SENTENCED, as a band, does not need any introduction, but it is worth remembering that the Northern Ostrobothnian 5-piece’s status is still, nowadays, kind of legendary, being that their legacy survived over the years, even though they disbanded in 2005. The reasons why this happened are easy to find: a perfect blend of catchy, rock-oriented melodies, a heavy metal attitude, a unique riff-man (Miika Tenkula, one of the most underrated guitarists in the Finnish metal scene, in my humble opinion), and a massive dose of melancholy, especially in the lyrics, made this band one of a kind, largely imitated but still “the one and only” in many people’s hearts. The band’s final identity took shape gradually: they started as a death metal act in the late ‘80s and went through a big change in 1996 when, after the release of the EP “Love & Death,” bassplayer and vocalist Taneli Jarva was replaced by Ville Laihiala on vocals. The act was going in a different direction and we can all agree that Laihiala’s vocals and image transformed completely SENTENCED into, let’s say, a brand new beast.
“The Cold White Light,” released on May 13th, 2002, via Century Media, is the seventh full length in SENTENCED’s career. It kind of follows the path that began with “Down,” “Frozen,” and “Crimson,” where self-pity and suicidal thoughts are presented under a quite ironic perspective. The fascination of death as a thread is not new in any subgenre of metal, but SENTENCED managed to tell their own story about it in an undisputedly classy way, as light-hearted as it can be, overly cheesy sometimes, but always excellent.
As for the tracklist, this album is a full-fledged greatest hits: there is no weak point, since every tune is a solid statement of what SENTENCED was about at that stage of their career. The main songwriter was Tenkula, but guitarist Sami Lopakka took care of a bunch of songs and most of the lyrics, too, along with Laihiala, so it was mostly the outcome of a shared effort, without giving up on consistency.
Starting from the intro, “Konevitsan Kirkonkellot” – a traditional Karelian song which conveniently guides the listener into a melancholic and emotional soundscape – the infinite shades of sorrow are elegantly combined in an equally classy and catchy piece of art. This is the capstone when talking about the band’s signature sound – their ability to convey negative emotions in a easy-going and almost radio-friendly way. “Cross my Heart and Hope to Die” is probably, along with “Killing Me, Killing You” from “Crimson,” among the most well-known tunes by SENTENCED: its lyrics – quite explicit, Gothic-infused, and poetically effective thanks to a quite simple style – tell a story of loss from a not-so-new perspective of a grieving partner who mourns their beloved’s death, but the outcome turns out quite unique, as it balances the heaviness of the topic the lyrics deal with and the catchiness of the melody, which gives a weird uplifting vibe as a result. The chorus is a real ear-worm none will ever get rid of. Prove me wrong, if you can…
The influence of METALLICA is clear also in other tunes, especially in Laihiala’s singing style and general attitude, which is part of the multifaceted personality of SENTENCED. An overall easy-listening mindset contributed to their success in the long run, but again, their ability to convey strong emotions and feelings make them absolutely worthy of their status. The emotional intensity of “Aika Multaa Muistot” does not go unnoticed and Tenkula’s touch turns it into a little gem.
Moreover, the weird sense of humor spotted in lyrics such as “Excuse Me while I Kill Myself” or “The Luxury of a Grave” do tell more about Finnish culture than any travel guide ever could.
All-in-all, I can’t help but stating loud and clear that, 20 years after its release, “The Cold White Light” is likely to be considered as one of the most important chapters in the band’s career, and maybe the crucial one in the final phase of their path, being that it is the next-to-last album before their separation.
Written by Licia Mapelli
- Konevitsan Kirkonkellot
- Cross my Heart and Hope to Die
- Blood & Tears
- You are the One
- Aika Multaa Muistot (Everything is Nothing)
- Excuse Me While I Kill Myself
- Brief is the Light
- Guilt and Regret
- The Luxury of a Grave
- No One There
Ville Laihiala – vocals
Miika Tenkula – guitars
Sami Lopakka – guitars
Sami Kukkohovi – bass
Vesa Ranta – drums
Century Media Records