Entries in gothic metal (2)


Sentenced - Vengeance Is Mine

Admittedly, I love Sentenced. The "Frozen" and "Crimson" albums are in my regular listening rotation and I often find myself with a craving that can only be satisfied by immersing myself in Sentenced. Those listening moments are typically darkened a bit by my own sadness that Sentenced is gone and only partially replaced by Poisonblack (who I also listen to often). If you're gonna end a band, though, what better than to hold your own funeral. It's not often that entertainment leaves us with a perfect punctuation to end a chapter or series (e.g. the last episode of "Newhart"), but Sentenced did that for us when they released "The Funeral Album" and associated concert video.

Not that Finnish goth metal shies away from dark themes, but Sentenced took the funeral theme that much further for their final album. You can tell, even without listening to a single word or note, just look at the song titles: "End Of The Road", "Lower The Flags", "Consider Us Dead", "Her Last 5 Minutes", "We Are But Falling Leaves", etc. I've often enjoyed albums that have such a well-defined theme that cohesiveness is guaranteed. I have similar feelings about My Chemical Romance's "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge", there's just this energy that develops out of a solid vision; the songs aren't just thrown together by when they were written and recorded.

As you might guess, I quite often listen to "The Funeral Album" in its entirety. However, there are other times when I need a quick dose, I need some Sentenced and I need that album but I don't have time for the whole thing. When that happens, I need to cut to the chase and go right to the one song that pumps me up when things aren't going well. Unlike many of the other songs in goth metal, "Vengeance Is Mine" is about revenge and retribution, not decline into darkness. Much like Queen's "Death On Two Legs", "Vengeance Is Mine" gets the message across directly and pulls no punches.

There's really no better way to give you a clear picture than to simply present the words. The whole song (words and music) deliver the message, but this verse/chorus combination is sufficient to give you a sense of what I'm talking about:


Excerpt from "Vengeance Is Mine", (Music: Tenkula & Sentenced, Lyrics: Lopakka)

Verse 2
We're not done, I will hunt you down
One by one... I'll blow you all to hell
For you faceless, nameless cowards cannot hide
The day of reckoning will arrive

Strike from behind and knock me to the ground. Kick me while I'm down.
Stab me in the back, you bastards. Tear my heart out of my chest
I'll rise from the ashes, from these ruins of mine, from the wreckage
I'm right on your track you bastards. A dozen of eyes for an eye. Vengeance is mine.

Next time you're feeling a bit beaten down and demoralized, go straight to "Vengeance Is Mine" and crank it up. When you've got more time, listen to "The Funeral Album" in its entirety. I highly recommend the experience!


Charon: Sorry to see you go

I have VonGoober radio to thank for my first exposure to Charon. This was back when Steve Shumake ran his own Live365 station and I was a loyal listener. Every time I tuned in I discovered bands that I'd never heard of, many of them hailing from outside the U.S. During one such listening session, I heard "Unbreak, Unchain" from Charon's album, "The Dying Daylights" and my musical life changed.

Charon's music captures a unique blend of melancholy and power. Typically they are classified as gothic metal and utilize keyboards and female harmony vocals, traits consistent with the style. Many of their lyrics involve fire and death but the effect of their music for me is mostly soothing and engulfing. Their strong, steady rhythm tracks and harmonic motions lay down the perfect foundation for Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto (aka JP).

This in no way is meant to detract from the contributions of his bandmates, but Charon's sound, their entire mood, is thoroughly entwined with JP's voice. He has an incredibly deep, rich timbre, which allows him to communicate deep emotion without relying heavily on rasp or growl. His voice evokes some hints of Sisters of Mercy, while capturing some of the darker side of Johnny Cash and yet, JP is unique and stands on his own.

I spent much of my musical growth years admiring vocalists like Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and Klaus Meine, all great singers in their own rights. Heavy metal has a long, glorious history of near-operatic vocalists, male and female singers that deliver power in their upper registers, many of them delivering their melodies without much rasp or grit. When I discovered Charon, my definition of a great metal singer expanded to cover a much lower range of pitch. I still love the bands whose singers are way up there, the ones who can hit unbelievable highs and leave you imagining shattered wine glasses. Honestly, thought, if I actually had a say in it, I'd be in a band with a singer like JP. Or better yet, the singer would be JP.

Sadly, Charon only released one more non-compilation album after "The Dying Daylights". In 2005 they released "Songs for the Sinners", an album that has grown to equal status with its predecessor in my collection. It's hard to pick favorite songs, but I highly recommend starting with "Unbreak, Unchain" and "Religious/Delicious" from "The Dying Daylights". On "Songs for the Sinners", I suggest listening to "Colder" and "Deep Water", then go on from there. After a long period of inactivity in the studio, Charon released "A-Sides, B-Sides and Sucides" compilation in 2010. Then in 2011 they announced their final performances would occur in their home country of Finland, during the midsummer.

I am deeply sorry I never got to see Charon perform live. My family's trip to Sweden and Finland this coming summer will happen too late for that. Instead, I will go on treasuring the music they recorded and hope that perhaps, someday, I'll at least get to see JP perform live.

If you were lucky enough to see Charon perform, would you share your experiences? Those of us in the Americas would love to hear what that was like, to be in the same room, listening to and watching the band perform. If there's a next chapter for the band's members, will we get a chance to experience that outside of their home turf?