Classic Review: Sentenced “Shadows of the Past” [Thrash Records]

Classic Review: Sentenced “Shadows of the Past” [Thrash Records]

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Score 76%
Summary
76 %
Long before they were gothics
User Rating : 3.9 (1 votes)

Long before Sentenced embraced their inner gothic, they were yet another death metal band that showed no hint of what they’d end up like in the years ahead. Compared to other albums of its time Shadows of the Past is by no means unique, yet it remains unique in the band’s catalog as it shows the band at their grittiest. Forget the drunken howls and Maiden-inspired licks of Amok and don’t come in expecting the adrenaline-pumping riff-craft of North from Here. Shadows of the Past represents nothing but a faithful slab of old school death metal.

Whereas Finnish death metal was often characterized by its murky ugliness, Shadows of the Past doesn’t express itself in ways one might expect – indeed, there’s something rather un-Finnish about this album and I’d argue that at this point Sentenced had a tad more in common with Bolt Thrower than any other band. Regardless of being stylistically extreme, Shadows of the Past feels somewhat ominously melodic; guitars never turn into hyper-speed shred mode and instead they deliver some tasteful semi-shredded and semi-melodic solos from time to time. There are also very little blast beats to be found here (only present on one track) and when they do appear, they work excellently well in the context of it (of course the balanced mix is to thank for this, too).

“When the Moment of Death Arrives” sums what Sentenced had in store at this point; fluently switching between the mid paced heavy grooves and rolling tremolo riffing it’s an excellent opener with some tasteful leads to open and end the track with. “Disengagement” sees the drummer taking charge through a brief but welcoming blast-beat attack before gloom and doom gets unfold through a morbid slow passage and back again; definitely another highlight that demonstrates the band’s feeling for contrasts very well. However, Shadows of the Past does contain quite a lot of amount of material – some songs aren’t exactly great and some I could easily have done without. The creepy opening of “Rot to Dead” sounds like something you’d expect out of South of Heaven, yet the track features some inferior riffing unlike most of other the songs here. “The Truth” certainly tries to set the tone of the track with a creepy acoustic line before a moody guitar solo takes over, but otherwise starts off in quite a tedious manner. Unfortunately, the worst offenders get presented near the end of Shadows of the Past; “Under the Suffer” sounds a tad too melodic for its own good with no real hook-y riffs in sight, although I’m fond of the Leprosy-esque solos that get played with morbid class. “Descending Curtain of Death” feels more like a guitar exercise than anything else; passively it dwells on with some mediocre leads and no real riff to intensify any moment on it… not exactly the ideal way to close an album, but so be it.

Otherwise there’s very little to nitpick about Shadows of the Past and just like plenty of early death metal records, this album contains that certain kind of appeal and catchiness that made death metal so appealing in its heyday. “Beyond the Distant Valleys” exemplifies the most intense moments of Shadows of the Past where the band just doesn’t hold back. Maniacal Morgoth-esque howls echo through the spooky scenery of the cover artwork while the guitars grind their way onward. In addition there’s a prominent bass that fluently melts with the guitar lines and a powerhouse of a drummer who pounds the rhythm section onward with malice (partially thanks to that thick-as-stone drum sound). It’s a great song and it just makes me wonder why Sentenced switched their gears so quickly; it seemed like they had a lot of fun playing this kind of death metal at the time.

Had anyone told these guys that they’d end up playing soft gothic music just a few years later, they probably would have laughed in your face. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine that Sentenced would mellow down so much in a short amount of time, but they really did. While my preference goes out to the blistering North from Here, Shadows of the Past marked start of promising band and it’s worth checking out.

Released in 1992

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