Sentenced is a band that have released in the past very good and excellent albums. Their new album “The Cold White Light” is a masterpiece of good heavy and goth metal music! Sami Lopakka  the guitarist of the band contact us to talk about their new magnificent work. The phone rings and…
S: Hello this Sami from Sentenced.

Hello good to hear you. This is Sami who?

S: Sami Lopakka, the guitar player.

As you might know we’ve voted your album as album of the month in our site.

S: Thank you very much.

Congratulations on the album, I find it magnificent. Sorry, but where are you calling from?

S: I’m calling from home in northern Finland.

I am asking because I have a good friend who lives in Tampere and I always want to visit.

S: We are actually playing in Tampere next Saturday (May the 25th)

Oh, really, have you organized your tour yet?

S: Yeah, we have some Finish shows already and we will play some club shows and festivals over the summer. Actually the European tour & tour in North American are under booking, but I think we will be very busy after the summer.

  I hope you will a stop here in Greece this time.

S: Yeah, I really hope so too. We already wanted to go years ago, but there always was problem and we have a lot of funs there & we get response and requests from Greece and it would be really nice to go.

So The Cold White Light…what is the meaning behind the title?

S: There is no specific meaning. We wanted to have an open title as there are so many different songs in the album. The light can be the light of death, or life, or the life of hope. It can be almost anything and we like this idea as it is open enough and puts the songs together. And to call it cold and white makes it more Sentenced-sounding as it sounds north. It is a cold atmospheric and melancholic title.

I have the feeling that although some call your music “suicidal”, it is not so-at least not anymore. I mean, the lyrics might be depressive, but the feeling I get after listening to the album is one of relief, it leaves a rather sweet taste…

S: Yeah, I agree, the music works that way as well and it is true that we often concentrate on negative sides of life and have sorrowful things on the lyrics and also have many songs that were dealing with suicide and things like that. When there is this feeling, it doesn’t matter if you play or listen to it, it’s always a thing of experience. We also wanted to say that with the band that we aren’t always so serious with suicide songs etc. For example on the new album there are songs that are dealing with suicide but also from a black humoristic point of view, like “excuse me while I kill myself” and we kind of wanted to show people that nothing is always that bad and we are able to laugh at life and death and also to our own image. We didn’t like to have this image of a “suicidal band” it is something that happened because we have many songs that deal with suicide and we all have like better or weaker moments in our lives. With Sentenced we often concentrate on those weaker moments, but this doesn’t mean that we are trying to kill ourselves every day or we are depressed all the time. You have to remember that music is a form of art and not a direct report of our lives or something like that. And suicide and death in general are really dramatic events. And I believe that in music things have to be dramatic to get this cleansing melancholy experience I was talking about earlier.

So it’s not that you are changing directions or anything, rather you put things back into place, right?

S: Yes.

How did the recording procedure come along?

S: We did the album during three months and we had some breaks in between. We started at Helsinki, which is about 600 km away from here and we recorded the drums there as there was a large room for that where we could get the sound just right for the drums and then we came back to our home town and recorded everything else here, which was very healthy for the whole project as we could go home after each day and things were easier. When everything was finished we had a little break between recording and mixing and we wanted to take the time to listen to all the things we created. We had a couple of weeks of and then went back to Helsinki to Finvox Studio and mix and mastered the album there. It was finished in February.

Do you have a standard method to compose the songs?

S: Yeah, I would say so. We have three main songwriters in the band, Miika Tenkula who writes most of the songs and Ville and me do some as well. And we do like that: the songwriter writes the whole song and all the melodies and vocal melodies alone at home, then we do rehearsals to try it out and see if something is to be changed. Usually always something has to be changed but when there is in the booklet, for example, music by Miika Tenkula for “Brief Is the Light” then it’s I would say 95% his work and 5% of the work we did together. The lyrics are added after the music is done. We record the new song and the new vocal melodies and things like that, then the lyrics are written from the feeling we get from the song.

What is the deal behind the songs with the Finish titles?

S: The first one “Konevitsan Kirkonkellot”, is a traditional Finish composition and we just made it really heavy and gloomy with all these birds and church bells. The title means “the church bells of Konevitsan” which is a historic place in Finland and this is traditional song, we wanted to keep the original title. The other one “Aika Multaa Muistot” could be translated as “time buries the memories” as there is this saying – I don’t know how it is in English – but in a way is “as time passes by only remember the good things that happened to you and forget about the bulshit. But in this song it is upside down and we say that as time passes by you will only remember the bad things that’s happened to you and forget about the good ones, so your life was disappointment after disappointment. The reason of having a Finish title there is that there a wordplay in Finish that works better than in English.

How would you describe your sound, to someone who hadn’t heard the band before?

S: This is always a hard question. We have actually being aiming at it so we can only forget this hard question, but I could say it is melodic metal music with elements of rock and constant atmosphere of melancholy and quite gloomy lyrics…yes that would be it.

Cool definition really!

S: We still recommend to people to listen to the music and make up their minds about the sound.

Do you believe that this record can be a bigger breakthrough for you to larger audiences beyond the metal scene?

S: Yeah maybe it could be, but this is not something we thought about when we wrote the songs. The album is basically done in the same way we usually do: close all the doors around us and do what feels best. This time there many different songs in the album and it’s possible that this would gain us more listeners or fans in and outside the metal scene. We wait and see what happens. We are not dreaming of selling millions of albums. It’s not the write point to start making music. We always concentrate on having the best possible songs in our own opinion then if people like is good, but is extra to us, as the main point is to satisfy ourselves.

I understand this perfectly and I believe this is the reason why you play this kind of music, but I read an interview by the singer of Valley’s Eve, who said he doesn’t believe that people write music for their own shake and they don’t count fans’ opinion. What would you say about that?

S: Well, maybe the one who said that, really thinks that way, but I would say that if we would think about any people’s expectation or reactions when we write we would come with shit and it wouldn’t work. When you create something you have to be true to yourself, otherwise you would make a product like a plastic plate or something. Music is a form of art, when you write songs and lyrics you to forget any other people, even your own past and follow your instinct. At least this is how it works for us. And according to my opinion, this is the only way to create something worth listening.

I respect that. Tell me how many times per day do you listen to the new album?

S: Well, I’ve heard the songs maybe a hundred times. I don’t have the instant urge to play it all the time when I’m home. Also when we are rehearsing for the live shows at the moment, I hear the songs anyway. Maybe when I have free time on the weekend, I can play it once, but I think I have heard enough of these songs for two or three human lives (laughs).

The question is: now that you can look at the album from a distance, is there anything that you would like to change to it?

S: No, at least not yet. There isn’t enough distance yet, as it’s been only a few months that is has been ready, but we are really satisfied with the album. It has a lot of variation and it came out the way we wanted it and at this point at least we have no regrets about it.

You said earlier that the only way to write good songs is to forget about the past. Can you do that? I mean you are one of the starting members of the band, how do you see the evolution of the band? Do you ever take it into account before writing the new songs?

S: Ahm, the early days – at least with the first album “Shadows of the Past” in 1991 – we were very young and had been playing only for a couple of years. I think the first album is a typical album. It is all right but it’s not very original even for being in the early 90’s. But ever since that album we have progressed and tried to seek for something new. Already from the “North From Here” album, which is a couple of years later, we were a totally different band, finding our own sound and our own style and learn to express things. Then again with the “Amok” album, which is 1995, it is all different again. You can see that already from those early albums we could forget about the past when writing and kept changing from album to album. In the beginning when we started we absolutely did not see what the future would be like and even at this point I don’t know what the next album is going to be like. It’s always the result of the moment when we write the songs.

Are you satisfied with what the band has succeeded so far?

S: Ahm yes I am. The success and those kind of these have been growing with every album and I would say that the band has been growing and music has as well. And we can try new things as we have progressed as musicians and also there are so many new possibilities with how to make the music. I’m really satisfied with where we are now. And it is interesting to see with the new album where we will go to.  

What is the response for the album so far?

S: It has been very good. We have mainly heard reviews form journalists and opinions from people we’ve been talking to and it has been really good. It has been chosen the album of the month in many magazines like the German Metal Hammer and all our friends who have heard the album said this is our best one and in a week we will hit the road with the new songs and see how the fans will react in the shows, I am really confident with that, as it seems that people accept this new album and we really like it and are satisfied with the direction we are taking.

I am not trying to flatter you but I think this is your best work.

S: Oh, thanks, I think so too.

Now tell me, was there a time when you were despaired with the music industry or the band itself and said “shit, I am going to give up, I can’t handle it anymore”?

S: I would say we were pretty close to that, after our last tour, which was the tour for “Crimson”…


S: Yes, not for the music industry. But we were recording, touring, rehearsing, recording, touring, rehearsing, several years in a row and we were totally stressed out. After that tour we took a long break for half a year, during which we didn’t even talk to each other that much. That was a very wise decision from us, maybe the only wise decision we’ve ever made, but we found ourselves again during the break and we found the joy of writing and playing and after that the new songs came out pretty fast and easily and naturally. I think you can even hear it from the new album that the band is really fresh and relaxed, the play is tight and we are enjoying what we are doing.

I am tempted to ask, have you heard Tanelli’s new record? What do you think about it?

S: Yes, I think that Black League have some brilliant moments in their music, but for my taste these moments are a bit too few and the albums are always like 60 minutes or so with kind of like the same kind of stuff from the beginning till the end. So it gets boring quite easily. But there is some stuff that I like from them. And actually we are friends with Tanelli still and we see each other still from time to time. There wasn’t any bad blood between any of us during the years. I respect what he is doing and he is doing what he likes to do and don’t ask anyone’s expectations. Not my favorite band, but ok.

Looking at the band now and what it has succeeded, do you think it was a good decision that he left the band?

S: Yes, at the timing it didn’t feel very good when he left the band, but at the end it seems to be a quite good decision for the band. With Ville we have so more possibilities in our music. We can concentrate on the vocal melodies and build different harmonies, create various atmospheres with the vocals. Tanelli was more of a growling type of vocalist. Ville is a more skillful and able to do more different stuff.

What are the main influences for the band, and for your separately?

S: For the band is pretty hard to name any specific influences. Almost everyone has their own musical taste. We try to avoid any specific musical idols or influences, but almost everything that we hear and like affect our music. I can only speak for myself. I lately listen to bands like Anathema and Typo O Negative, also some Finish stuff which is pure melancholy. My musical taste doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. I always look for the right kind of emotion and melodies and the atmosphere and it can be from classical music to extreme metal music.

Which would be the best group to tour with?

S: Ahm, the early days Metallica, but they don’t exist anymore. I would like to tour with Type O Negative, which is one of my favorite bands of all times.

That would be a great package for the fans too.

S: Also for us. The guys are really humoristic and we get along with them very well.

The release of DVDs seems to be the new fashion. Do you have any similar plans?

S: Not any specific plans, but we have talked about it and possibly in the autumn we might tape one show, for a video or a live album. We could also put our music videos there, as we have five of them now. And we include some stuff from the tour bus and backstage or something funny that has happened during the years and so on. It is an interesting idea and it might happen once, maybe this year. If we record a show from the tour , we might release a DVD in March or April. (Interviewer's note: This is an exclusive new!)

Now look, we have some common weird questions that we ask all our interviewees, and their answers will appear soon on a special section of the site. It’s just for fun, are you ready? Imagine that your wife – are you married?

S: Yes.

Oh really? Do you have any children?

S: No, not yet.

Ok then imagine that your wife once sells your record-collection in order to buy a designer dress. How would you react?

S: (Laughs)..ahm..

What, is she there?

S: (more laughs)…I would burn the dress (and more laughs)

Now imagine that you are not married and you are in a bar and the woman of your dreams comes in. Which song will you choose in the juke-box in order to approach her?

S: Ahm…something really fancy classical music like “Addagio” from Albinoni . I am a sleazy guy, you know. (laughs)

You are the dj in a rock club. Which are the three songs you would definitely play?

S: “Angel of Death” from Slayer, “Moonchild” from Fields of the Nephilim and “Loverman” from Nick Cave.

Which is your favorite cartoon hero?

S: I would say Donald Duck. Always bad luck.

Ok, mine too. Imagine the ultimate heavy metal band of all time. Who plays each instrument?

S: Dave Lombardo the drums. Steve Harris bass, Tom Araya on the vocals and Miika Tenkula on the guitar!

Ok! That’s pretty much it. Would you like to add something?

S: Yeah, I really hope that we will arrive to play in Greece this year and would like to send greetings to all our fans there. If we come, we would like to see you all there. Keep on banging and keep it easy!

  by Alex Savatianos