SENTENCED INTERVIEW - Suicide Art (by Stefan Lejon)

More than eight years have passed since I first came in contact with an Oulu based death metal act called Sentenced. I instantly fell in love with the band’s music and have stayed true ever since. On release after release Sentenced have proved their strenght and their passion for creating music and an eagerness to evolve. Sentenced’s 7th full-lenght album, due out on May 13, once again shows the band heading down new paths with a tad of the past kept in a firm grip of course. I of course had to e-mail Sami Lopakka to get some questions answered.

First off Sami, congrats to another amazing release!!! You must be very very pleased with the result!

- Thanks! We are very pleased with the album. It turned out exactly the way we wanted it to be, with all the variation in the songs. Reviews for “The Cold White Light” have been really good, and now that it’s released we’re just waiting to get on the road to see how the shows turn out.

The new album seems, at least to me, like a more positive album lyricwise. There are not as many suicide and general death related texts. Am I correct in my observations or? If so, why this sudden change?

- Your observation is correct. I wouldn’t say the lyrics are positive, but in most of them there is also this positive dimension, something we very rarely if at all had in the past. I would pseudo-artisticly like to think it is that cold white light we have on the title… Yeah, right. Light “where the sun don’t shine”, heh heh! But seriously, even though we still have melancholy topics and death related lyrics, there is some hope in the distant horizon in most of the lyrics. On the whole there’s a lot of variation in not only the music but in the lyrics as well: there are some more philosophic (well, as much as you can expect from non-functioning and withered brains - ain’t a lot) pieces like “Brief Is The Light” and “Blood & Tears” for example. Then there’s some black-humoured stuff like “The Luxury Of A Grave” and “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”. There are some lyrics that are serious, gloomy and melancholy in the traditional SENTENCED way like “Cross My Heart And Hope To Die”, “No One There” and  “Aika Multaa Muistot”, but also somewhat joyful lyrics like “You Are The One”. Even the most goomy ones have some weird twist of positivity in them, between the lines if not elsewhere. There is no special reason for this, this is the way they came out and this is the way they felt right. When I write I want to have the feeling I can say anything I see best. If I was afraid to express some things because of our past or because of what-so-ever, I’d better shut up. You have to be true to yourself before you can create anything others may find interesting. Even if it meant you’re forced to say something positive, heh heh…

The lyrics for “Excuse Me...” were described in an interview by Laihiala as both sarcastic and ironic – mocking your past. Who wrote that text and could you tell us more about it?

- With those lyrics I wanted to take our suicidal image and really push it far beyond over the edge with lyrics that are nothing but black humour in the end. I wouldn’t say we’re mocking our past with “Excuse Me While I Kill Myself”, we don’t have any regrets about the songs we have done earlier. We are more mocking the image the past songs have created for us. With these kind of lyrics we’re laughing at life and laughing at death, and most importantly laughing at ourselves. We have had elements like these earlier as well, they’re just “a bit” more obvious this time around.

Many seem to think that the Sentenced boys are deeply depressed drunks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My view of you, through our mail correspondense and through reading your lyrics and interviews - which are always quite sarcastic, is very different. How would you describe the mindset of the gang?

- Yes, it sometimes seems people think we’re trying to kill ourselves every day, and eagerly point their fingers when we are not. I for example have been seriously blamed for smiling on the street. What the fuck is that but ridiculous? Because I have written this and that, I’m not entitled to certain things in my life? If we truly wanted to end our lives and tried it all the time, don’t you think at least one of us had succeeded until now? Some people think our lives and our art is, or at least should be one to one. That is just not very good thinking. It is true that we’re not the most positive people on Earth, and spend a lot of our time pissed off, in agony or depressed. It is true that we bathe in melancholy. It is true that in our music and especially lyrics we often concentrate on death and the darker side of life. It is also true that the lyrics are based on real life and real feelings. Negative feelings are however not the ONLY things we are capable of. If they were I’m sure we HAD killed ourselves. We all have our better moments and weaker moments, and we often express and deal with the latter in our music, but one should remember that in the end what people see/hear is a form of art, and not a direct report of our lives.

The musical landscape of Sentenced has been broadened even further with TCWL. I find it a much rougher album than “Crimson” while at times there are some really soft and rock sounding parts. Is this wide variation in your music something you deliberately strive for or is it just coincidental?

- Each song came out different, and I think it was at least subconciously intentional (big words from a potato-sized brain). The songs on “Crimson” are quite alike, and that goes for everything: music, lyrics, arrangements, sound. This time we wanted to have a wide variation of different stuff on the album in all of the mentioned. To have energetic, faster-paced and rocking songs but also more mellow, and very melancholy atmospheres. Because of this variation I think the album needs a lot of listening before it kind of opens and you grow into it, but when it happens you’ll notice that “The Cold White Light” has more depth to it than anything we did before.

Now a small question about your former vocalist Taneli Jarva who has a new band going these days – The Black League. Have you heard his band and what do you think of their music? Are you still friends with him?

- I’m still friends with him and I have everything from the League. There was never any bad blood between Taneli and any of us. I think there are some brilliant moments in The Black League’s music but for my taste a bit too few.

You took a short break after the “Crimson” tour. What effect has that had on your musicwriting, performance etc? Why the break?

- We were very stressed out after that tour, and besides the break the other alternative was frankly to split up. To take the break turned out to be a very wise decision – maybe the only one during our history – as by it we kind of found it all again: the joy of creating, the joy of writing, the joy of playing. It all felt worthwhile again. When we started to rehearse again the atmosphere was very relaxed, and everyone came up with fresh-sounding ideas. All of a sudden there was way too many songs. Because we didn’t want to put out an album that would be too long, in the studio we had to figure out how to get rid of some of them. We had a positive problem so to speak - maybe the only one during our history.

As with all bands these days, your music – thanks to some punk ass journalists – has been uploaded on the web and made available weeks before the release. What do you think of this phenomena?

- It makes me both sad and mad. If this is the course things will take in the future a lot of bands (and thus a lot of journalists) will disappear. It makes absolutely no sense to spend shitloads of money to record albums just for that they could be sucked home from the net for nothing. I was very glad to see that at least some of our listeners really stood up against this shit and refused to download the songs.

What will happen now after the release of the album. Do you have a tour booked yet? Any specific places you would like to visit during a new tour? Places you haven’t been to before etc.

- First there’ll be a lot of club and festival shows in Finland, and some in central Europe as well. It seems after the summer we’ll finally tour in North America, at least the biggest cities for a few weeks. After that one, in October, we’ll start a headlining European tour, which will probably take 4-5 weeks. We have plans also for places like South America, Mexico, Turkey, Russia and Japan, but as everything is just under negotiation and not confirmed, I can’t really promise anything. The sure thing is that we’ll be busy with shows, and for the first time in years even happy about that.

Thank you for your time Sami! Any final words to the readers?

- Thank you for your questions and sorry for my answers.

by Stefan Lejon

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