INTERVIEW WITH SAMI LOPAKKA

After the masterpiece "Down" and a transition album like "Frozen" Finnish Sentenced, known but young band, seem having reached the complete artistic maturity with the very recent "Crimson", a true collection of sad and catchy songs. Once again they show to be at ease with the most obscure and pessimistic side of human soul, following what is by now a declared attitude. But is it a honest attitude or just a question of building an image? Let's go and discover it through the words of the guitarist Sami Lopakka.

Hi Sami! First of all I make you my compliments for the new excellent Crimson, an album that I think has the complete possibility to have great success even outside the typical metal field. Do you share my opinion?

Thanks for your compliments. I agree that there's such possibility with "Crimson" as well, but we really don't expect or hope anything before something really happens. The album went directly to number 1 in the official charts of Finland after the first week so it looks pretty promising at the moment.

The element that has impressed me expecially has been your unending skill to compose ever winning and fresh refrains. It's like you succeeded to realize a collection of 11 potential singles, don't you think?

You could say that, yes. The choice for single was a pretty difficult one, as there was if not 11, at least 4-5 songs on the new album that could have been the one. Our songs are pretty much song-orientated and the song-structures are intentionally kept pretty simple in order to get this kind of songs. I think this kind of working is best for SENTENCED nowadays, we find no interest in putting 12 different riffs into a song as it just fucks up the song and the arrangements have no sense in them that way.

With the progressing of their evolutive process, Sentenced have renounced to a certain dose of irruence and aggressiveness in favor to the saddest and most melodic side of their music. In which way has that influenced you, if it did, in your way to compose the songs?

I think we have just been concentrating on the feeling of the song more than being aggressive. Perhaps the hatred we had has over the years turned into suicidal depression via disappointments in life. The hate is still there, it just comes out in different forms. Hope is what we have lost. I think this change has not really changed the way of writing songs, we're just giving more attention to melodies, harmonies and the general atmosphere of the music than before.

Is there among the 11 Crimson songs a track you feel to be more linked>to? And why?

I'm probably too close to the album yet as it was finished only a few months ago. I don't have any regrets about any song, and naming personal favorites at this point is very difficult. But if I had to take one now I'd probably pick up "Fragile". That song is the most personal for me as the lyrics are taken straightly from my life.

This is also the first album you produced on your own without the help of Waldemar Sorychta, and the result is excellent. What have been the problems you had to face during Crimson production? It's a way you'll follow also in the future?

I wouldn't say we did it all by ourselves, as we had Hiili Hiilesmaa co-producing the album all through the process. Hiili took care of the technical sides of the studios and the whole world of sounds, and we were simply concentrating on the music and playing itself. We didn't have much problems (other than mental, heh heh), and this way of working is very much possible, even likely, for us in the future as well.

Comparing the latest album with the previous one it comes to mind that "Frozen" was a sort of transition album, a forced passage to reach to the complete maturation of Crimson. After different months from "Frozen" do you feel to share this opinion?

Yes, but I see the process even wider: each album is a transition to the next one. Although, I would say also that "Crimson" has elements from "Amok", "Down" and "Frozen", and in that sense you could really see it as the maturation of the band. But the journey is not over yet.

Crimson is also a complete and homogeneous album, we can almost consider it someway a perfect and definitive work. What I mean is that maybe from now onwards Sentenced must find a new path to walk if they don't want to risk to repeat themselves, don't you think? Have you already an idea of the way Sentenced will walk in the future?

Thank you for the high compliment. I don't think there's a risk of repeating ourselves even if we continue with the same style (and I think we will at some level at least). We'll always do things in a bit different way with each album. But on the whole, we'd rather split up than start to repeat ourselves totally, so if there's ever a real risk of that we'll take the necessary action to avoid it.

Concepts like the one of suicide, sadness, misery, are recurring subjects in your music. Can we say that you use music as a sort of safety valve or you are inclined to depression also in everyday life?

Depression runs in our blood, no doubt about it. We are pretty negative, pessimistic and depressive in real life as well, this is not something we want to fake just to give some image. And the more our lyrics have elements of real life, the more emotion it gives the whole song. Writing about some ancient horse-riding heroes, dragons or some other fantasy shit is really not the thing for us. We want to keep everything pretty down-to-Earth (even inside-the-Earth, heh heh) and personal. Perhaps it works as a way of therapy as well, but the therapy really doesn't seem to be working as we never get rid of those negative thoughts totally.

Regarding Crimson promotion, have you already planned a tour? Do you already know which bands will make you company on tour?

First we'll do shows here in Finland and then play a lot of festivals all over Europe (a couple in the States as well). After the summer we'll do a headlining European tour plus a tour in the USA. It seems that we'll do the American tour with ICED EARTH.

As far as your guitar influences are concerned, can you tell us what guitar player or bands influenced you in commencing the musical career?

I mostly had influences in the early years, the guitarists in SLAYER, METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN and DEATH especially. But since then I've been trying to avoid musical idols, and concentrating on things of my own. Am I succeeding in that, I really don't know.

Are there in the present scene some bands, metal or not, that you like in particular and you'd like to cooperate with?

Lately I've been listening a lot to mainly 2 albums. TYPE O NEGATIVE's "World Coming Down" and ANATHEMA's "Judgement". If there would sometime come an opportunity to work with one of those bands I'd be glad to do it.

Sentenced are gaining an ever growing success, but is there some objective that you consider important and that you haven't succeeded to achieve with your band?

Not really. Our goals are mainly musical and we have got what we have been after. All the success has been very positive, but still just extra stuff compared to the passion that we have for music.

Last question: is there some particular weird episode in your musician career that you'd like to tell us?

There must be some, but I was always too drunk to remember it afterwards... When the booze starts flowing, weird things start happening. I'm trying to take it a bit easier nowadays. Trying.

Their new "Crimson" is cured, bright and inspired: it has already entered directly the number one in Finnish charts and has all the necessary to gain a very great success throughout Europe. Maybe Sami and his Sentenced will be in a good humor again...

Dario Fagiolator / Silent Scream


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