Sentenced - The Cold White Light

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 8146-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:30:00

Sentenced (photo: Toni Härkönen)Sentenced is one of those bands that I first heard on (the oft mentioned) Seismic Radio. And, as if Century Media knew that I was hooked in by "You Are The One," the CD arrived practically the next day. Now, I'm not just throwing out these references for the sake of name-checking. I'm not one that really believes in fate, though I suppose just enough that I don't tempt it too much. I've been burned once by fate, having said, while a passanger in a friend's car, "I've never been in a car accident," and then nearly 24 hours to the minute later, and 55 miles away from where I said it (and driving my own car), I was in an accident. Though irrelevant to the story, the other driver was at fault. Coincidence? Surely. Just as the CD arriving the Monday after the Saturday Seismic show. But, you see, I think this CD was meant to be heard and reviewed by me. Oh, not me alone, I'm not suggesting that Sentenced issued this last July (in the US at least, May in Europe) for me alone. And I'm not just saying that because I was a very blue mood (not quite black) myself. But there are certain aspects to this that make this ideally a CD I would like, though having not heard the track on Seismic, I might have been leery, dark metal not necessarily being my thing... well, to the same degree as prog rock is, I mean.

Anyway, in some ways, this is a hard CD to review. I have known people who have tried to kill themselves... I understand the despair that leads one to that point in their lives... and there are those who think of it as the most selfish act that one can make. Especially when it is done as some message or to make some point. I mean, a point where one threatens to kill themselves to make the other person (or persons) "pay." It is this idea we get in "Excuse Me While I Kill Myself." It is an image though we've seen before in other music genres - in The Police's "Can't Stand Losing You" and, as I interpret, Marillion's "Jigsaw" ("stand straight/look me in the eye/ and say goodbye"). I'll admit that my reading of the latter is informed by a particular point of view I had at the time, and so may be, in fact, reading something other than Fish intended. Nonetheless, the image of suicide being an emotional weapon against another is icongraphic. But there is more to this track, as we shall see.

Of course, depression, a chemical imbalance, can also lead to feelings of despair, of self-worthlessness... ack! I sound like a commerical for Prozac or something. One feels that they can't get out of the depression except by ending their life. And this aspect is also explored here on Sentenced The Cold White Light. I often think that suicide only makes sense to those who think there's a better life in the "great beyond." "It all be better once I'm out of this world..." What if there isn't a "great beyond"? What if this is all we get? Well, with that sobering thought, which doesn't form a part of Sentenced CD at all, just me digressing...

The album is at once bleak and very musical. Subtle that, where a song about being so distraught and depressed after the death of a loved one has a memorable and hooky chorus. Though, of course, the chorus (and song title) includes a phrase many are already familiar with, "Cross My Heart And Hope To Die." Here and throughout the album, Miika Tenkula's guitars are light, crystalline which sets off against the darkness of the mournful, rough vocals of Ville Laihiala. And, of course, Tenkula plays some terrific leads throughout. Vesa Ranta on drums and Sami Kukkohovi on bass keep a pulse that drive each track forward. Sami Lopakka is the second guitarist in the band, but is the main lyricist, having written 6 of the album's 11 tracks (Laihiala wrote 2, one is credited to the "serial self-killer", and the last, or rather the first, is an instrumental -- though there is a bit of text written by Lopakka). Laihiala's vocal style is a bit like James Hetfield's, in that there is a rough edge to it that adds another layer of texture to the tracks. It is the voice of someone who is weary, who has been fighting against something (depression, for example) in a losing battle. I think if his vocals were too clean, it would undercut the music and the intent.

All of the abovementioned elements combine to create a heavy yet melodic music. Their sound is classic - not in the Symphony X sense, but one that is informed by not only the metal of years past, but even rock. On "Brief Is The Light" is a mix of jangly rock with a Metallica like heaviness and edge. Well, really like a more melodic Metallica with a bit of a jangly rock feel (by which I mean bands in the REM genre, though not specifically REM). It's a track with single potential, though gloomy lyrically. As I was reading through the lyrics to this particular track, there is one couplet that reads, "At your back you'll always hear / The Chariot Of Time hurrying near" and I thought to myself "hmm...just like that poem." As I got to the end of the lyrics for this particular track, there, at the end, is "[Inspired by the poetry of E. Fitzgerald and A. Marvell]." Yes, I thought, I had remembered right -- Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), the 17th century poet who wrote "To His Coy Mistress." It on this poem that the couplet above are based. Though Marvell's poem was an entreaty to his "coy mistress" for...well, sex...essentially, but also more broadly, romance, living... here, in "Brief...," Sami Lopakka (guitar) has taken the core meaning of the quoted phrase - meaning, time passes all to quickly, time is short, etc. - to reinforce the idea that life is short, and his entreaty is to seize the day (or, in Latin, "carpe diem"). The "E Fitzgerald" is Edward Fitzgerald (1809 -1883), who translated (and modified) the "The Rub?iy?t of Omar Khayy?m," in which there several passages that say similiar things. One might also think of Earnest Hemingway with the opening lines of "The bells again ... someone has died;" you know, For Whom The Bell Tolls.

This theme is picked up again in the next track "Neverlasting" and takes it the opposite direction... in a way. Where as one is making the most of your day, the other is making the most of your last day - carpe diem, indeed. Seize it, abuse it, and kill it. Or, in other words, give in to your dark desires, ending it all with a bang. Musically, this is an even harder driving rocker.

"Everything Is Nothing" is mostly a gloomy, mellow track, that explodes for the closing bridge. "You Are The One" has an odd rhythm that reminds me of 10,000 Maniacs' "Like The Weather" and also reminds me of a harder-edged The Church ("Reptile" is what came to mind specifically). In saying that, I love the drums especially on this track as Ranta gets to do something other than the usual bashing -- though I don't really hear the "usual bashing" here anyway. There is a strange mix to this track, as the guitar, during the choruses, seems oddly outside the rest, like a stray thread, like a paint stroke outside the lines. Usually I hear this mix with keys, which also seem odd (Vanden Plas come to mind). Lyrically, it is a positive song -- in all this gloom, the protagonist has found someone to love. "Excuse Me..." is so over-the-top that one can't help but look at it with a bit of humor. It is, musically, and energetic and cheerful rocker... it's anthemic... and from reading interviews, it looks like the band intended this track to have dark humour. I mean, isn't kind of what the "outside" world expects dark metal to be like? Not the more textured, emotional, reasoned expressions of "Cross My Heart...," for example. The other track that made me chuckle was "The Luxury Of A Grave." I hope they were intending humour here, too. But, how could they not have been, with seriously delivered lines like "oh, no...a coffin would be way too nice/oh, no...a see-through plastic bag will do just fine"? "...unburied...I do not deserve the luxury of a grave..."

I really didn't want to say this, as it seems like I've been making this particular comparison a lot of late, but... there were times when I thought Laihiala sounded like ... a certain New York-based singer-songwriter (who has given up rock for classical) of whom I've been fond (in a musical way). This I thought mainly on the closing track (and the first single, I understand) "No One There." A certain deep voice that this certain NY-based artist also had a times, especially on his latter releases... and also somewhat in the "oooh, oooh" used here on "No One There."

Needless to say at this point, but you've probably gathered that I like this album. It's really a solid album, and one I'd recommend even to folks who think they'd care nothing for dark metal.

The band split up in 2005. In February 2009, guitarist Miika Tenkula passed away. - ed. 12/2009

Konevitsan Kirkonkellot (1:40) / Cross My Heart And Hope To Die (4:07) / Brief Is The Light (4:24) / Neverlasting (3:34) / Aika Mutlaa Muistot (Everything Is Nothing) (4:34) / Excuse me While I Kill Myself (3:48) / Blood & Tears (4:14) / You Are The One (4:30) / Guilt And Regret (3:45) / The Luxury Of A Grave (4:41) / No One There (6:14)

Ville Laihiala - vocals
Sami Lopakka - guitars
Miika Tenkula - guitars
Sami Kukkohovi - bass
Vesa Ranta - drums

Shadows Of The Past (1992)
North From Here (1993)
Amok (1995)
Love And Death (ep) (1995)
Down (1996)
Story: A Recollection (1998)
Frozen (1998)
Crimson (2000)
The Cold White Light (2002)
The Funeral Album (2005)
The Coffin - The Complete Discography (2009)

Buried Alive (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Dark-Doom Metal

Origin FI

Added: September 1st 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 414
Language: english


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