Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

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

Privacy Policy

Anvil Forged in Ice, Snow and Brilliant Coldness - 95%

bayern, June 7th, 2017

Like the Dutch The Gathering Sentenced never settled for one style on their first three instalments, looking for their most fitting face, creating a few truly memorable moments along the way, the highlight of their restless quest being the album reviewed here. The debut was a pretty decent classic death metal affair, and was probably going to remain a relative highlight in their career… if it wasn’t for this sophomore piece of brilliance which came less than a year later. It’s really difficult to recognize the same band, who released these standardized “shadows” earlier, under these thick complex rifforamas that brought the guys into an entirely different direction from the formulaic one they had taken with the first instalment.

The breath-taking melodic leads at the beginning of “My Sky is Darker Than Thine” are the first testimony of musical mastery which later translates into virtuous complex melodies that race each other creating a lot of alluring drama not without the help of the unholy shouty death/black metal vocals; fast blitzkrieg black-ish riffs increase the intensity also forming a few less digestible puzzles. Stunning revelation on all counts that becomes marginally more lyrical on “Wings” with doomy accumulations served initially, but the furious carnival resumes on full-throttle with stylish riff-formulas “dancing” around, trying to keep within the mid-paced confines without any speedy surprises those replaced by eerie tunes and twisted melodic configurations. “Fields of Blood, Harvester of Hate” begins with an intricate riff “salad” which gets aggravated with more aggressive, but equally as striking, strokes with smattering gallops and creepy technical decisions also helping on the side, not to mention the several authoritative bassy additives and the imposing progressive build-ups in the second half which turn this piece into an impressive multi-layered masterpiece.

“Capture of Fire” starts with a superb memorable epic doomy motif with echoes of Bathory’s “Hammerheart”, but it’s more complex shreds and mazey melodic configurations that dominate the landscape later the overall delivery again not going over the mid-tempo boundaries with the doomy motif reminding of itself several times throughout. “Awaiting the Winter Frost” indulges in atmospheric operatic pomposity before brutal proto-blast beats tear the “idyll”; still, their presence isn’t big enough to cloud the eccentric technical “tricks” in the middle the latter wrapped by some of the most enchanting melodies around. “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” is a furious death metal sweeper with melodic delights galore, a frequent alternation of times and tempos, an awesome galloping passage, and great lead sections. “Northern Lights” pours copious amounts of intriguing riffs from the get-go before fierce gallops take over the aether holding on for quite a while until a pacifying lyrical section blocks their stride, with dazzling leads getting introduced seamlessly flowing into the exiting speedy “skirmish”. “Epic” isn’t quite the epic one would expect from the title as it’s business as usual for the guys the intense rifforamas carrying on without much ado the main tool being the gallops again, arguably the most tasteful use of this application within a death metal template ever; expect less bridled brutality with blast-beats interfering to disrupt the galloping order and bring more pathos to the proceedings.

That’s some feat: technical/progressive death metal without any Floridian flavour; a pretty unique sound that was also different from the more primal abrasive one of the early Swedish hordes (Entombed, Unleashed, Dismember, etc.) and the oncoming Gothenburg movement (At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity at this stage). Melody and progression reached the climax of their co-existence here humbling the timid spawning achievements of the latter group which borrowed readily from the provided formula here although it never managed to produce as brilliant a recording. The Finnish practitioners didn’t follow up on it, either; Demilich and Nomicon were just too weird and eccentric for this kind of music, and Amorphis were following their own epic, battle-like path. Even as an isolated outburst of genius, this opus nicely showed that the Europeans didn’t need examples from the other side of The Atlantic in order to enhance the good old death metal with interesting and original decisions, and Sentenced should by all means be proud of this album since apart from it it was only the first two Atrocity efforts that remained highlights on the European technical/progressive death metal horizon, also treading their own individualistic trajectory, not counting mid-period Messiah and the Decision D debut as those works were too Americanized.

This could have been the beginning of an attractive enterprise as the band definitely had what it took to pull it off for a few more spells of the kind. Did they lose interest in pursuing this path having seen the Gothenburg outfits trying to emulate them, unsuccessfully for a large portion of the time? Or did they give up the ghost also witnessing the large increase in out-of-the-box, more devious ways of execution brought by Cynic, Demilich, Cadaver, obviously not really willing to space out to such an extent… It’s tough to tell, but the most likely reason for the radical shift in style as presented on “Amok” may have been the post-death metal campaign that started with Entombed’s “Wolverine Blues”, and later took quite a few “victims” (Cemetary, Amorphis, Enslaved, Massacra, Atrocity, etc.) including our Finnish friends here. As said campaign had already settled in comfortably into the metal fanbase’s consciousness, “Amok” was not surprisingly a big success, a very well executed affair capturing all the relevant currents in the air unerringly.

If the band’s old fans stayed with them for that one, they must have fled in panic after the release of “Down” merely a year later, a melancholic gothic metal pleaser cleared of all previous death metal condiments. Although it attracted another group of followers, there was very little in it to keep the more extreme side of the audience satisfied as this sounded like an entirely new band performing. It proved quite influential as well, as the gothic metal brotherhood in Finland and elsewhere grew exponentially acquiring sizeable proportions by the end of the 90’s and beyond. Amazingly, it generated nearly the same level of success as its predecessor prompting the band to continue in the same direction all the way to their split up in 2005. Metamorphoses, metamorphoses… more or less logical ones; ones that pass more or less noticed with only those forged with the coldest brilliance in mind carving a lasting trace in the listener’s memory.