Sentenced North From Here: the album that exploded melodic metal

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Back in the chaotic early 1990s, most death metal bands were racing to catch up with albums like Morbid Angel Blessed Are the Sick and Deicide Legion. Bands increasingly experimented with complex rhythms and riffs but eschewed the radio-friendly sound of the last generations of metal, including the melodic harmonized guitar attack of Iron Maiden.

Enter Sentenced. Like At the Gates before them, this Finnish band decided to work with melody in addition to complex riffs, and to do so began to work with lead-picked single-string melodies. After their first album of Swedish-inspired primal death metal called Shadows of the Past, Sentenced improved musically and artistically and took the leap into melodic metal. At this point, almost no bands would touch this style as it seemed an anachronism held over from the 1980s where death metal was forging ahead with chromatic riffs and difficult tempi.

Sentenced took the Slayer approach to songwriting with verse-chorus songs interrupted by transitional riffs for emphasis wrapped around a lyrical concept and added to it the Iron Maiden style harmonized guitars producing a melodic effect. Following a lead from At the Gates, the band also allowed melodies to evolve over the course of a song, creating an immersion in similar sound in which slight textural and phrasal changes could take on greater effect. Along with other bands like Unanimated and Cemetary, Sentenced forged a different path which succeeded because it kept the alienated and dark sound of death metal.

Just a few years later, this sound would explode as bands like Dissection mixed more of the NWOBHM melody and even more abrasive death metal and black metal technique into the mix. After that, clone bands like Dark Tranquillity and In Flames took this style further toward radio metal, but for a few years, this small group of melodic death metal bands revealed the potential of this style. North From Here much like its iconic cover transports the listener to a consciousness beyond the everyday in which union with the empty cosmos and the potential of transcendence of the everyday propels the mind through not only darkness but into a sense of magical light which rediscovers life as a visionary journey. Without losing any of the intensity of their earlier album, Sentenced layered emotion on top of aggression and produced a lasting and unsurpassed testament to the power of this genre.

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Sentenced – North from Here

On the 93rd (number of the Thelemic Law) anniversary of the independence of Finland from the Russian Empire, let the northern lights flash their yearning flames beckoning the souls of the fallen warriors of the Civil War. While it may seem to some as a sacrilege to play anything but the Romantic sylvan mystery plays of Sibelius, the true heir of Wagner and one of Finland’s national composers, the early death metal symphonies of Oulu’s Sentenced epitomize a great deal of the same thundering natural melancholy. Following the youthful, reaping, Dismember-esque debut album Shadows of the Past, the musical theory of Jarva, Lopakka and Tenkula turned like the Roman mythical Janus statue two ways at once: towards the pure riffcraft of Iron Maiden and the ethereal, streaming melody of Nordic black metal. Much like At the Gates had captured nearly protestant-religious passion and sadness in Sweden, Sentenced managed to concoct music which was worshipful, raging, realistic (even pessimistic) and imaginative all at once, in defiance of the taciturn apathy characteristic (like alcohol) of the working class of northern Finland. In Sentenced, the pent-up rage of skeptical and prematurely cynical young men was transformed into elaborate poetic reflection.

Power metal riffs in a death metal production would later experience a horrible mangled mutilation death in Children of Bodom’s excessive rock stage theatrics, but the sharp minds of Sentenced treated their source material with such profound affection that heavy metal, thrash, death metal and black metal weave into each other as interminable patterns of tangled paths amidst hypercosmos – a Northern Finnish shaman’s spell. The careful production recalls the most biting moments of Kreator while the technical skills of the guitarists are on par with the hallowed “prog” moments of Atheist and Death. The songs hardly suffer from any useless repetition (the anthemic verse-chorus structure of “Awaiting the Winter Frost” serves a specific purpose in exclaiming the satirical “heavy metal victory” over the forces of light, while it is deliberately obscured whether the narrator is a man, a beast or a spirit). That North from Here was never Sentenced’s most popular or esteemed moment is a total wrongness, as Amok followed on the footsteps of this work adequately, but only that. One of the strongest candidates for the best Death Metal album in the history of Finland, the bewitching maledictions of North from Here, from “Capture of Fire” to “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” (and practically any piece since there is no filler), achieved the aims of “Gothenburg” much more effectively and impudently than the horde’s western neighbours.

-Devamitra-

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Shroud of the Heretic – Unorthodox Equilibrium (2015)

shroud of the heretic_LP2 cover haulix

Skillfully bringing together doom/death, modern atmospheric and war metal styles, Unorthodox Equilibrium is more than a fitting name for describing the musical approach used in this album. Bands playing in any of the aforementioned styles have typically fallen prey to different misconceptions. Some have failed by attempting to adopt an orthodox position simplified to the precept that genre cliches guide songwriting and that the result will be good if it “feels good”. Others have taken a route that attempts to bring more original ideas into the mix but whose ultimate goal is still that each section gives them a certain feeling, an “atmospheric/ambient” effect. We can summarize the cause of these blunders by saying that their approach has been too pleasure-oriented.

In Unorthodox Equilibrium we can hear familiar voices bearing the mark of Worship in Last Tape Before Doomsday, Disembowelment (I refuse to follow ridiculous indications as to what letters should be written in uppercase format) in Transcendence into the Peripheral and Esoteric in Paragon of Dissonance.  Unlike them, though, Shroud of the Heretic only slightly avoids falling into complacency with the immediate effect of their arrangements and instead channels these as methods used measuredly. The band manages to promote a sense of movement in each section while maintaining atmosphere without depending on stagnating in the harmony within one section or getting anchored to one kind of texture or intensity level for too long.  This makes the album an incredibly varied experience within the non-restrictive but focused confines of a florid and eloquently coherent language.

Independently of whether this was a conscious decision or not, the heterodox and non-monolithic composition route taken by Shroud of the Heretic avoids this atmospheric metal trap and represents an excellent indicator of an artistically healthy direction for this subgenre of metal.

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Immortal Release Title Track of New Album “Northern Chaos Gods”

Cash grab alert!  After giving the classic board room “fuck you” to cornerstone musician Abbath, the corporate conglomerate of Demonaz and Horgh have secured the legal rights to the band name “Immortal” and are now positioned to promptly squeeze their fans to blindly buy music and merch advertised as that of a Norwegian black metal legend.  Although the pair have only played together on one album out of 12, they’re billing this as “the comeback of Immortal!” and have already gotten the infamously money-hungry Nuclear Blast records to set up the most overused rock n’ roll ponzi scheme.

Together, the pair have released a new song “Northern Chaos Gods,” the title/intro track of their first foray into commercialized rehash.  So how did the miraculous (fake?) recovery of Demonaz’s tendonitis work out?  Exactly how far into the waters of retro-rehash did the band wonder?  Have they evolved even the slightest as musicians or do they remain forever trapped in the 90’s? As trust fund life-dropouts living in the woods at the expense of their family might say:

“Let’s find out!”

(more…)

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Sadistic Metal Reviews: But Wait, There’s More!

More Sadistic Metal Reviews? Yes, yes, yes!

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Slayer Fall 2016 North American Tour with Death Angel and Anthrax

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Slayer are touring North America this fall with lesser eighties speed metal bands Death Angel and Anthrax. I’m still hoping for a SlayExodus tour where the same lineup plays 75% Slayer and 25% Exodux material. Slayer Fan Club members (Does anyone who doesn’t watch the WWF pay to join this?) may preorder tickets now; sales to the general public go on sale Friday.

Kerry King: “It’s always super fun for us to tour with Anthrax. Frank is one of my best friends in the biz!! Put that together with Death Angel, and fans will probably see the best package this year. See you there!”

With more dates to be announced, here is the confirmed itinerary:

SEPTEMBER
9 Jacob’s Pavilion, Cleveland, OH
10 Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Detroit, MI
12 Sound Academy, Toronto, ON
13 Metropolis, Montreal, QC
15 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
17/18 Rock Allegiance, Chester, PA*
20 Egyptian Room, Indianapolis, IN
22 The Pageant, St. Louis, MO
27 Hard Rock Live, Orlando, FL
28 Fillmore, Miami, FL
30 Horseshoe Casino Tunica, Tunica, MS

OCTOBER
3 Norva, Norfolk, VA
5 Tabernacle, Atlanta, GA
7 Gas Monkey Live, Dallas, TX
8 ACL at the Moody Theatre, Austin, TX
10 Fillmore, Denver, CO
11 The Complex, Salt Lake City, UT
13 The Wilma Theatre, Missoula, MT
17 ENMAX Center, Lethbridge, AB
19 South Okanagan Events Centre, Penticton, BC
20 Abbotsford Centre, Abbotsford, BC
23 Reno Events Center, Reno, NV
27 El Paso County Coliseum, El Paso, TX

* Slayer, Anthrax and Death Angel are all on this bill.

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Rotting Christ and Marduk Fall North American Tour

rotting christ marduk 2016 tour

Greek black metal gods Rotting Christ have announced an extensive North American tour for this fall supporting generic war metal veterans Marduk. They’re coming out here to do some gigs! Shit will be wild man, wild! Here are the dates from Marduk’s Facebook page:

Frontschwein 2016:
NORTH AMERICA
09/02/16 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Culture Room
09/03/16 Tampa, FL The Orpheum
09/04/16 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
09/05/16 Baltimore, MD Soundstage
09/06/16 New York, NY Gramercy Theatre
09/07/16 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
09/08/16 Montreal, QC L’Astral
09/09/16 Toronto, ON The Opera House
09/10/16 Columbus, OH Al Rosa Villa
09/11/16 Chicago, IL Reggie’s
09/12/16 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock
09/13/16 Kansas City, MO The Riot Room
09/14/16 Denver, CO Marquis Theatre
09/16/16 Vancouver, BC Rickshaw Theatre
09/17/16 Seattle, WA Studio Seven
09/18/16 Portland, OR Bossanova Ballroom
09/19/16 Oakland, CA Metro Opera House
09/20/16 Las Vegas, NV LVCS
09/21/16 Los Angeles, CA Regent Theater
09/22/16 Phoenix, AZ Joe’s Grotto
09/23/16 El Paso, TX Mesa Music Hall
09/24/16 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Bar & Grill
09/25/16 Austin, TX Dirty Dog Bar

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