Sonata Arctica

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Ecliptica

Sonata Arctica - Ecliptica ©1999 Spinefarm
1. Blank File
2. My Land
3. 8th Commandment
4. Replica
5. Kingdom For A Heart
6. Full Moon
7. Letter To Dana
8. Unopened
9. Picturing The Past
10. Destruction Preventer
11. Mary-Lou

I have good news and bad news. Ecliptica is very much a cookie cutter Stratovarius album clone. I leave to you whether that news is good or bad, depending on your perspective. Melodic speed metal bands seem to suffer from the inevitable comparison to Stratovarius. Some fall woefully short of the mark of that comparison, some do not. Sonata Arctica hit it squarely with this release. They do not go forward or backward at all. Again, whether or not that is good or bad depends largely on the taste of the individual.

These guys are young, along the same lines as Edguy and are chock full of energy. The keys race, the guitars shred at inhuman speed, and the drums are full of double bass runs. The vocals are clean and clear. The lyrics are the typical fluff that tries to pass for substance common to melodic speed metal. The whole album is straight out of Stratovarius's play book. Again, whether that is good or bad I leave to the individual fan. Is it a good album? Yes. Have we heard it before? Yes.

For a debut album, one can overlook the cookie cutter mimicry that abounds on this album. Their youth, enthusiasm and technical skill holds a lot of promise for future releases. Hopefully they will define their style and release something innovative. In the meantime, there are enough fans of melodic speed metal out there who keep crying, "Send in the clones!" to keep this kind of music in demand.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 08/2000

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Silence

Sonata Arctica - Silence ©2001 Spinefarm
1. Of Silence
2. Weballergy
4. The End Of This Chapter
5. Black Sheep
6. Land Of The Free
7. Last Drop Falls
8. San Sebastian (revisited)
9. Sing In Silence
10. Revontulet (instrumental)
11. Tallulah
12. Wolf And Raven
13. The Power Of One
14. Respect The Wilderness (Japanese Bonus Track)

Sonata Arctica have been busy since the release of their first full-length album, Ecliptica. In the interim since that first disc there has been a lot of tightening going on. Ecliptica had a lot of loose ends that needed attention. The band has taken care of most of them and produced a very good disc with Silence.

Silence is a melodic power metal disc in every sense. The music is walled in on every side by the blazing keyboards of Mikko Harkin who used to play with Kenziner. The keys duel it out with the guitars from start to finish. Woven through out the sonic duel is a much improved Tony Kakko delivering crisp and powerful vocals. The vocal melodies are used as an instrument in their own right on this disc. The singing is fantastic. One moment finds it tentative and subtle, the next it is in your face and aggressive. I think it is the singing alone that makes me move this band out of the pool of Stratovarius wannabee bands into a niche of their own making. That and the change in keyboard styles makes this disc very satisfying.

The band has improved so greatly you might think that the two discs were the work of different bands. Gone are the cookie cutter ruffs and rhythms. In their place are breathless runs up and down the keyboards and fretboards. Is it overblown? Yes. Is it ostentatious? Yes. But does it work? Yes, absolutely it does. It is a testimony to the technical prowess of this band that they are able to pull off what other highly talented artists cannot. The spotlight does not stay on any one performer for so long as to become overly burdensome. The back-and-forth interplay between the guitar and keys is done with razor precision. Just when you think it cannot possibly go any faster, it does. Just when you cannot possibly stand another second of the pace, it changes. It is masterfully done. Long compositions of seven and eleven minutes allow the band to flex some of their impressive technical muscle. I like how each track flows smoothly into the next. The music rockets along with breathless speed sounding somewhat like Running Wild done on keyboards. There is enough diversity to hold your interest. All in all it is a very satisfying romp with a vastly improved package. Sonata Arctica bear watching. Few bands can grow this dramatically between releases, and if these guys keep it up, they will be the next biggest thing in melodic power metal. Finland's musical equivalent to King Kong versus Godzilla may be looming on the horizon. My money's on Sonata Arctica.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 07/2001

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