"Buried Alive"

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RATING: /10

So this is it, the final farewell to a band that called it quits voluntarily after evolving from barren death metal artisans and English manglers ("Rot to Dead"! "Desperationed Future"!) in the late 1980s to a sleek, melancholy hit-making machine (in their native Finland, anyway). While some would point out that SENTENCED had "matured" to the point where many of their songs seemed a bit too similar, there's no denying the sheer cojones it takes to voluntarily pull the plug on a band at the top of its popularity.

Then again, we shoulda seen it coming — it's not as if SENTENCED haven't been talking about offing themselves, literally or figuratively, for at least a decade now. And let it be said that the band knows how to throw one helluva wake — an instantly sold-out show from October of last year is captured here, and the crowd is eager to sing along, clap to the acoustic parts, and chant (an endearing three-syllable "SEN! TEN! CED!") at any open moment.

The band is in fine form, with a clear mix that actually sounds live and unvarnished, with occasional vocal slip-ups from singer Ville Laihiala -- a true document of the night in question, not a studio-rigged best of with superfluous crowd noise. This is a hometown show for the people who put the band on top, definitely -- Laihiala delivering his between-song rants in Finnish, not kowtowing to the international release of this live album.

Disc two opens with a treat, sort of — original vocalist Taneli Jarva shows up to warble his way through a set of older tracks from his time in the band. "The War Ain't Over!" and "The Way I Wanna Go" are kickass tunes, but Jarva sounds even more ludicrous than he did back then, bellowing in a comical and off-key holler with all the style and finesse of an overwrought Middle-Earth dwarf. Laihiala returns for "Noose", and brings things back into the present day for a well-received finale, including a scorching "Cross My Heart and Hope To Die" that especially hits home on this night.

Even with over two dozen tunes included, some might question the song selection (no "Killing Me, Killing You"?). And, if you're one of those people for whom a little SENTENCED goes a long way, this is gonna seem like a particularly monotonous horsepill to swallow, too many redundant hard rock songs about suicide broken up only by Jarva's Muppet-mouthed trip down memory lane. But if you can't wallow in your catalog at your farewell concert, where can you? This is a document for the diehards, delivered in the same wry and droll manner as the band's best studio work, and a fitting sendoff for one of Finland's most beloved exports.

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