunity to focus more on his guitar playing, as it’s quite obvious that his playing style on this record is nothing short of fantastic. There are various styles of playing to be heard here. You know, some of it even sounds a tad Black Metal-ish, both in the riffing style and atmosphere portrayed. I’d even go as far as saying that Jarva’s high pitched, rasping shrieks would perfectly suit an early raw Black Metal band. One thing that is particular about North From Here is its cold, bleak atmosphere. This even earned Sentence the tag “The Northernmost Killers”, for their deadly, blistering fast approach at melodic, yet extremely fierce Death Metal (and also because of the fact that they are from Finland).

Yes, this is considerably faster than Shadows of the Past, but more precisely executed. The riffs shift from fast tremolo picking, to thrashing, to shredding, to neo-classical and everything in between. This new sound, at the time, was a completely different entity than what was featured on the first album. Another new feature was the addition of keyboards to the music. But fear not, this only enhances the listening experience for an already cold and dreary record. While other Finish bands such as Children of Bodom use keys to underline (or overline?) the guitar work, Sentenced uses them sparingly, and even when upfront, they’re used solely for atmosphere, nothing more. Want proof that keyboards in Metal aren’t necessarily a pussy element? Give this a spin. I guarantee, your mind will change.

Production is top notch, superb for 1993. The instruments can all be clearly deciphered, particularly the bass. While the bass served as nothing more than a back-bone for the band at the time the debut album was released, it’s actually put to use exceptionally well, even earning some stand out points in a few of the tracks. Just check out some of the bass acrobatics heard in “Capture of Fire”, “Awaiting the Winter Frost” and the closing track, “Epic“. Others like “My Sky Is Darker Than Thine” and “Fields of Blood; Harvester of Hate” reign supreme in the riff department, outshining pretty much any other extreme Metal that transpired at the time. Oh, and one more thing. I can’t finish off this review without pointing out the album’s downright best song, hands down; “Northern Lights”! It’s an outstanding epic, yet malevolent track that alters from break-neck thrashing, to somber, dark melodies accompanied by barren sounding keyboards that lace the track with a coat of bitterness.

I’d go as far as saying that North From Here is Sentenced’s most extreme release. Yes, technically this is ‘melodic’ Death Metal, though not in the same vein as In Flames or Arch Enemy since the band doesn’t rely on recycled Iron Maiden riffs to construct their songs. Anyway, this album came out before the big Gothenburg explosion in Sweden, so that‘s that. Recommended to any fans of extreme Metal and/or to those who love the power of the RIFF!

“Taken by the North wind blow
Into the icy abyss of colours
As I fulfilled my true self
I knew your world is not for me”