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Sonata Arctica has always been a "guilty pleasure" of mine. Reckoning Night and Winterheart's Guild are the perfect examples of how to make flower metal and make it right, because of the strong songwriting skills and the honest, emotional approach to the genre. Guitarist Jani Liimatainen left the band, and brought some other recognised names of the euro-power metal scene, like Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius or Mikko Härkin, another former member of SA, to form a sort of power metal supergroup.
And it completely fucking blows.
To put it short, this makes Sonata Arctica sound like Motörhead or Venom in terms of aggresion and overall masculinity. I'm not exaggerating. You'd think that a record where all the songs are written by a guitarist would have at least, some intrincate riffing or at least some face-melting shredding, right? WRONG! The guitar is a background instrument, with virtually no memorable riffs and very few solos, it's just a blurry mass of power chords with an incredibly synthetic sound, buried under the keyboards, the drums and the vocals. The only circumstances where I can find something like this acceptable are in some symphonic black metal records, a style far away from the one we've got in here.
Now, the fast, double bass drums are pretty much the only thing that gives the music a sense of heaviness, using double bass and some thrashy rhythms here and there, in fact, they're the best thing about this album. Timo Kotipelto sings even more high-pitched than in his main band, tending to sound very annoying. Tony Kakko is a way more versatile singer, honestly. The keyboards overpower the music, and while that's not surprising for a record of this genre, the thing that makes them so bad is the way they are used. While many bands have a symphonic, neoclassical or progressive keyboard work, this one sticks to give saccarine, cringe-worthy, artificial sounding melodies, that wouldn't sound out of place in a record by some shallow, brainless, electro-dance-pop singer.
And the lyrics!!!!! Don't even get me started on them, because they are quite possibly the worst I've ever heard in a metal album, all dealing with love and relationships in an excessively cheesy way. Some bands can make that sort of lyrics work, because they have a sense of sophistication and taste, but frankly, the ones in here appear to be written by some whiny, prepubescent kid. Stuff like "sign across my heart your name" or "just call my name and I'll be there, forever I'm waiting for you" makes the ridiculous fantasy-themed lyrics of most bands on this genre sound deep or smart in comparison.
If there's an album that gathers all the negative stereotypes of power metal, and not only that, but takes them to the extreme, is this one. It's pretty much electro-pop with fast drums. Annoying, shallow, plastic, and hell, even DragonForce is better than this, at least they're somewhat fun to listen to.