(1991) Sentenced – Shadows of the Past: Anniversary Special

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SENTENCED, formed in Muhos – a small municipality in Northern Ostrobothnia in 1989 – is often seen as a sort of landmark in the Finnish metal scene. A few years before turning into the masters of Gothic metal, the Northernmost Killers released their debut album, as some kind of a homage to old school death metal: “Shadows of the Past” is explicitly and heavily inspired by bands such as early DEATH and OBITUARY, among the others. The full length came after a couple of demos and its exact release date is a bit uncertain: that does say a lot on how unplanned and unexpected the future status of the band was back in the day. Conventionally, the release date is December 1st, 1991, via Thrash Records, a French label that does not exist anymore. However, the album has been re-pressed many times by different and bigger labels, such as Cosmic Key Creations and Century Media.


The band members were very young back then: except for drummer Vesa Ranta who was “already” 18 years old, the rest of the crew was about 16 years old. It affected the outcome of the final product, in a good way – even though it might sound naïve or not innovative at all, SENTENCED’s debut album is the perfect expression of that type of passion only teenagers are driven by, no matter the setting. It was right before entering the studio that a crucial event happened: Taneli Jarva joined the band as the new bass player. He also delivered some excellent backing vocals and wrote a few lyrics, and after a while he became the band’s frontman. It is worth to point out that the role of singer in the debut album was covered by guitarist Miika Tenkula; even if his vocals were not particularly original, they got the job done in an effective way. The key element, however, was his talent – in spite of his young age, Tenkula proved to be highly gifted, both as a guitarist and as a songwriter, giving the band the magic touch that made it unforgettable through its evolution since the very beginning, combined with guitarist’s Sami Lopakka high-class compositional and lyrical skills.

There are eight songs on “Shadows of the Past” (or nine if we also take the bonus track on the CD version, “Descending Curtain of Death,” into consideration), which sees Marco “Järkkä” Järvenpää of the thrash metal band MAPLE CROSS as a guest vocalist on the spoken-word part. Many influences are detectable – along with already mentioned early DEATH and OBITUARY, CARCASS (especially in the fifth track “The Truth”) and early PARADISE LOST can be heard as well. What makes this album still valuable, 30 years after its release is, for sure, its perfect balance between an extreme attitude, a strong sense of melody, and some doom elements that give the whole piece of art an eerie and somewhat tragic aftertaste.

It is a full-fledged groundbreaking album of what the Finnish death metal scene was turning into, at that time: in a nutshell, one of the most prolific environments for extreme metal, as has been thoroughly documented also in Markus Makkonen and Kim Strömsholm’s book about the history of Finnish death metal, “Rotting Ways to Misery,” published by Cult Never Dies in 2020, not without reason named after SENTENCED’s second demo release.
Although initially undervalued, “Shadows of the Past” managed to gain a well-deserved “cult” status throughout the years. It still is, in my opinion, probably the most underrated chapter in the band’s career.

Tracklist

  1. When the Moment of Death Arrives
  2. Rot to Death
  3. Disengagement
  4. Rotting Ways to Misery
  5. The Truth
  6. Suffocated Beginning of Life
  7. Beyond the Distant Valleys
  8. Under the Suffer
  9. Descending Curtain of Death (bonus track)

Line-up

Miika Tenkula – vocals, guitars

Sami Lopakka – guitars

Taneli Jarva – bass, vocals

Vesa Ranta – drums

Label

Thrash Records

Links

Official Website