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Sentenced | The Funeral Album | interview | Sami Lopakka | metal | Lollipop


The Funeral Album (Century Media)

An Interview with guitarist Sami Lopakka
By Martin Popoff

Finnish grey disposition practitioners Sentenced have decided to do something different, fashioning a fully new and grim record and then announcing it would be their last! Very good at discussing death, decay, and depression, Sentenced now get to put their somber words to action. The Funeral Album will be followed by limited touring and then... silence. An eerie Finnish finish, perhaps, the dawn of a new era of good cheer? Guitarist Sami Lopakka weighed in with his usual gravitas, on what is to be the last of Sentenced.

What is The Funeral Album's personality, versus the last few Sentenced albums?
Well, obviously, as this is the last album, it has a very final feeling to it. It's a pretty diverse album, as there are some pretty rocking and aggressive songs, and then again, there are songs that probably go deeper than we've ever gone, with our music, and with the lyrics. Then again, I'd say that kind of comes out of the fact that this is a farewell album, the last one of the band, and then the band will be no more. We wanted to say the things we needed to say. And have this ending with dignity for the band, so that we can look back on it as something that we could be satisfied with, and not have any regrets.

What do you think is the most experimental or out there track on here, and why?
There are songs that go in different directions. The first one to come to mind is the last one, which will be the last one of the whole band. "End of the Road," arrangement-wise and atmosphere-wise, is pretty different from probably anything we've done before. It has a long instrumental ending to it, like a two-minute instrumental part, to lower the band to its grave, so to speak. We also had some new elements like a children's choir, and we used a lot of shit instead of traditional instruments. Everything from spoons and zippers to air dusters and cupboard shelves, anything we could get our hands on. "End of the Road" will always have a special place in our minds. It's the last one we will ever do. The atmosphere is exactly what we were looking for, to put the band to rest.

And why are you putting the band to rest?
There isn't any one specific reason for it. It's something we'd thought about for a couple years. The demand and sacrifices during the last ten years, versus our willingness to do long tours and be away from home most of the year. This band and our music has always been something we wanted to do all the way or not at all. We came to the point where we couldn't, under any circumstances, give all the attention it needed. So we figured that the only way to survive without making any compromises would be to make one final album, make a funeral out of that album, play some farewell shows, and call it quits. The last thing we'd want to do is to fade away, little by little, and become one of those dinosaurs that takes steps backwards and backwards. This way, we keep the flame burning brightly until the very end, then let it die with the dignity and the style it deserves.

Is family a part of the decision? How many of you have kids and families at this point?
Two of us, me and Ville. I have one son and Ville has two.

What are you going to do? Who's staying with music and who's going onto different careers?
It's a bit early to say at this point. At some level, every one of us will be involved in music and in some other bands. But speaking for myself, when this is all over, I will take a bit of rest and probably sleep for half a year or so. I've had this idea of writing a novel for years now. So that is probably the first thing I will try out.

Have you done some writing already?
Yes, I've probably written for seven or eight years now. I've also studied creative writing, and it's something I feel comfortable with. And something that, at times, I think I'm good at. I shouldn't brag about it beforehand, because it's a completely different form of art. But at the moment, I have about 100 pages, and it seems to be coming out pretty easily.

Have you done other writing as well, short stories, perhaps?
Yes, I have 30 or 40 of them. But I look at those as some kind of rehearsal or evolving process. I'm pretty careful about what I let out, for other people to look at. I want to be ready when I offer something.

Are you, or have you ever been, much of a record collector?
No, not really. And it's been going down over the years. I've grown to enjoy silence more and more. When you rehearse, record, play live, and you're doing it all the time, you really grow to appreciate total silence. Nowadays, for example, I pretty much listen to music only when I'm drunk.

If you had to describe the Sentenced sound, what would you say?
I've never come up with a description that totally satisfies myself. In my mind, we've created a sound that is something of our own. It has elements of traditional heavy metal and melancholic, emotional, and atmospheric classical music. But to really know what the Sentenced sound is, you have to listen to it, as there isn't really a genre or an easy category you can put us in. Melancholy is a big part of it, of course, and the rocking-ness, the atmospheric parts, and so on. And, of course, the really negative and depressive lyrics. But that's about as far as you can go with words, I think.

How about a few words on the last couple of Sentenced albums?
Well, if I start with the Crimson album, from 2000, that was a pretty mid-tempo one, and the overall feeling to it is pretty depressing. I think we even went a bit too far, with the depression themes and all the bitterness. There wasn't much change from song to song. The mood is pretty much the same. When you listen to it for 50 minutes, you probably get worn out. We recognized this, so for the next one, we went back to the sarcastic kind of approach. Also, we were very careful about choosing different kinds of songs for the album. So there are fast ones, slow ones; it keeps changing all the time. And lyrics-wise, it changes from black humor to being totally serious, and then again playing with those two, fucking with people's minds. So yes, when you get to The Cold White Light, the one after Crimson, we're pretty close to this one, The Funeral Album. We kept the formula of having different types of songs on it. We kept the same formula, exuded the humor, and took the concept deeper and deeper. And, as this is the last one, we also wanted to go all the way with everything we'd come up with in the past, have some references to the past albums, even the first ones. In that sense, it's a very diverse album; it has a lot of depth and variety in it.

What was the fondest touring memory for you of your whole career?
I don't remember much from the parties, I can tell you (laughs). But we have great memories from over the years. We've toured with so many great bands and great people. And then again, the last shows are still to be played. And those will probably be the most memorable, I would expect.

And how many shows are there? What is the extent of the touring?
It won't be heavy. Most of the shows are festivals and stuff, some special event. We want to make this last round special and reach as many people as possible every time we go on. There will be, maybe, 20 shows. Going back into the past: Tours with In Flames, Lacuna Coil, Iced Earth, the first one we did with Tiamat, those are the first one to come to mind, they have earned some very good memories. The touring was always, more or less, difficult for us. It was always something that we didn't feel at home in. But those bands, and the people in the bands, made it worthwhile, and helped us bear it until the end.

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