"The Funeral Album"

(Century Media)

01. May Today Become the Day
02. Ever-Frost
03. We are but Falling Leaves
04. Her Last 5 Minutes
05. Where Waters Fall Frozen
06. Despair-Ridden Hearts
07. Vengeance is Mine
08. A Long Way to Nowhere
09. Consider us Dead
10. Lower the Flags
11. Drain Me
12. Karu
13. End of the Road

RATING: 7.5/10

Well, the poor bastards finally went and did it. No veiled threats and no pathetic cries for attention, just a recognition that SENTENCED had run its musical course. I'll miss those wonderfully morbid lyrics and the chilly, hook-laden hard rock and metal of the Finnish suicide kings. As much as "The Funeral Album" is quintessential SENTENCED, short of a second change in direction, I'm not sure there was anywhere else to go with the band's patented style. The risk of the group becoming a caricature of itself and drawing attention away from a unique sound and intriguing lyrical concept would have been a damn shame. Instead, SENTENCED go out in style with a workmanlike effort.

Fans of "Crimson" and "The Cold White Light" should enjoy "The Funeral Album", just as I've enjoyed it (hey, I'm a fan). Characteristics of both albums can be heard on the new disc. That's a positive for the diehards, yet I'd be lying if I said I couldn't hear the sounds of a band beginning to spin its wheels. We're not talking major disappointment here, but the songs don't have quite the staying power of those on "Crimson" or "The Cold White Light". You'll hear the "Crimson" vibes on "May Today Become the Day", while both "Consider Us Dead" and "Vengeance is Mine" would have been a good fit for "The Cold White Light". All are good songs; none are SENTENCED classics.

The lyrics on "The Funeral Album" are what you'd expect. Songs about the pleasantries of skull bashing, never hiding your contempt, and encouraging those you love to pull the trigger and blow your brains out have "The Cold White Light" written all over them. As lovely as the lyrical content may be and as effective as those familiar vocal patterns sound, SENTENCED haven't topped the macabre beauty of "Excuse Me While I Kill Myself" or "The Luxury of a Grave".

So maybe "The Funeral Album" doesn't boast a "Bleed in my Arms" or a "Brief is the Light", but there is enough here to satisfy. The little things on this one do go a long way. On "Death-Ridden Hearts", a harmonica (or synth effect) is heard as an acoustic guitar is strummed, seemingly a somber piece until it turns into an up-tempo rocker. "Ever-Frost" and "We are but Falling Leaves" both meet SENTENCED quality standards, while the 56-second melodic death metal interlude, "Where Waters Fall Frozen", is a tongue-in-cheek blast from the past that was a perfect choice for the swan song album. "End of the Road" is the death knell, the first half a gothic-tinged and melancholy dirge, the second half the band's final rock-out, thus closing the book forever. I'm just glad I finally got a chance to see the boys perform live before they closed up shop.


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