Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sentenced - Shadows of Past [1991]

I'm sure any death metal fan reading this knows about Finland and the country's tendency to unleash filthy, murky death metal of the highest caliber, so I won't ramble on about it and bore you. Sentenced is one such band that took up their axes and then proceeded to drown them in melodic, doomy brilliance and then drop tune the shit out of them. Seriously, these guys must have gone a major Bolt Thrower binge because the amount of grooving and chugging on "Shadows of Past" is ridiculous. The opening track "When the Moment of Death Arrives" starts off the way that you would expect a Finndeath band to sound - with a dark, yet beautiful melody that sets up the tone and then all of a sudden this plodding, behemoth-like riff enters the fray and heads begin to bang. "Rot to Dead" and "Under the Suffer" are a couple more tracks that embrace the "Realm of Chaos" groove and pummeling and they do it incredibly well. 

Of course, this is Finnish death metal and "Shadows of Past" isn't just a Bolt Thrower-worship record. There are plenty of melodies strung throughout this album, whether they're used as an atmosphere enhancer like on the intro to "Rotting Ways of Misery," or they're being used to balance out the heaviness with the melodic like on "Disengagement," Sentenced knows how to write some great music that isn't just endless tremolos and blast beats. Another notable trait of the country's style of death metal is the underlying doom influence and just about every song has a moment that is undeniably doomy. The powerchords possess a grim emptiness to them that conjures the feel most of the time, similar to a band like Autopsy, but there are also plenty of riffs that are just straight-up doom ("Disengagement"). But, the major influence for this low-end sound is none other than the heavy-as-fuck bass. The bass creeps along and is always the elephant in the room, so to speak, and its presence is very welcome as far as I'm concerned. 

In addition to the Bolt Thrower grooving and the more melodic material, a lot of the other riffs and parts of the music are greatly influenced by the godfathers of death metal, Death. The tremolo sections throughout reek of "Leprosy"-era Death, as they're fast and somewhat evil sounding, but not as heavy as a band like Incantation or as evil as a band like Morbid Angel. The vocals are also very reminiscent of Chuck Schuldiner, but there's also a healthy dose of Brett Hoffmann in there as well. "Shadows of Past" is definitely a great record to have in your collection if you're a fan of Bolt Thrower, Death or Autopsy, as it is a fantastic representative of what Finland had to offer, though Sentenced wasn't the best. It's a shame that these guys would go on to later produce some utter shit, but at least I've still got this album to deteriorate my eardrums to...

"When the Moment of Death Arrives"
"Rot to Dead"
"Suffocated Beginning of Life"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.3/10]