Sentenced North From Here: the album that exploded melodic metal

by Brett Stevens
July 22, 2014 –

sentenced-north_from_here

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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37 comments

  • Phallus

    I think there’s also an undeniable Unquestionable Presence influence here. Anyway, fantastic use of melody and the band’s ability for the music to match the content was extraordinary.
    The most Finnish sounding metal album!

    Some epic lyrics too:

    I cut a thousand cuts
    Streams run (down) along my arms
    Oh the scars in the wind…!
    Guiding my pathway on my ride

    A gathering in the cold, in the North, in the dark lands of Pohjola
    Where the sun had not been crossing the sky nor seen for centuries…

    We were brought together by oaths we had once sworn – by blood…
    …once together drawn…

    We had gathered all our forces
    Called together all the heroes
    Equipped a hundred swordsmen
    And a thousand men with crossbows

    Strengthened by hate and the thirst for the enemies’ blood
    We lay in wait for the season of no light
    We had seen the frozen mist – we weren’t afraid to die
    And the oaths we had sworn gave a reason to live on

    1. discodjango

      I had the same thought about the “Unquestionable Presence” influence. There is a little bit of Voivod and Coroner to find here, too.

    1. Brett Stevens Post author

      Glad to see some epistemological consistency from these guys. I always wanted to know if they were inspired by the Stephen Coontz novel Flight of the Intruder.

  • TheWaters

    This is an incredible record! Complex, melodic, agressive and melodic in the best sense of the term. Thanks for highlighting this record, it deserves to be well know and well spun.

  • fenrir

    Checking this album out in the following days. Thanks for another guiding article as an introduction to an excellent album.

  • Tintie L'Vendre

    Well said. Fuckin’ GODLY album. Been obsessing on the “Rotting Ways…” demo for the past few months.

    PS: “tempi”
    lol buttdart

  • Kingdom_Gone

    One of my favorite albums all time and a great article on it. I think no-one has quite reached the chilling athmosphere of this album. Many times I have wandered with this on headphones after the sun has set… “while you were asleep I was awake to be a part of the dark”…

  • Phallus

    Apparently, someone launched a petition to get Ghost to break up and he’s getting a lot of stick from hipsters around the world.

    “We petition against Ghost of the heavy metal genre that continues to make albums and tour. Many people getting into metal think that they are the real deal and that we should forget the real bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, etc. They wish to destroy real metal with their carnival music nonsense. Seriously, is a song like If You Have Ghost actually something that a real metalhead would listen to? They are not metal. People also make the erroneous claim that they are so directly inspired by King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, which is just wrong. They are, in fact, a watered-down version of BOC. We the people oppose Ghost continuing as a band, and they should be split up as soon as possible.”

    “Obviously just 100 won’t convince Ghost and their management to listen! If we get 10,000 signatures then MAYBE they will listen and stop making music. Ghost has already spent the last several years butchering our ears with their awful poser music. Real metal does not involve Hot Topic bands. Ghost is not metal. Thank you for reading.”

    Ha! This dude deserves some support.

    899 signatures at the moment.
    Sign here:
    https://www.change.org/petitions/ghost-band-shut-down-the-swedish-retro-metal-band-ghost

    1. Richard Head

      What a waste of time and a laughably impotent gesture. As if some record company is going to stop providing funding to a high-selling band with lots of buzz around them because a handful of autists signed some online petition.

      Best thing we can do is ignore them. Don’t even type their name. If you meet someone who thinks the music is cool, take the appropriate steps and introduce them to better heavy metal bands. You can show them the light; we are all Lucifer.

      1. Phallus

        Why so serious? This guy is obviously trolling. And it’s a good troll if you ask me, especially since it reached some of the most popular rock/”metal” news sites.

        Plus, what he says is true: It’s not metal, it’s not Mercyful Fate, it’s watered-down Blue Oyster Cult.

        Now go sign the petition! It only takes like 5 seconds.

        1. Richard Head

          Metal is serious business you fop. If Ghost were brilliant, they would have thought this ploy up themselves, and I’m not sure they (or whoever is in charge of their marketing) didn’t. Remember, there is no such thing as bad publicity. All this “petition” is doing is giving the band more exposure (“lol look how many haters thiz band has, obvs their doing sumthing right, HAIL GHOST 4 LYFE”). This isn’t “trolling”, it’s just fucking retarded.

          1. Phallus

            Only idiots would show interest in a band just because it has many haters.
            If this brings Ghost 100 more idiotic fans and at the same time makes one random 15 year old check out Mercyful fate or Judas Priest, I’m ok with it.
            Now carry on with your serious business, you’re such an intellectual.

            1. Richard Head

              You’re missing my point. I’ll try to be less “intellectual”. Fans of Ghost are not going to be swayed by a petition to shut the band down. Not even morons think that such a thing is possible anyway. This petition is just a circlejerk of faggots who have nothing to say except that they agree that Ghost plays shitty music. Wow, what’s next? Maybe we should go talk trash in the comments section of a Dragonforce video on Youtube. Death to false metal and all that.

              For the average (read: retarded) music listener, their position is reinforced when they hear people putting down music that they like and they rationalize this behaviour in totally inane ways (“lol ur just jelly that they sell more rekkids than ur shitty underground bands”). When they see this petition it will bolster their resolve to support their favorite band because nothing unites a group like a common enemy. If you are really against Ghost’s music then you are doing yourself a disservice by spreading this petition around.

              Wait… It’s all starting to come together… You’re one of the dudes in the band, aren’t you? ;P

              1. Phallus

                Read again what I wrote before.
                We live in a day and age where kids discover Iron Maiden through a Flash of the Blade cover by Avenged Sevenfold.
                A -not so average- listener might pick the right side. Maybe that’s something.
                Ghost is a trend after all, and it’s going to fade away, one way or another.
                Trying to initiate new metalheads/hessians/whatever straight through Celtic Frost, might have worked back in the 80s (for a few people), but it certainly won’t work now.
                Even if Ghost themselves launched this petition, then so be it.

                1. Richard Head

                  At least we agree on one thing; Ghost’s music is a trend and will fade given time. My argument stems from the reality that the fewer people hear about Ghost, the faster their popularity will decline. If you still can’t understand that then I’ll just have to leave this dumb argument where it lies.

                  1. Phallus

                    Sooner, later, doesn’t really matter.
                    I doubt that the point of this was to really get Ghost to break up.
                    That would be too dumb, even for the most hardcore Manowar fan!

  • wEEman33

    The weird thing about this album is that it was so good, yet everything else Sentenced made — before and after it — ranges from mediocre to complete trash.

    After At The Gates’ first EP and first LP, North From Here is probably the best album in this style.

    1. discodjango

      In my opinion “Shadows Of The Past” is a pretty good death metal album. Obviously it is influenced by the early Swedish style mixed with some Bolt Thrower and early doom-death from the UK, but it has its own dark voice.

      1. TheWaters

        Have to agree here. Shadows of the Past is not perfect, but its still a soli B-B+ record. The major probelm was that they had not synthesized their influences yet.

        1. Ollie

          Both Shadows of Past and North from Here are great albums. While Shadows shows less distinct personality, the performance is top notch, as is the production, there is nothing mediocre about it. I stopped listening after North from Here.

          1. Phallus

            Amok is good heavy metal with goth (Fields of the Nephilim) influences, but don’t go into it expecting a worthy follow-up to NfH.

            1. richard roma

              If you have a tolerance for mainstream/oldschool influenced stuff, Amok is good – but yeah don’t expect death metal. Taneli Jarva still wrote all the songs as on NFH, after Amok he left and the band’s light went out for good.

              I actually don’t mind some of more mainstream early melodic DM albums – Tales from 1000 Lakes, the Gallery, Terminal Spirit Disease etc. All the bands eventually turned to shit but halfway down the spiral they still had some inspiration left to appreciate.

              1. Phallus

                Wait, I thought Miika Tenkula was the main songwriter. At least he’s credited for the music of 5 NFH songs, whereas Jarva is credited for 2 in the NFH booklet.

                People blame Jarva’s departure for the drop quality but it was coming anyway. Look at what Jarva is doing now. Even the radio metal of Frozen is better than anything his dressed-up heavy rock band ever released.

                1. dawn

                  never heard it, but i have a hard time visuallizing Frozen being better than anything at all.

  • Peter

    This was my introduction to Sentenced and it remains a personal favourite to this day. Glad to see someone giving it the recognition it deserves!

    1. discodjango

      “The Somberlain” carries the true spirit as much as “North From Here”. It’s not a sham like In Flames or Dark Tranquillity.

  • Lord Mosher

    Speaking about heavy metal… can we expect a full review of the recently released Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls ? It’d be great.

  • amber the hammer

    This album helped me appreciate introducing riffs in the right context, rather than focusing solely on one melody or rhythm.