Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Sentenced - North from Here (1993)

While the band's debut doesn't strike me as one of the more unique offerings from the earlier years of the Finnish death metal scene, it's follow-up was absolutely embarking upon its own sound much like peers Demilich, only with a different sense of melody and not so much of the jazzy grooving, uber guttural other-ness. North from Here was my first exposure to the band, and I was instantly smitten with its choppy take on weird technical, melodic death metal, compelling enough to overcome the few flaws I had with its strangely processed sound. In retrospect, the cover image is rather dull, but I remember being wowed by the idea of this dimly lit, frozen forest beneath the Borealis lights, and wintry death metal that seemed like it was being concocted in a lab beneath one of the local glaciers.

This thing is just wrought with ideas, that range from clamorous, confusing riffs, to exotic escapes like "Wings" and its Amorphis-like melodies, to incredible walls of melody and leads like you discover in the masterful "Awaiting the Winter Frost". Just a few minutes will capture your imagination, and add to that some of Taneli Jarva's sickest, splattering death metal vocals, which don't really sound much like he did on Amok, but a very interesting takeover from Miika's style on the debut (he also does still contribute). But it's the crazy performance from the instruments that really evokes this album's unforgettable, nervous and intense moods, the most complex and agile guitar work of the band's entire catalogue, wild drumming in a panic to keep up with those riffs, and extremely fluid bass playing to anchor it all to the cold ground below. Fuck, North from Here might even suffer a fraction from just having TOO much happening, as much as I enjoy this one I always felt like it was a little cluttered in its transitions, sections crashing into one another rather than merging as epically as they should.

But I am willing to forgive this due to the band's youthful exuberance and envelope-pushing, which went sadly unnoticed against superior death metal bands spawning duller but more 'brutal' sounds about this same time. It's not my favorite Sentenced album, because the Finns would undergo an even more insane evolution for Amok, to the point that it doesn't even sound like the same band, and I just happen to love the songwriting and style there...but who cares? I can have both, and this is easily one of the most important gems of that early scene, which has proliferated in recent years and become one of the strongest on the planet, even though many of its practitioners edge towards the more cavernous style and not the brilliant progressive tendencies of this record or Nespithe. If you love death metal, you MUST own this one, so if for some reason you're only acquainted with the later Gothic/heavy metal style, and don't like that, fair enough, but back in them early 90s, they was somethin' else, and North From Here still boggles my brain even as I approach the half-century club.

Verdict: Win [8.75/10]

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