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Sentenced Buried Alive CD/DVD

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Monday, February 12, 2007 @ 5:15 PM

Century Media Records

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There is a guy somewhere who was present during the recording of "Cheap Trick At Budokan" who is still talking about that show. Every now and then he'll throw on the cd and rock out. Some people who know him think he's a lucky guy; others think he's a totally self-obsessed asshole who can't let go. But now and again, at parties, people will ask him, "Hey, how was that show, really?" And he'll be all excited and talk about it, recalling every detail of the show from start to finish, including his flight there and back.

Anyone who was ever present at the recording of a live performance, which is later sanctioned as an official release can share in the thrill of that guy who saw Cheap Trick back when. Phish fans and Grateful Dead fans - and let's face it, these days, anyone with a cellphone video camera - knows the excitement of reliving a fun night out seeing a band they love. Your relatives who were at Woodstock, or at the Newport Jazz Festival when Dylan went electric; whoever was at the Altamont Race Track... even people who danced at Studio 54 right next to Liza Minneilli and so on: those people shared in something that became the stuff of legend. Those precious hours were all part of a greater experience in their lives and they savor each moment and relish those memories.

But in all fairness, you have to take their enthusiasm with a grain of salt, no matter how compelling the story.

Everybody's got a good story to tell, but the Finnish goth-metal band Sentenced has a very unique story. After sixteen years of recording and touring, (with some great success in Scandinavia and Europe, South America and Japan; and some under-the-radar cult status in the United States), they decided to call it quits. Not like all these bands that keep reuniting be it for fun or for profit, going out on tour just one more time, just one last time; the five members of Sentenced decided that enough was enough. Granted, detractors will speculate otherwise; but with shovels in hand, Sentenced decided to pack it in for once and for all.

Pretty bold. A goth-metal rock group in the vein of Type O Negative and The Cult decides to give up the ghost just as a shitload of bands from Finland are beginning to enjoy some popularity and commercial success in the lucrative US market (ie: H.I.M.; Children of Bodom; Nightwish; Lordi)? Are these guys depressed or crazy or what?

A: All of the above.

For those who never followed the band, or can't be bothered to Google them, Sentenced was a five-piece, two-guitar hard rock band who started out playing thrash. After three or four releases, singer Taneli Jarva left the band and in 1996 was replaced by Ville Laihiala. The band had changed direction, drastically some would say, and began a new era in what would become the best-known legacy of Sentenced. Over the years Sentenced would go on, largely unnoticed in the States, but nonetheless continuing to make exciting music; much of it in the style now epitomized by the more prominent countrymen H.I.M.

So in 2005, prior to the release of its' last studio record, "The Funeral Album," Sentenced announced that they had reached the end of the road. They would support the release with a tour and end it all in its hometown of Oulu, Finland on October 1, 2005.

At first this was taken as a press campaign publicity stunt. "Oh, those crazy Finns... they don't mean it!" But that's exactly what they did. Following its penultimate show on September 30, 2005 (called "The Wake"), Sentenced checked out after a two and half hour show the next night. That show was called "The Funeral of Sentenced."

"Buried Alive," both on CD and DVD, marks that evening.

The CD is 26 tracks spanning two discs, and for Sentenced fans, it's a must-have. But the DVD is the winner by a country mile. A fourteen-camera extravaganza shot at Club Teatria in Oulu, the recording captures all of the elements of the show, from its' poignant, soulful premise, through the best of the band's catalogue, to the woeful, almost tearful goodby; "Buried Alive" is more than just a footnote to the legacy of a great band, it is a smashing portrayal of a band going out in style. It's clear that these guys are serious about packing it in, and culturally, those Finns don't fuck around. That working class ethic is built-in from the start, and if you say you're going to do something, you'd better do it and stick to it. If they recant and reformed in ten years, they would have no audience to play to. Plus- why should they care anyway? Finland has it pretty good, with socialized medicine and subsidies for musicians... not to mention some damn beautiful women: why would they bother? They don't give a flying fuck. They're in Finland.

Not that being in Finland is so great. The winter lasts forever and in Oulu, the sun goes down pretty early. If your idea of fun is walking the nose and partying with Kelly Slater, then you probably aren't much of a Sentenced fan anyway. Those Finns have it pretty good, yes, but they have a wicked tax rate and live in a country where darkness is a way of life. It goes to point about Sentenced, because, in a manner of speaking, they make Danzig look like Jimmy Buffett.

But, the very compelling thing about Sentenced is that they made great music and managed to capture it live... and beautifully.

The first DVD is the concert, and newcomers to this band will notice a striking resemblance between singer Laihiala and Type O Negative singer Peter Steele. Intentional or otherwise, it speaks to the style of the music they play. A lot of the band's music (written by guitarist Sami Lopakka) is about suicide, or thinking about suicide, or how nice suicide is... but they also manage to rock with reckless abandon and a lotta heart. Songs like "Neverlasting" recall The Cult in a Bob Rock-mode; while others like "May Today Become The Day;" "Ever Frost;" "Dead Moon Rising" and "Excuse Me While I Kill Myself" represent much of the band's goth-metal leanings. A special guest appearance by original singer Jarva near the end gives early Sentenced fans a taste of what was and what will never be again, though it is almost more poignant than electrifying considering the motivation behind it.

The second disc on the DVD release offers videos, interviews and behind the scenes of the end of the band. All of the conversation is in Finnish, though it is subtitled: but the behavior of the band, while ludicrous and crass at times, is, in any language, a riot. These guys get drunk, they behave like morons, they can't keep a straight face for more than a minute during photo-shoots... considering this was all done with the death of the band in mind, it's unsettling and really funny to see these guys in such denial. Clearly they are masking pain with alcohol and hysterics.

Overall, both releases are more than worth picking up for any Sentenced fan. The sound quality is fantastic on both formats; but the video footage is amazing, and the event itself is contagious as the show sucks the viewer right in. Casual fans or those who are curious might do well to pick up "Crimson," "The Cold White Light" or "The Funeral Album" before trying either of these out. Thought the video is on the DVD, one of the band's best songs, "Killing Me, Killing You" is not included on the "Buried Alive" set, simply because the band didn't want to bring a piano out and sully the mood of the show just by doing "the hit." And they should be commended for having that kind of integrity in this day and age.

The singer, Ville Laihiala is now with a more guitar-driven band called Poisonblack. Guitarist Lopakka is working on a book. And record company Century Media has lost one its' brightest and yet darkest stars. Sentenced will be missed by its' fans; although those who had never heard of them and are just discovering them will only miss Sentenced that much more knowing that they'll never see this band alive (except on DVD).

But for Sentenced fans who wanted to get a chance to see what they were all about and share in the excitement, "Buried Alive" is an excellent way for you to mourn the dead.

And I should know. I was there.

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