All of a sudden I had drifted far away from this band but not without reason, their debut album “Ecliptica” sounded immature and embarrassingly clichéd, although played with passion and I’ll never forget those lyrics, could’ve been written by the smallest child in kindergarten. Fast forward to 2004 and “Reckoning Night” and I find myself addicted to the guy’s music and atmospheres…
…and I’m not sure why that is. I haven’t followed them closely, but I do know that their main sound hasn’t changed much, it’s still fun-happy-go-lucky Power Metal influenced by STRATOVARIUS and QUEEN like vocal harmonies, what I’m really glad to hear is that they’re a mature bunch now and know how to do this, also in a less innocent manner. People are saying this album is darker and heavier than past works, ok, fine, it suits them, it makes them a proper Finnish Metal band, “Ecliptica” had a light and happy vibe that’s still present on “Reckoning Night” but the melancholic killjoys of “Don’t Say A Word” and the Pinocchio inspired mini majestic “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet” takes the band into a more serious atmospheric style (think NIGHTWISH).
Beside the relaxing instrumental title track and “Shamandalie”, a notorious power ballad, there are two categories to choose from; if you want the traditional side of the band, that being a flawless execution of fast pounding Power Metal complete with all the necessary elements (hero guitars, hero keyboards, not overdone mind you, happy, catchy as hell chorus lines, the works…) you want tracks like “Misplaced”, “Ain’t Your Fairytale” and “My Selene”, if you want deeper portrayal’s choose “Wildfire”, “Blinded No More” (an awesome tribute to seventies Rock’N’Roll) and the two abovementioned tracks, simple as that.
“White Pearl, Black Oceans”, the album’s centrepiece, captures Epic Power Metal and fantasia introspection and entwines the two elements into one exquisite atmosphere, a very inspired track. You remember BLIND GUARDIAN had this long track called “And Then There Was Silence” right? This song follows in those steps (though not fully reaching the divine tensions of its role model), tons of variations and dreamland vocals of the highest shelf, another milestone written and now sealed in Metal’s hall of fame, one of the best tracks this year.
Tony Kakko’s colourful harmonies and expressive delivery count more than all other things embedded into the sound of SONATA ARCTICA. There’s little doubt about Freddie Mercury and Hansi Kursch being his definite idols these past years, whereas he sounded like a troubled Sebastian Bach wannabe kid with no balls five years ago and his lyrics aren’t so shitty anymore, a developed and qualified top Metal singer today, well done Mr. Kakko!
STRATOVARIUS has always been a reference, people just can’t help it. The band will admit their love for Tolkki and co., I think they’d make the ideal successor for the throne of Finnish Power Metal, you know why?, because it’s just as good, ok so they haven’t gotten to use orchestras and choirs yet but I’m sure that’ll change, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went more classical and epic on the next release.
Despite a fast (maybe too fast) and clichéd beginning to their ride, I think I’ll shake hands and re-light my friendship with the five guys of SONATA ARCTICA to show my appreciation for “Reckoning Night”. It’s been awhile since I listened this much to a Melodic Power Metal album, for fans of the genre the purchase of this CD is pretty much mandatory. (Online November 28, 2004)