Crimson (Century Media)
by Martin Popoff
Sentenced and Amorphis sit perched atop the Finnish metal scene for a reason, both acts evoking a magical star quality, a rock star mystique built of origins far darker than their current states. But while Amorphis has courted the psychedelic and progressive, Sentenced have found mournful ways to reconstitute sensibly-arranged power chord rock, even if they seem to have resigned themselves to making the same record over again. Through seven records and ten years in operation, these frosty metal mavens have moved from malevolent death toward a sound that is controversial in its accessible mainstream grooves, a sound that is perhaps the only one to evoke thoughts of modern-day Metallica, a place where few dare to go. But Sentenced do indeed go there, for better or worse, taking the baton from Paradise Lost, finding churning chugging grooves which then become uneasy through the band’s morose melodies and subliminal death metal instincts. A honing of the rainy Gothic strains of ’98’s Frozen, Crimson is a pageant of deep blue European melodies, vocalist Ville Laihiala increasing his use of clean vocals, even if his dirty sound is now only as gruff as that of James Hetfield, and even if there’s a trace of being out of tune. Doom delivered seductively, depression submerged in the celebration of big drums and anthemic, powerful choruses, emotion splayed and frayed within rock songs that together form a cohesive synergy: this is why Sentenced continue to gather effusive European press with each successive release, despite a nagging crossover quality that more often than not, has me reaching for Amok or the magnificent Down, both from the mid (and hungry) years.