BOOK REVIEW: Matti Riekki – North from Here: The Sentenced Story


North from Here – The Sentenced Story,” as the title suggests, is the English translation of Matti Riekki’s book, “Täältä Pohjoiseen: Sentencedin Tarina,” which has been published via Like back in 2015. I am quite sure that many English-speaking fans of the band have been waiting for a translation to be released ever since. I personally know someone who bought the book back then, although this person doesn’t speak a word of Finnish, so the hype was real. The English version has been published by Svart Records on July 16, 2021, and, needless to say, I was very much looking forward to hold a freshly printed copy in my hands.

Some essential introductory remarks on the translation are necessary: it’s a process that is always, or at least often, affected by the translator’s personal choices, specific points of view, and peculiar goals, hence it may have an excessive influence on the final result, that may lead to a loss of the original version’s general mood, so to speak.

One of the main issues, in this case, was to translate the dialogues between the band members in an effective way: since the dialect of Northern Ostrobothnia shows some specific features and gives the whole book a peculiar vibe, especially in terms of humor, the translator decided to use the Northern English Yorkshire dialect in order to give the idea of a “jovial” and a bit “rustic” way to speak. The dialect in the book is quite easy to grasp, especially because the translator explains a bit how it works in the preface, making the opus really enjoyable also to someone who’s not familiar with the band.

The author’s admiration towards the band is almost touchable, but it never ends up becoming cheesy or fanboy-ish: there is a nice balance between a journalistic approach and the genuine passion of someone whose life has been deeply touched by SENTENCED’s music. Moreover, reading this book gives some insider tips that do not look like the result of gossip or morbid curiosity.

I do not feel like quoting any part of the book, because that would feel like “revealing spoilers”; however, there are a lot of very detailed stories that I personally found absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious, there are many dramatic moments, and there are also a lot of tragicomic episodes that do put the band in a deeper, more human perspective. The book could also be considered an insight into “Finnishness,” thanks to its numerous details on the local culture (with a special focus on Muhos, the small town the band members come from, its environment, and socio-cultural features back in the day), and the drinking culture in Finland.

The choice to name the chapters as some of the most significant songs from the band shows the intention to keep an eye on the status the band still has many years after their very last gig: there is some sort of a sacred aura around SENTENCED, as the band is still considered one of the most important acts in the country. Regardless of the lineup changes over the years, as well as at least three different phases in their musical style, the band managed to set some standards on how the various shades of melancholy and pessimism in music should sound. It is something the band members did not expect in the beginning but, as Finns often say, “it is what it is.”

All-in-all, this book is a solid description of the band in its many layers and, being Matti Riekki’s aim to present “a true-to-life depiction of what it really was like to play in the band called Sentenced,” I can easily say that “North from Here – The Sentenced Story” turns out to be a success.

Written by Licia Mapelli