Century Media’s “The Vault” series resurrects prime cuts from Century Media’s past on glorious limited edition vinyl for under $20 a pop. The series at the time of writing consists of Samael’s Blood Ritual and Ceremony of Opposites, and the subject of this review, Sentenced’s exceptional sophomore effort, North from Here.
Like fellow countrymen Amorphis at the same time, Sentenced were consciously detaching from the traditional (and excellent) death metal of their demos and barely-released debut, 1991’s Shadows of the Past. 1990-1993 were volatile times in death metal, and North from Here came roaring out of the gates, sporting a new and fully-developed sound. The complex arrangements and speedy, twisting riffs bring to mind the likes of Megadeth at their most noodling, but the serpentine melodies, vocalist Taneli Jarva’s Grutle Kjellson-esque rasp and the album’s overall sadistic and mysterious vibe scream black metal, without ever actually being black metal. The mix further removes them from their death metal roots by thinning the guitars and pushing them to the back of the mix, and letting the drums and bass drive (Jarva’s surprisingly nimble bass playing is clearly audible and a nice treat). It’s an odd mix with something unpleasant going on in the top end, but it’s also clean, clear and detailed which is important when the music is this busy.
As for the vinyl, we get a mixed bag. On one hand, the snot green LP delivers the mix as well as can be expected. This was never the best sounding album, and it still isn’t, but remastering hijinks seem to have to been kept to a minimum. On the other, the new-but-not-improved cover art, framed with a cheesy metal ’n’ rivets border loudly declaring “THE VAULT” looks incredibly cheap and stands in stark contrast with the classy treatment the Death Certificate series got. But if this is a budget release, how do you explain the gatefold jacket, custom colored vinyl, color insert sheet with lyrics and massive double-sided color poster? Century Media certainly didn’t cut any corners with the rest of the package.
On any format, North from Here is a fantastically layered album that puts so much on the plate one can listen to it for years and continue to find new things buried in its twisting passages. While Sentenced delivered one last stellar album with 1995’s Amok, that album’s NWOBHM leanings and downright rockin’ accessibility signaled the imminent death of their creativity and ushered in the slow decline of their “suicide metal” years. North from Here was Sentenced’s peak and having it on the shelves again for a new generation to discover is a good thing, no matter what the cover looks like.