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Sonata Arctica - 2007 Unia

ARTIST: Sonata Arctica
LABEL: Nuclear Blast
SERIAL: 1854-0
YEAR: 2007


LINEUP: Tony Kakko - vocals, keyboards * Jari Lumatainen - guitars * Henrik Klingenberg - keyboards, hammond organ * Marko Paasikoski - bass * Tommy Portimo - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 In Black And White * 02 Paid In Full * 03 For The Sake Of Revenge * 04 It Won't Fade * 05 Under Your Tree * 06 Caleb * 07 The Vice * 08 My Dream's But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare * 09 The Harvest * 10 To Create A Warlike Feel * 11 The World's Forgotten, The World's Forbidden * 12 Fly With The Black Swan * 13 Good Enough Is Good Enough



Sonata Arctica, the five piece from Finland are one of my favourite bands. Tony Kakko is an excellent singer and songwriter and has shown recently, with the Northern Kings, can turn his talents to most things. This being their fifth studio release it could be seen that they are at a major crossroads in their career. It is their most mature and at the same time, their darkest release. These guys are in a strong market, with fellow contenders Edguy, Kamelot and Symphony X all making headway in commercial appeal. Actually over the recent years all of these groups I have mentioned have become my favourite artists and on release of their outputs I have always purchased them straight away, with extras, not waiting to pick them up cheap on various auction sites. Sonata Arctica bring rock music that is powerful, mixed with supreme musicianship, quality and a singer who can actually sing.

The Songs
'In Black And White' opens the album with tinkling keyboards and Tony is in fine voice, showing off all his abilities with quality support from the other members. A storming opening which show all the fine qualities, especially the importance of melody mixed with guitar and keyboard solos not seen in such complete unison since Deep Purple.

'Paid In Full' was the almost 'uncomfortable' single release, don't get me wrong it is excellent, but it tries and succeeds in being difficult. Sonata Arctica are never one to rest on their laurels. It smacks in the face of commercialism, it is not the 'easy' single, nothing is that simple for the these boys. Essentially it will make you think and it is emotional with the classic line 'it's hard for me to love myself right now', I would imagine many of us would be in the mindset from time to time, it provides a savannah of ice and snow, chilling in its power, check out the video location.

'For The Sake Of Revenge' is the title that was used before on their live CD/DVD in 2006. It has a near distorted beat overlaid with outstanding riffs, with vocals simmering before reaching boiling point. In fact, the song title even has trouble fitting in with the melody, it is a bit like me squeezing into those waist 34's jeans, we both manage it (as long as I don't breathe) and Tony is feeling better with 'have faith in me'.

'It Won't Fade', has dreams of emulating E.L.O in the introduction no less! In come the Stratovarius keyboards and it is one of those songs where you hear the chorus before it has even begun. Tony brings with him his most spiteful vocal performance, putting you on tender hooks, adding another verse before breaking into that chorus, chugging guitars with a background of symphonies of keyboards and choirs. The feeling and melody in Tony's vocals are supreme, essential and exceptional. Could he be classed as the AOR master of symphonic neo classical metal?

With 'Under The Tree', the temperature drops with this dignified ballad, a stately home of a tune. You will need high powered lenses to see the intensity of this and many of the songs to see how they are composed, an engineering mindfield to try to dissect all the individual electrical connections that fuse into one electrifying current of flowing power.

'Caleb' is a disturbing story, a reflection of modern times, typical SA pounding riffs, melting keyboards strains, a soundtrack for indecision. This song shows how Sonata Arctica have matured into a stallion, a prancing horse of majestic songwriting after the false starts of 'Reckoning Day' and 'Winterhearts Guild'. This is a blistering album track.

'The Vice'.. again we have choirs but overall a more quirky tune but has a tough act to follow after the crushing 'Caleb' and does tend to struggle, to me it has that 'special edition' extra track to it, not good enough to make the full album.

'My Dream's But A Drop of Fuel For A Nightmare' is a nice catchy title and more like a Meatloaf novel rather then a song title. This has a real early Sonata Arctica feel to it, less dark, even Fish like Marillion harmonies and song structure. 'English' in nature, moves onto technical supremacy, bringing it to be a neo-classical anthem that is totally at odds with the first couple of minutes of the song. It does require careful listening and jumps from one genre to the next, even reaching operatic strains.

'The Harvest' is a full blast power tune and is into its running quicker than Usain Bolt. Double bass drumming, followed by a run of keyboards that revisit flames of some of the original forerunners of this genre like Majestic and Labyrinth.

'To Create A Warlike Feel' is the bonus track, why is a bonus track mixed into the track listing rather than the last track? One of lifes mysteries - up there with why does Coldplay get such much critical acclaim? (that is indeed a mystery Chris.. Ed) Anyway, typical Sonata Arctica chugging, you are hit with the vocals, keyboards and guitars, all competing at the same time to try to stamp its own authority on the track, eventually no one wins, more of a score draw, which when fighting for relegation is no use for any of the individual instruments, hence the reason why it is a bonus track.

'The Worlds Forgotten, The Words Forbidden' coming in at only 2.57 minutes is the shortest song, initially with a vocal effect to create a mood that there are two vocalists singing at the same time, this song really has a lovely melodic chorus, but it is soon over and maybe it was an idea of a song but somehow seems unfinished, it is a good idea waiting to be fully developed.

'Fly With The Black Swan', while parts of this song are classic Sonata Arctica, the more manic parts come across as the two pomp kings Robbie Valentine and Valensia having a disagreement, which can be quite unsettling, but ultimately it is a track that will need the benefit of time to fully appreciate its qualities (in a roundabout way, I'm saying I'm not too keen on it!)

That leaves us with 'Good Enough Is Good Enough', an orchestral ballad, lots of House Of Shakira double bass and sits together with their Swedish cousins but without the African influence. A fitting way to finish.

In Summary
The final songs don't lift this release to heights reached by the groups initial forays into the melodic world, but easily beats their previous two. Essentially it puts Sonata Arctica back on track and continuing their legacy. Tony and his fellow musicians have put their hearts and soul into this CD, an exceptional and professional performance. This has been a much misunderstood CD, it doesn't flow like their 'Ecliptica' and 'Silence' albums, but this is a much more mature release. They have improved and now they are a much more interesting proposition, however the question is where do they go now? Do they strengthen their stronghold or look again to expand their horizons. Sonata Arctica sit in the middle, more melodic than Kamelot, less progressive than Symphony X, but certainly more adventurous than both of their peers. This market is very healthy at the moment and looking ahead to 2009 with the possible release from the masters Stratovarious (although without Timo Tolkki) the evenings will soon get brighter, with Sonata Arctica once again, providing the shining light.

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#1 | Eric on January 01 2009 19:39:48
References to ELO, Marillion, Valensia/ R. Valentine- sounds great!
#2 | gdazegod on December 22 2013 20:50:24
Oops, what happened to this article? Better fix it..
#3 | gdazegod on December 22 2013 20:56:56

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