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Guilty Pleasures - 61%

SentineLEX, March 2nd, 2013

This is my least favorite Sonata Arctica album. I wouldn't say it's completely bad, but it leaves much to be desired. Being the debut album, it's not quite as polished as their subsequent works and they really haven't found their place yet. Most of this album is Stratovarius Lite with a tad of Nightwish thrown in.

When the album is good, however, it shows a lot. The final song, "Destruction Preventer", gives a spectacular performance, highlighting especially Tony Kakko who shows off first his captivating lyrical skills (both writing and singing) and then proceeds to show off his keyboarding. The first, "Blank File", shows nearly the same amount of merit with perhaps the highest notes Kakko has ever sung, and given his age, will ever sing. Jani Liimatainen shows equal promise in "8th Commandment", which grabs attention right from the start with the speed-of-light guitar intro.

Then there's the two songs that are somewhat good, but I would never admit this to any friend listening. The so-bad-it's-good variety. "Fullmoon" and "Unopened". The former's chorus is banal and the "run away, run away, run away" especially makes me want to gag, but at the same time there's something underneath the crappy lyrics, an overblown melody that keeps you coming back just because it's so memorable. The latter has some questionable passages in the middle that aren't exactly banal, but lack the charm of Fullmoon. Catchy, but something you want to get OUT of your head, not keep it IN there. The lyrics aren't too bad.

Most of the rest is either mediocre or completely forgettable. "Picturing the Past" especially stands out as filler on steroids. I got some semblance of what the song sounded like when I was actually listening to it, but it took me maybe 10 runs through the album at large before I could go look at the title of the song and think "oh yeah that's what it sounded like" and be able to remember at least most of the music. The only other Sonata album I've ever had to do that with was Unia, although that was justified as the extremely progressive sounds took multiple listens to fully unravel. This song didn't have anything underneath it.

"Letter to Dana" was another one. Too slow for ease of listening and too fast for the emotion it was trying to convey. There wasn't really a buildup, and while the story was very interesting, the music was anything but. It was almost anticlimactic at some points, exactly the opposite of the point of any good ballad.

Thankfully, this album is short. You get your kicks on "Blank File" and "Fullmoon" (and with the exception of "Kingdom For A Heart", I would say all of the first six songs are somewhat enjoyable at the least), patiently sit through the filler afterward and launch right into "Destruction Preventer". If anything, there's a small taste of the huge potential Sonata began to uncover. And maybe that's the saving grace of this album.

A flawless start - 98%

Ecliptik, June 24th, 2012

Debut albums are tricky beasts. They are typically when bands/artists feel they need to go all out in order to prove their worth as musicians. In a sense, this is true of Ecliptica, because in the preceding year, Stratovarius had released their widely acclaimed Visions, a daunting release for a brand new band to match up against. It was a release that made an obvious impression on Tony Kakko. An impression, come to find out, that would help give birth to on of the most prolific names in power metal today. And it all started here.

The energy of a fledgling, youthful band is clearly ostensible from the opening beat of ‘Blank File’. There is an absolutely unrestrained aura about it, as if the entire band as a unit is trying to release every creative idea they’ve ever had all at one time, and in maximum overdrive. Tony’s vocals kick in almost immediately. His skills have not quite yet been honed; his technique still somewhat unrefined. But there’s a palpable energy felt, and more importantly: it is sincere, and absolutely inspired. Incidentally, this is reflected in his performance on the keys, a role he also assumes on this album. Jani breaks in and starts plugging away merrily with a traditional speed/power lick; perfectly simple yet 100% effective. Meanwhile, Tommy’s performance is vaguely reminiscent of Blind Guardian’s ‘Banish from Sanctuary’ – just imagine more emphasis on the double bass, of course.

What’s more is that while you can feel the energy and vitality of the scorchers such as ‘8th Commandment’ and ‘Picturing the Past’, you can also hear the woeful passion of the slower pieces. ‘Replica is Ecliptica’s first offering of tamed restraint, and Sonata Arctica’s first overtly love-inspired songs. Opening with a steady and light-hearted melody, it then segue’s into a tale of war torn tragedy, maintaining a certain elegance throughout. The structure is almost like a pseudo-power ballad, never quite going over-the-top but nevertheless delivering an undeniable intensity. The albums standout anthem is ‘Fullmoon’, which leads off with an incredibly memorable piano line and a galloping chorus that I dare you to resist singing along to.

And so as the album goes on in its masterfully harmonious sensation, you get a feel not only of the remarkable consistency, but of Tony’s altogether more obvious gift as a lyricist. The word “fresh” really just doesn’t do his style justice. His stories are just so vivid, almost as if he is telling of his first-hand accounts of fantastical werewolf tragedies and the global eradication of the free-thinking human mind. The verses are concise, yet so enormously powerful, i.e. ‘Destruction Preventer’:

“Now tell me who won here tonight,
The price of winning worthless fights,
We’ll make the same mistakes again,
Unless this is truly the end”.

Can you say dismal?

In all, Ecliptica speaks for itself. It is brilliant, fun, and uninhibited. And when you consider the three powerhouse albums that were to follow, it’s not that hard to understand why Sonata Arctica have become the power metal icons they are today.
Yeah, get this album.

Where it All Began... - 80%

octavarium, March 11th, 2011

Power metal has never really been a prevalent force in mainstream music and is usually only known among hardcore metal fans. And with bands like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Stratovarius, and Hammerfall having seen the most success, no matter how moderate, their influence on the scene makes it difficult for other power metal bands to emerge without being labelled as "generic" or "uncreative," staying relatively underground. Understandably, Sonata Arctica had a lot going up against them with the release of their first album Ecliptica. Originally starting off as the hard rock band Tricky Means, the sound of Stratovarius turned them into the direction of power metal. And the influences are there, but since then, Sonata has made a moderate name for themselves with their own unique sound and have received a decent amount of popularity for a power metal band. But in 1999, it was the stylings of Stratovarius that shaped this album. While not their best release, there is still much good and would show much promise the band would later fulfill.

Sonata has always been known for their blistering fast, yet very melodic and upbeat sound, mixed with soft and sentimental power ballads. That still holds true with their first effort, but the keyboards are heavy and layered, which is where the Stratovarius influences are most prevalent. Lead singer Tony Kakko himself was responsible for all of the keyboards for this album. The keyboards, while impressive in terms of riffs and solos, can sometimes be a little overwhelming and drown out Jani Liimatainen's guitar work, which, while usually only takes center stage during solos on future Sonata releases, is still a little too few and far between. This keyboards are heaviest on tracks such as Kingdom for a Heart and Picturing the Past. However, while the keyboards seem too full and layered, they still create some impressive sounds which even go beyond a Stratovarius sound. The lyrics are similar in terms of having both strong points and being somewhat unimpressive. The song Blank File is the best example of this. While an interesting, borderline speed metal track which is usually heralded as one of the album's strongest tracks, the lyrics about computers knowing everyone's lives are somewhat cheesy. And Tony's tenor, while stunning, also borders the edge of cheese on this track in particular when he hits the particularly higher notes. The lyrics on the special edition track Mary-Lou, which tell the unfortunate story of a unwed pregnant teenager are also somewhat simplistic compared to later releases.

While there are some faults in the album, there is also much good to be had. 8th Commandment impresses with it's fast-paced and angry intensity, Kingdom for a Heart, while a little too keyboard heavy, is one of the band's catchiest, UnOpened features a nice, neo-classical power metal keyboard intro (again similar to their Finnish countrymen Stratovarius), My Land, while somewhat bizarre and simplistic in lyrics, has a great melody that blends both a power metal and power ballad style. Picturing the Past, while also suffering somewhat similarlly to Kingdom for a Heart, also has a powerful intensity and speed similar to 8th Commandment. While Blank File's lyrics and vocals are a little silly, it is still a very fun and fast-paced song with an impressive keyboard-guitar dynamic in the bridge. In fact, it ends up being a very strong track. Mary-Lou, while not having the best lyrics, is also an interestingly heavy and fast-paced track. While I'm not a big fan of the band's power ballads, Replica is one of their best with more creative lyrics and a catchy chorus and a still-heavy feel. Letter to Dana falls in with many of the other Sonata ballads of being a little to sentimental, but is overall a somewhat pleasant surprise with an interesting pipe-ending instrumental. Destruction Preventer serves as the epic album-ender with a soft intro, heavy and fast verses, and a soft bridge, all before reverting back to the heaviness with the final chorus before ending with the pipe heard in Letter to Dana after a few seconds of silence.

However, the album's strongest track is the fan favorite and trademark song Full Moon. The first "wolf song" (in particular, a man who accidentally kills his lover after transforming into a werewolf) that Sonata usually follows in each release, it starts off with a soft piano tune and majestic singing by Tony, before picking up in heaviness and explosiveness right before the second verse and first chorus. And yet all the while it keeps a fairly moderate pace and a light and melodic yet still-prevalent keyboard/piano. There is also an impressive solo by Jani coupled by a strong keyboard solo. It is this song that made me a fan the band, as well as many others, and is perhaps the catchiest and most memorable song in the band's entire catalogue. Without hearing Full Moon I would not have been introduced to the power metal genre.

While Sonata learned a lot after Ecliptica and eventually developed a more unique and diverse power metal sound in later releases, this album really set the stage for the band and acted as the blueprint to follow in their next album, the entertaining and complex Silence. The keyboards can be a little too much and the lyrics may not always be their most creative, but this album is more than just a "Stratovarius cookie-cutter" album, and is truly unique to anything I've ever heard in power metal. With Ecliptica, the metal world was introduced to the unique, fantasy-world Sonata depicted with their lyrics, the strong and un-replicatable tenor of Tony Kakko, and the fantastic solos of Jani Liimatainen. Every band starts somewhere, and in 1999, Sonata Arctica had a strong one.

Fresh, energetic, repetitive - 66%

The_CrY, February 12th, 2010

Ecliptica shows us an album full of speedy, energetic, melodic power metal, in its earliest form. Sonata Arctica presented us with their debut album back in 1999, and compared to their later albums I think I can say Ecliptica was the raw essence of Sonata, that would be polished on later releases. Think of the lack of balance on the album, the overall oversmoothness, and the overwhelming of melodies. Tony Kakko sings literally sky-high on this release, but his voice sounds more controlled on later albums. All these things make a debut album very fun, since it’s mostly a copy of a band’s biggest influence, in this case a combination of Yngwie Malmsteen and Stratovarius.

When we put the CD in the player, and the first song “Blank File” begins to play, we are immediately blown away by the high tempo and the very melodic power metal. Though this opener isn’t quite the catchy Sonata Arctica as you can hear on later albums, the album does contain true SA classics. Songs like “Replica”, “8th Commandment” and “FullMoon” are songs that truly are the basis and the essence of the Sonata Arctica power metal sound. Although “Replica” quite easily bores me a little, the other two are easily candidates for the album’s best songs. Complemented by epic “Letter to Dana”, I think we have assembled Ecliptica’s holy trinity. Apart from that, the opener song sets the right ambience for the album, but the melodies are not really that catchy yet, and it’s not a convincing album overall.

The good side of this album is that it contains “Letter to Dana”. Being the only real ballad on the album makes it really stand out. It’s a story about a girl who fled from home and derailed a little, and it’s told through letters. The cohesion of all the instruments here is admirable, and the striking guitar solo really adds power to the song, turning it into an epic. Also worth listening to is FullMoon, a tale about a man becoming a werewolf while his wife is about to be eaten by himself. It starts of real gently, and then kind of explodes into the power metal anthem, with a true catchy sing-along chorus. Unfortunately there’s also less worthy stuff on the album, as I mentioned before. “UnOpened”, although it was the first single, really doesn’t say anything at all. It’s a simple song consisting of an average melody, standard song structure and continuous double bass drums, telling a story about getting a letter but not daring to open it. In the same line is “Picturing the Past”, which does not really have anything that comes to mind except for the notable guitar theme in the intro. I can’t really mention anything more about it simply because it has no hooks and can’t stay in my mind. We do have a worthy album closer though, in the shape of “Destruction Preventer”. Though it tends to believe you that it’s an epic due to the long silent intro, it’s just another power metal song, with some weird themes thrown in, nowadays immediately labeled as ‘hints towards their far future’ in 2007’s progressive Unia. Apart from that it has a catchy chorus, but repulsive themes just after the second verse. I guess this was a little too early for them to go progressive.

I mentioned earlier that this album sounds a little unpolished. Best examples for this are songs like “Kingdom for a Heart”, “Picturing the Past” and “My Land”. The idea of these songs is nice, but they grab those double bass drums way too easily, which gives little variety in the songs, since most of them have the same tempo. Even the Japanese bonus track “Mary-Lou” sounds as if they were in haste when making it, the acoustic version on “Orientation” offers a much more satisfactory tempo, giving the listener some time to get struck by the lyrics. Too give an even better view of the lack of variety on this album, there are but three songs that are not fast. The guitar sounds way too monotonous here, mostly just riffing along with the double bass drums on the background.

Having given a short overview of this album, I will conclude that this album is good, not great. It’s Sonata Arctica in their earliest form, making power metal with subtle hints of where they are going to in later albums, but also with little variety in the tempo’s, making it a bit repetitive to listen to. Overall, this is one album worth checking out, if you are a fan of Sonata Arctica. If not, you should check out Silence or Winterheart’s Guild first.

Strongest Tracks: “8th Commandment”, “FullMoon” and “Letter to Dana”.
Weakest: “UnOpened”, “Picturing the Past” and “Kingdom for a Heart”.

http://thecryreviews.blogspot.com/

Melodious fury, strike down upon thee! - 94%

Empyreal, July 28th, 2009

Okay, I can't stop playing this. Every time I hear those opening notes of "Blank File," I have to hear the whole damn thing. It's like crack cocaine! I mean...it's just...okay, let's start from the top.

This is Sonata Arctica's sterling debut album Ecliptica, released right at the crest of the tidal wave of melodic Power Metal unleashed on the world in the late 90s and early 00s. It was a combination of being in the right place in the right time and simple instrumental and lyrical charm that catapulted Sonata Arctica to the forefront of the scene, and since then they have become huge in the metal world. So why is Ecliptica such a melodious maelstrom of a good time? Let's find out.

This album is just full of melodies. It has so many melodies that its seams are starting to break apart, and the stuffing is falling out. Tony Kakko's accent-lilted voice has a lot of range and emotion, and it soars with ease above the electric guitar and keyboard dueling as well as the furious double bass drum peddling - adding a nice kick of pure, unadulterated energy to the mix. The combination is quite simply addictive as hell, and the short and succinct length, even with the added bonus tracks on the remaster that I'm reviewing, makes it easy to play this thing on the go. Heading to the bank in a half hour? Pop on Ecliptica and get moving!

I especially like the keyboard melodies. They have an odd swirling, wintry tinge to them, sort of a weird cross between a romantic winter night by a fireplace and a spontaneous jaunt through snowy woods, running with wolves, chasing eternity. The whole sound ends up being reminiscent of this kind of thing, and along with the album cover, in all its frosty tendrils, it ends up nicely individualistic and fresh - although this is not a surprise considering when it came out - compared to what we're being served nowadays.

The variety on here is spliced between fast and frenzied Power Metal speed-limit-breakers like the opening "Blank File" and the intricate, acrobatic duo of "8th Commandment" and "Kingdom for a Heart," which have deftly written melodic hooks that will keep you coming back again and again, to slower balladesque numbers like the poignant and sorrowful "Replica," which might be the most complex and dynamic song here, and the shameless "Letter to Dana," which is so blatantly wistful that it could make a whole ship of sailors misty-eyed, reaching for their tissues. "Destruction Preventer" and "FullMoon" are in the middle, with the former being a key-fueled epic and the latter being an almost Maidenesque gallop through Hook Country. With lyrics about werewolves.

The bonus track "Mary Lou" is excellent, too, even better than some of the actual songs on the album. If you like melodic metal in general, Sonata Arctica's stellar debut album is what you needed in your life yesterday. It's catchy, it's energetic and it will melt your face with its excellently executed blend of melodies. The best album from a stellar band, Ecliptica succeeds on every level.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Sonata Arctica releasing an entirely good album - 71%

NocturneFreeze, April 2nd, 2009

Ecliptica is the rare gem of the whole Sonata Arctica catalogue. First of all, basically because they didn't collapse under their greatness, but most of all it's because they sound more like Stratovarius. Rip-off or not, I don't care, it's better than everything they released after this album. All the songs are the typical stratovarius songs. There are the fast songs, Blank File, Kingdom for a Heart. There are the more midpaced songs like My Land and FullMoon which are borderline power ballads. There are the actual power ballads Replica and Letter to Dana and there is the stereotypical "epic" song Destruction Preventer. Sometimes Sonata Arctica slacks a little bit off, but for most of the time they're doing a great job.

Tony Kakko does a fine job on this album. He is much better than his Stratovarius idol, both in singing and keyboards. Blank File is the best example. He has a wide range on his pipes, and he shreds entertainful on his keyboard. Although none of the other songs reach out this good, he never slacks off. He doesn't experiment much, unlike later releases, keeping it all safe but enjoyable. This also goes for the rest of the band. The guitar, bass and drums are also the stereotypical Stratovarius influenced power metal. Nothing special, just the usual double base/guitar wankery stuff.

Still, in the end it's all about the melodies. And boy, Sonata Arctica succeeded in that. In Silence and later albums, Sonata Arctica experimented with different prog. related aspects. None of them were utilised good in the music, resulting in very average songs. Luckily, the only song that has some progressive influences is Destruction Preventer. No wonder that this is the failure of the album, Sonata Arctica just can't cooperate with progressive elements. Luckily there are the songs Blank File, FullMoon and Kingdom for a Heart to save the day. Actually, no song really slacks of, with the exception of the already mentioned Destruction Preventer and Picturing the Past. At those times, Sonata Arctica become to neo-classical and progressive and basically dig their own grave.

This album is mainly for the nice melodies. It's the usual flower power metal, and it's good. It's not as tedious as the thousands of unknown scandinavion power metal bands. Mainly because it's not too pretentious and neo-classical influenced. There is more emphasis on the actual melodies than on the lighting speed of the instruments. That's how I like it, and how it should be done. After all, music is there to enjoy people, and this album is so comfortable. The soothing melodies of My Land, the great ballad Letter to Dana and the even better Replica. Then there is also the song Mary-Lou, that although it's a bonus track is actually the best track on the whole album. There is nothing special to be foun in here, and I would have loved if Sonata Arctica kept that way...

"First album? What a band!!!" - 97%

Chozodragon, April 8th, 2008

Sonata Arctica is among the first power metal bands I listened to. And I begun with this cd. Maybe this is overrated, but the songwriting is still striking me. It is definitely and excellent album. Couple this to the fact it was exactly the kind of metal I wanted and you get 97%.

The tracklisting is perfect. "Blank File" catches you with the first 5 seconds. I t takes you to the world of Sonata: speed, brightness, emotion, technic. The solo in this song is properly awesome, it is a guitar/keyboards duet (the keyboards are played by Tony Kakko, vocalist) that really succed in making you laugh of joy and jumping in the street. When this song finishes, leaving you without your head, the first notes of "My Land" resonate. Strong, but emotional power-ballad, mid-tempo, well executed. The two other ballads on this album are "Replica" and "Letter to Dana", also really beautiful. There is SOMETHING in the songwriting that gets Sonata Arctica above the mainstream power metal bands. Indeed, this is not about power, friends, metal, armaggedon, and so on. They're not Dragonforce. The lyrics show themselves as deep and to me original. It is almost futuristic, almost Stephen King science fiction, never mainstream. And it fits perfectly to the music.

Two songs are really showing the band's skills: FullMoon and Destruction Preventer. Both are destined to be played live, but they are also changing, efficient, and install their own atmospheres.

Really good point that distinguishes very good power metal albums: we meet no fillers here. Unopened, fast and "easy", is nevertheless a good surprise. Picturing the Pas and Eighth Commandment are speed but feature not the kind of usual power-speed riffing.

There is something really special with this album. A whole universe. It makes you finding yourselves walking on the deserted land of the artwork. Blue, white, at night, but also brilliant.

A Metal Journey You've Been On Many Time Before. - 87%

elfo19, March 17th, 2008

Why do you people insist on calling this flower metal? I hear no references to flowers in the lyrics, and the songs are not light and airy. However, if you insist on calling it that I won't get angry, I'll just call you things like "lame bastards".

Sonata Arctica is one of those bands that's extremely melodic, has speeding guitars, and incorporates keyboards. It really sounds a lot like Deris-era Helloween. Though this band has been compared to Dragonforce this is not true. In fact ever since Dragonforce commercialized a little about everything that's metal with keyboards is compared to Dragonforce. This is not like Dragonforce for all you haters of that band. This is a more matured, complex band than Dragonforce. This band has variety in it's songwriting and is clearly a more under the radar band of geniuses.

With that said I can tell you what this album is all about. It is just like all that stuff you've probably already heard. It sounds like Deris-era Helloween, a little like Yngwie Malmsteen, like Blind Guardian with less edgy vocals, and a little like Edguy and all of Tobias' side projects, I bet you can already hear this music in your ears. That's what I'm talking about.

The singer sounds like every other similar singer, the keyboards are right out of something you've already heard, and the whole thing sounds like a re-hash. Of course, this is after I have listened to quite a lot of this genre of metal. If you are new to this genre then get this album immeadiately. It will hook you into the genre because it's very accesible to a new fan. It has lyrics that won't annoy anyone, a lot of shorter catchy songs, and still some thrashy stuff, if that's what you've been listening to. This is a very good album to slowly ween yourself into the power metal genre.

So I have spoke for those who are new to the genre, how about those old? Well, as I said, it's all been done before. The vocals are very Deris-like, the guitars, just like every other band like this, and it feels like it's all been done before, and it has. I didn't find this band out into a while after I loved the genre and it sounded just like everything I had had for months, even years. Good, yet bad.

The music for the genre is actually quite good. All of the songs are very melodic ventures into the already invented genre. The only song I fail to really grasp is "8th Commandment" which seems really old. My two favorite songs are the two ballads, "Replica" and "Letter To Dana". Both of these songs actually sound fresh and exciting. This band has a lot of fast ones, but the slower ones are the real gems. If a member of the band (yeah right!) is reading this, stick to the ballads Sonata Arctica.

So, I gave this album a 87, because the music is actually quite good. If you are new to the genre then this will most likely become one of your favorites, but for those very familiar with the genre, it's same old, same old.

The kind of power metal I like. - 94%

IWP, December 15th, 2007

This band is often criticized for being cheesy and having keyboards be one of the main instruments for their music, and is also labeled "flower metal" by many of the "kvlt" extreme metal fans. However, I fucking love this band, and I especially love this album.

I'd certainly rather listen to this band than listen to a band like Blind Guardian with their cheesy dungeons and dragons lyrics. That's not how power metal is suppose to sound. Now THIS is a power metal album. It has everything that a good power metal album should have; speed, melody, catchiness, and lots of emotion. In fact, this band reminds me alot of Europe on speed, and since I also love Europe (another band that metal elitists frown upon), I also love Sonata Arctica. Either way though, I don't care what anyone else thinks, this is how power metal should sound. The only power metal album that I've listened to so far that outdoes this one is Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys 1.

Anyway, on to the songs. Damn, this album is full of great songs. However, my favorite songs would have to be Blank File, My Land, Kingdom For a Heart, and Unopened. The formal two are fast and furious numbers with lots of melody and speed, and I an play these songs over and over again, and not get sick of them. Then, the latter two both have keyboard intros, before amazing you with a huge dose of speed and emotion. I don't care how "cheesy" these two songs sound, they're amazing, and I like Tony's vocals in these songs. He may sound whiny at times, but he's a great singer, and I personally like his voice. Fullmoon, Destruction Preventer, and the ballad, Replica are also worthy of several plays.

About the only weak track on this album is the other ballad, Letter to Dana. I do like this song, but those lyrics are so damn pathetic! Ihe lyrics just basically say that the guy wants this girl, and keeps writing her letters about how much he wants her, yet doesn't really do anything aobut it. He doesn't try to talk to her, and ask her out, or anything. He just complains that he can't have her. Oh, and that part "I saw you in the cover of a filthy magazine, and I think my heart just cannot handle that." is so pathetic and pardon the ignorance, but "emo" that I couldn't help but get a laugh from it. However, for a ballad it's quite good, just if the lyrics weren't so pathetic, I would've liked it better. This track also brings the score down from a 95 or even a 96. However, it's the only weak track on this album.

In conclusion, I don't care how "cheesy" or "whiny" they may be, Sonata Arctica are one of the greatest power metal bands in my opinion. If you can tolerate a little bit of cheese, and like 80s sounding keyboards ala-Europe, you'll love this album. Oh, and no, I DON'T like this better than Painkiller, but that's a different ball game altogehter.

Melodic Power Metal and Balladry Done Right - 92%

DawnoftheShred, September 24th, 2007

There isn’t anybody out writing kickass power ballads anymore. As modern metal bands fruitlessly insist on attempting to outdo one another in terms of extremity and brutality, power ballads have become a lost art, written off as pussy songs for pussy bands. It’s a shame too, as I’ve always seen a proper ballad as a refreshing change of pace on a given album, providing that it’s well written. Judas Priest, Scorpions, Metal Church, hell even Manowar threw in some quality balladry to spice things up. “But Dawnoftheshred,” you might say, “power ballads are still a common element among power metal and symphonic metal bands, even today.” That is very true. But the problem isn’t that bands aren’t writing power ballads anymore, it’s that they aren’t writing GOOD ones.

My favorite illustration of this observation comes from my favorite scapegoat among the modern power metal scene, Hammerfall. In order to show that they still have a lighter side underneath all the steel and chain mail, Hammerfall is sure to throw in a ballad or two before a given album’s end. But never a good one. Hammerfall ballads are generic acoustic (or generic piano) songs delivered without memorable melodies, emotive guitar solos, or a noticeable sense of conviction. And so it goes with pretty much every power metal band I’ve ever heard. Either their ballads suck, or they don’t include any for fear of displaying some sort of an emotional side.

Sonata Arctica, more than most, are a band that’s come under a lot of unnecessary fire for having said emotional side. Detractors have been quick to label them “flower metal,” that most repugnant of labels, simply because they write personal lyrics, numerous ballads, and feature airy keyboard textures as part of their sound. I’ve always found the “flower metal” label a bit misleading, as it seems to imply that the “power” element of power metal is completely gone, replaced by fairy dust, rainbows, and various other derogatory faggotry that extreme metal enthusiasts assume that such bands sing about. Be that as it may, Sonata Arctica are nonetheless among the most original bands to emerge into the power metal scene in the last decade; their virtues existing in meritorious songwriting, skilled reservation, and undeniable conviction, “Flowery” keyboards notwithstanding.

Now while the reason I fucking dig this band is that they single-handedly resurrected the art of the power ballad, they don’t skimp out on the metal to accomplish it. But be warned: Sonata Arctica does not use the guitar the way a traditional power metal band would. Jani Liimatainen tends not to play distinctive ‘riffs,’ relying more on minimalistic power chord progressions (held chords or tremolo picked in some fashion) designed to highlight the vocals and/or the keyboards. Even in typing this now, I recognize that this sounds like a recipe for disaster of the utmost level. Metal should never sacrifice riffage to highlight the vocals, unless of course, your vocalist is unbelievably good. Such is the case with Tony Kakko, who is somehow good enough to make this work and keep the album interesting. His voice has a distinctive flavoring to it representative of his Finnish background and his range is almighty. SA would be little more than a glorified mid-90’s Stratovarius clone if it weren’t for him. His keyboard work is also impressive, adding a unique atmosphere throughout the songs on here. Synth effects range from strings to choirs to harpsichords (fuck yeah), though many of the solos have that cheesy pad effect that detracts from them considerably. Liimatainen does make up for the lack of riffage in his solos, however. His technique stands with the bests in the genre, while his ear for melody and sense of feeling is unrivaled. Tommy Portimo and Janne Kivilahti (drums and bass, respectively) kind of go through the motions in comparison, but their playing is solid if not extraordinary. Their lack of variety, much like the guitars, is a bit unfortunate from a musician’s standpoint, but the songs are no less powerful because of it.

Speaking of the songs, they aren’t one dimensional. SA non-ballads come in two flavors: fast and mid-paced. The faster ones are the most Stratovarius-influenced. Opener “Blank File” rips forth at a blistering pace, but if one doesn’t focus on the double-pedal abuse, they’d find a crazy solo section and a lot of memorable Kakko vocals. “8th Commandment” features one of the more recognizable riffs* and is just as powerful as anything Blind Guardian would do. “Destruction Preventer,” the epic closer, finishes the album off just as it started, fast as hell and full of solos. But unlike most power metal bands, the slower these guys play, the more they shine. Mid-paced numbers like the exotic “Picturing the Past,” slightly neoclassically inspired “Unopened,” the infectious keyboard-laden “Kingdom for a Heart,” and the driving concert staple “My Land” blow the faster ones out of the water in terms of catchy songwriting and focused composition.

But as I’ve expressed above, where this band truly stands out among their peers is in the power ballad department. “Replica,” the tragic tale of a war-torn veteran, is infinitely more touching and refined than anything that Hammerfall will ever compose. Partly due to Kakko’s inimitable vocals, partly due to Liimatainen’s perfect lead phrasing, and partly due to the beautiful collaboration of keyboards and guitars (acoustic and electric), this song is a classic. A similar success can be found in the more subdued, but far more introspective “Letter to Dana,” one of the saddest songs the band has composed to date. Tragedy is an intricate part of the band’s work, and it’s put to good use here, channeled through Kakko’s lyrics and Liimatainen’s amplifier. The absolute highlight here is “Full Moon,” which opens under the guise of a piano ballad before accelerating into a very epic sounding mid-paced rocker. Again, the keyboards are perfect, as are the vocals and guitar solos. It’s this song that first calls to mind classic Scorpions balladry, a recurring impression in their later work. Altogether that is this album’s only downside: that it is not as enchanting as their later material would be.

There will always be those that deride this album as “flower metal” swill, but I in turn will always applaud this work for expanding power metal’s boundaries into uncharted territory. And this is not even on the same level as the works that would follow it.


*EDIT: I just found out that this riff was basically copped from an old Malmsteen song called "Forever is a Long Time," so I docked 'em a point because I'm petty and stupid. Carry on.

For the Romeo in you. - 87%

hells_unicorn, December 19th, 2006

For anyone who knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, one would assume that the comment that an album is for the Romeo in someone is an endearing complement for a courageous lover willing to risk death for his pursuits. For me, the analogy takes on a much different meaning, as Sonata Arctica’s lyrics are about as far removed from inspirational in this way as you can get. Essentially, they portray the most tragic and disturbing aspects of human thought and behavior, in a manner reminiscent of Progressive Metal outfits such as Queensryche and Dream Theater.

Musically, they take their cues from fellow Finish outfit Stratovarius, featuring a barrage of up tempo rockers, a few token mid-tempo tracks which are quite fast at times, and some rather introspective ballads. The keyboards and the guitars hold equal prominence throughout the solo sections, displaying the technical abilities of Tony Kakko and Jami Liimataninen. However, unlike Stratovarius, the bass and drum department functions heavily in a support role and occasionally comes off as mechanical sounding. Tommy Portimo just can’t seem to throw in any fills that grab the ear, nor does Janne Kivilahti’s bass work manage to make it out of the wall of distorted guitar tracks and keyboard ambiences often.

Lyrically, this album is a collection of highly intellectual and often unrelated material, although there is a strong sense of tragedy and reminiscence common to all the ballads. “Blank File” is probably the most run and power metal oriented track in terms of words, describing a lone renegade who is able to keep his actions unknown to an ever present Fascist government. By contrast, “Replica” and “My land” portray a person as being a victim of what is going on around them, the former a tragic story about a person losing his mind over remembering a war he fought in, the latter a fit of escapism befitting a dreamer alienated by society.

Musically the album is mostly fast paced, making way for the occasional ballad or some slightly slower up tempo works. “Blank File” and “8th Commandment” are among the faster ones that rock out well and feature some brilliant lead work on the guitar and synthesizer. “Replica” and “Kingdom for a Heart” are heavily reliant on memorable melodic devices, as is the catchiest song in here “Full Moon”. “Destruction Preventer” is musically the most progressive, and also the longest running of the lot.

But it is not the mentioned songs that lyrically or musically drive this album, nor would their influence be seen on subsequent Sonata Arctica releases. The true spirit of this band is found in “Letter to Dana”, which ranks as one of the more tragic and gloomy releases I’ve heard put out by a band under the Power Metal umbrella. It is essentially a story told from the first person about a man who is in love with a woman who is thrown out of her home by her parents at a young age, and he never sees her again, yet is constantly recording how much he misses her in his diary, even after her death in his old age. This is where the ghost of Romeo truly comes back from the dead to weep over Juliet’s body, once again failing to see that she isn’t dead. When ever I hear this song, I want to shout at this man that if his love were worth anything, he’d go find her and tell her how he feels. And if his love was not worth that much, that he should move on for his own sake and find happiness with another. But this would not be the spirit of Romeo, nor would it be the spirit of many today who sit by and dream of what they desire rather than reaching out for it. In this respect, I detest Sonata Arctica’s lyrics, although I haven’t the heart to punish them with lost points due to the fact that they are a distinctive band and a good musical alternative to Stratovarius, who ceased to put out any worthwhile albums a few years ago.

In conclusion, this is a somewhat inconsistent and green work from a band that would become much more focused on “Silence”. This album is recommended to fans of Finnish Power Metal acts such as Nightwish, Stratovarius, Dreamtale, and a few others. It is a bit less uplifting and triumphant than the works of German outfits such as “Gamma Ray” and “Blind Guardian”, but it is an interesting quasi-progressive alternative to them if you like your lyrics a bit more on the introspective side

Defining Album in SA/Power Metal - 94%

PowerMetalGuardian, April 30th, 2005

Ecliptica, Sonata Arctica's first album is a masterpiece of power metal. The album in its entirety is almost flawless. Now a lot of people will argue against this, but read my review and see if you agree. Albums like Ecliptica is the reason why I am extremely jealous of Europeans. I had to get this album imported to me in the States, but it was well worth the price.

This album has a constant flow of heavy/fast and melodic/slow songs, which is good because it throws variety into the album. Some power metal albums are boring because the riffs sounds the same in every song. Not so in Ecliptica. There is a nice blend of power chords, fast picking, and clean melodies. The guitar licks and riffs are probably the best Sonata Arctica have done in their career so far.

Lyric wise...well this is power metal. Cheese to the extreme, Sonata Arctica may be the number one power metal band when it comes to cheesy lyrics. Greatest example would be Letter to Dana. You don't even need to listen to the music, just read the lyrics and get ready to laugh. If you just read the lyrics you will notice a lot of broken English (incomplete English). That is no mistake. This really doesn't bother me as much because when it is tied around the rest of the music, it gives it a distinct sound. Tony's vocals are really powerful, which is good to see in power metal. It can be heavy and full, but on clean parts smooth and enjoyable.

Tying these two together now; the lyrics fit nicely in with the guitar riffs, like a puzzle. Everything clicks and you see this happen on Blank File all the way through Destruction Preventer. There is at least one awesome guitar riff in every song. And of course what power metal band would not be set without keyboards? The keys add a great background push to the music, not until albums like Winterheart's Guild do the keys become a huge part of the band. That's not to say that the keyboard solo's aren't good, or important, because they are as well. There are some really good piano pieces, like the beginning to Full Moon, in Replica etc.

All the songs on this album are good, although I don't care much for UnOpened and Picturing the Past. Most people I have talked to enjoy this album up to Full Moon. Letter To Dana makes them totally hate the album. I like this song though. It has the worst lyrics, but it has an enjoyable flute melody. The part where it goes, "Your father disowned you because you have sinned..." okay this is what I am talking about when I say "powerful" vocals.

If you despise power metal and/or call it flower metal, then don't even bother with this album. It's that simple. Die hard power metal fans, and people who like Kamelot, HammerFall, Edguy, etc. this is for you. The only difference is the vocals, which I think are extremely well done. The sound coming off this album is top notch. It's not extreme, bang your head, metal, but it does have a feel good quality. Not bad for Sonata's first album! A must for all true power metal fans.

Happy Hardcore meets Speed Metal - 80%

starguitar, October 31st, 2004

When I first picked this one up, I thought to myself , God Damn this is the cheeziest shit I ever heard. However, its good metal. All the musicians are top notch. Infact that's part of what kept me listening because I was just so amazed at each one of the band members abilities and the sound quality.

It may be cheezy, but its pure ear candy with the way they manipulate harmonies and musical transitions. I just couldn't stop listening to it. Its very catchy, but can get very redundant. Stylistcally its not very versatile. Very melodic and strong emotion are some great qualities here. I happen to find certain sections of each song that I really love. However there are certain parts of some songs that to me, ruin the whole song by a high pitched vocal scream that really throws you off. Its sounds cool and its in key but its just so fucking obnoxious. Certain guitar lines too, we get the point you can shred. So what. I would have liked to hear more variety of keyboard sounds though. The production and sound quality is HUGE. I'm willing to bet though they don't sound so god-like live.

All in all, its definetly like nothing I've ever heard before. If yougive it a chance it will grow on you. The continuity is excellent. Not a dull moment for me. I find it to be a very unique and an inspiring album. Its obvious these guys understand music theory very well.
Sometimes it reminds me of that hopeless romantic pussy dance music mixed with speed metal. Now you have a new catagory, "POP-Metal".

The best way I think to truely appreciate this particular piece of work is to take a pill of ecstasy, and enjoy listening to it very loudly, whether its in your car or preferably when you're at a party where everyone is on X and into the same style of music. Then is the only time when its cool to be cheezy.

The art of perfection! - 100%

Graftam, July 4th, 2004

That's right, I'm giving this album a perfect 100% score. Not because it PWNS anything, not because it ROCKZORZ and not because it's the best album EVAH. To be honest, I hate that kind of expressions. Who came up with them anyway? Never mind that right now. I'm actually supposed to write a review here. Well, I'm giving this album a 100% score because I simply can't find one single negative thing to say about it. OK, we may not have the best musicians in the world, and the lyrics are a bit simple at times, but why should that be negative? What matters is how the music sounds, and in my ears, it sounds wonderful from first to last microsecond.

Yes, the album is great from beginning to end. There are no bad songs here, no medicore songs and even not good songs. All songs are great, awesome or... no, I can't find a good enough word to describe Destruction Preventer. We'll come back to this song later. Anyway, the music itself is fast, melodic power metal in the sound of Stratovarius, but this album is superior to anything Stratovarius have released since their debut in 1989. We have som ballads here as well, and they can only be described with the word "beautiful". Other reviwers have given this album, 53, 50 and even as low as 22%, but don't listen to them if you like this kind of music. I find it hard to believe that fans of this genre don't like the album, but of course, anyone's got the right to have their own personal opinion.

As for the bandmembers, I think they all do a good job. I don't know anything about instruments, and I can't tell if a guitar, bass, drum or keyboard player is techincally good or not, but I can at least say that I think they all do a great job. Tony sings like an angel, that's for sure. He's one of the best vocalists I've ever heard, with an extremely beautiful voice, and as mentioned in other reviews, he can sing incredibly high. Just listen to Destruction Preventer, from 5:57 to 6:05, and you'll know what I mean. Tony also play the keyboard, and I think he's great. All keyboard solos on this album are great, and fits very well into the songs. Then we have the guitar. I think Jani does a great job with his guitar, and I know it demands some skills to play as fast as he does. Some solos are just incredible. I usually don't pay much attention to the drums or bass, so I can't say much about them, but I think they're doing a good job as well. As long as they don't suck, it's fine, and since they don't, there's no reason to complain.

Now for the songs. Blank File is a perfect album opener, starting with a short and catchy drum solo. Then, the other instruments joins in and the songs bursts out in a standard fast SA-sound. We'll have som verses and chorus before a great instrumental part with kickass guitar and keyboard solos. The best part is the guitar solo starting at 2:30. The song is concluded with a little different choruses. This is truly one of the best songs on the album, and like I said, a perfect album opener. Next comes My Land, which is great as well, but just a bit weaker than Bland File. What I like most about this song is the intro. It starts out with a soft keyboard intro that soon gets company from the bass and the drums. Then the guitar joins and Tony starts singing the exact melody. Very beatufil. The verses and chorus are great, and the same melody follows throught the song. What makes this song a little weaker than Blank File is the instrumental part. Not that interesting solos, but still good.

There are a group of four weakest songs on the album. These are 8th Commandment, Kingdom For A Heart, UnOpened and Picturing The Past. I said weakest, but I think I'll change that to least great. These are short and catchy songs, all less than 4 minutes, but we need songs like this as well. 8th Commandment has a cool intro riff, an extremely good chorus and some catchy solos. Kingdom For A Heart has a great chorus as well, and a very good guitar solo. The keyboard solo is somewhat strange but interresting. UnOpened was the first single SA ever released, and the songs is a typical single hit. Short and catchy. The chorus is great as usual, and it kind of reminds me of 8th Commandment. The instrumental part is not all that, but it get's more interresting after a while. I think Picturing The Past is the best of these songs. It starts out with an amazing guitar solo that gets company from the keyboards after a while. This intro is the predecessor to Wolf & Raven. There's no instrumental section in this song, but all the amazing playing now and then makes up for it. Like I said, the four least great songs on the album, but catchy as hell and they all have a great chorus. SA never fails on the melodic part. No, these songs are not in a row, but spread over the whole album as number 3, 5, 8 and 9.

We have two ballads on the album. Replica and Letter To Dana. They are quite different from each other, but both are unique and very beautiful. Replica is plain awesome from beginning to end, and it even has a speedy part with a simple but amazing keyboard solo. All singing is perfect and both the verses and chorus are among the best ever. Also pay attention to the short guitar solo after the first chorus. A fantastic and unique ballad, simply put. There are no other SA ballads in the style of this one. Plain unique. Letter To Dana is the slow and soft ballad on the album, and it starts out with a beautiful flute intro. Then we'll have a verse before the song gets heavy in a short but great instrumental part. Then comes another verse, and God does Tony sing beautiful here. After the chorus we'll have some beautiful
guitar solos and the best part starts at the 3:08 mark. Then Tony comes back to sing the best vocal part. This is not a song for crybabies, as some people have claimed. Although the lyrics aren't all that good, the song is plain beautiful from beginning to end. Like I said, SA never fails on the melodic part, and they prove that after 3:08 in this song. If you don't like ballads, that's fine with me. The songs are number 4 and 7 on the album.

FullMoon is the 6th song on the album, and probably the most well known song by SA, and believe me, there's a good reason. This song is among the best power metal songs ever. It's got everything. A beautiful piano intro, a soft vocal part before it bursts out in a standard fast SA sound, great and powerful verses and one of the best choruses ever. Yes, here are a lot of ever's in this review, but not in a fanboyish way. God no, I hate fanboys. The instrumental part is outstanding as well, with a great guitar solo that builds up before one of the best keyboard solos on the album. Then the song is concluded with more choruses, which some are sung a little different, but that just makes them better. Tony knows exactly how to make a song better towards the end. One of the best power metal songs. Ever. Period.

Speaking of the end, there's one song left to mention. A golden rule for metal albums is having the best and longest song as the album closer. Along with Hallowed Be Thy Name, Fear Of The Dark and The Odyessey, this is a defintion of this rule. Not including The Power Of One, which is, of course, the best song ever put out by mortal men of mother earth. Destruction Preventer is the best song for concluding this album. It's an epic masterpiece of artwork, starting with some atmosphere to softly build up the song, but what happens at 0:53? The song explodes. The verses are powerful as hell and the chorus even better. After the first chorus, we gets knocked in the face with the best instrumental part on the album, with the highlight at 2:52, where Tony does the coolest thing that's ever been done with a keyboard. The song has some slower parts as well, and the best one starts at 5:19. Tony comes back for some singing, and you may remember that I mentioned a certain part of this song earlier in the review. What Tony does from 5:57 to 6:05 is inhuman. I can't believe he actually sings that high. The song is concluded with another chorus and the same keyboard solo that made the song explode in the beginning. They couldn't possibly finish this album in a better way.

The album is over, and I can finally catch my breath again, but if you want an even better album, buy the Japanese edition. This one contains a bonus song called Mary Lou, which is about as good as My Land. The main riffs kicks ass, and the verses and chorus are typical SA material. Very good, in other words. The main riff continues all though the song, and the instrumental part is great and better than the one in My Land. A great song in all means, and it's a shame it's only available on the Japanese edition. All in all, this album is totally outstanding, and I forgot to tell you it's a debut album, right? Many kickass bands have somewhat louse debut albums, but not SA. Hell no, they released the best debut album ever and you gotta respect them for that. If you don't have this album, then go get it, unless you don't like the genre. I don't think any fans of this kind of melodic speed/power metal would regret bying this album. Just buy it. Because I say so.

That concludes my very first review.

A gay jolly good time! - 53%

Mortido, August 14th, 2003

To be honest, Sonata Arctica was one of those bands that introduced me to metal, so it has kinda more value for me than most other power metal wankery. I mean considering "light" power metal is nowadays my least favorite genre, as I'm mostly into thrash and some black. I pointed to "light", because I greatly enjoy "heavy" power metal like Children of Bodom and genre crossovers like Ensiferum and Iced Earth (which certainly has the soul of thrash). But I think Sonata Arctica are the kings of lighter "pussy metal", at least this album has much more power than any whiny wanky Stratovarius, Mickey Mouse's Rhapsody or anything which comes from Germany and sucks more than any mallcore.

A considerable amount of the songs on Ecliptica sound like ordinary pussy metal; "UnOpened" is "art" of the keyboard rapist, "Letter To Dana" is only for crybabies, and the songs "8th Commandment", "Replica", "Picturing The Past" and "Destruction Preventer" are the cheesiest shit I've ever heard. While at times Sonata sound like the most skillful pussy metallers, in other songs they turn out to make the cheesiest type of music in existence. Now lets look at the beef under the cheese here...

"Blank File" is quite enjoyable, even though nothing special, but I was impressed by the range of Tony's voice when he sings very high pitched.
"My Land" has a nice little chorus, but otherwise it's mediocre although not annoying like those crap songs I listed. "Kingdom Hearts" as I like to call it, is a treasure; this song is so varied and intense, and the chorus is very cool. Then follows what is the the best song they ever wrote and possibly ever will write, Full Moon; great chorus, beautiful stuff. Oh man, if only Tony could sing like this in all the songs instead of going for the whiny Kotipelto style like he mostly does. He sounds aggressive and crystal clean at the same.

This band has got some valuable elements; Tony's a great singer (at least on studio albums - did you know he sucks live) those times he does it right; a bit like King Diamond but less annoying to most people. Other times he just doesn't try to be any special, and ends up sounding similar to the rest of the pussy metal screamers. Jari can pull off some extraordinary guitar solos. The band has proved to be able to make some very catchy melodic riffs. But the problems are that they enjoy wankery more than heaviness, they think they write great ballads in contrast to the majority's opinion, they love the keyboards too much to leave them sometimes alone, they think every goddamn song has to be super-catchy, and they think "cheesy" is a good thing. Too often their songs are repetive and predictable, thus absolutely nothing special. Somebody really should force these guys to listen to some Slayer, Dark Angel, or how about Darkthrone? Cuz then they would realize how gay they can be sometimes.

The excellent debut of Sonata Arctica - 95%

OSheaman, July 21st, 2003

You have to respect bands that have incredible debut albums--the bands that already know what their sound is, what they want it to be, where they're going with it and how they're going to get there. Often life in the big leagues will change a band's sound, for better or for worse. Fortunately, Sonata Arctica is now 7 years old and still have the same sound that they did in their first amazing album, Ecliptica.

Don't be thrown off by the picture. I don't know who the hell submitted that one, but all the band members look like they've got cucumbers stuck up their asses, and it really pisses me off. Still, there's nothing I can do, so for the time being you must take my word that this band will most certainly kick your ass if you are not totally prepared.

Sonata Arctica follows the same style of Power Metal as Stratovarius (lovingly dubbed "Flower Metal" by our very own closet fan, UltraBoris), but they are not Stratovarius. They are Sonata Arctica, with their own unique sound and a wide variety of songs that range from lightning-fast ass-kickers to slow, beautiful ballads. The bass is strong, and the keyboards are very present, but the guitar riffs are stronger and the vocals are crisp and clean. There are some excellent songs on here, and this band is definitely worth a listen if you like Stratovarius, Kamelot, Rhapsody or any Power Metal band that sounds remotely like that (which includes most bands this side of Gamma Ray).

Highlights are bountiful on this excellent album. Blank File, the opening number, almost immediately hits you with a strong, fast riff backed up by a strong bass and a 1-2 drum beat. The vocals are amazing, especially the chorus, where you will learn just how fucking high Tony Kakko can sing (really fucking high, in case you were curious). 8th Commandment starts out with more lightning-fast guitar playing in the leagues of Yngwie Malmsteen, and yes, the keyboards come in and take the lead, but you know what? Big fucking deal. The song is still amazing. Replica is an *AMAZING* ballad that makes my list of the top 3 ballads of all time (the other two being Stratovarius's Forever and Iced Earth's Watching Over Me). Full Moon is, simply put, Sonata Arctica's best song, and one of the best Power Metal songs of all time. It starts out with a great piano solo and then moves into a fantastic galloping rhythm with great riffs and astounding vocals. Picturing the Past is the completely underrated speed demon of a song that blows the fuck out of you from square one with a guitar solo that I did not think was humanly possible, followed by more fast keyboards solos and great vocals, including a really unique and *high* chorus line. Destruction Preventer is a long, fast epic with shitloads of lightning-fast solos and the single highest note I've ever fucking heard put out by any vocalist, male or female (it's at 6:03, if you're curious). Finally, the bonus track, Mary Lou, has a fantastic opening riffset upon which is based a very solid song.

Is it a thrashy headbanger of an album? Not really. If you want to headbang nonstop, get Painkiller by Judas Priest or Darkness with Tales to Tell by Manticora. For those of you who want to listen to actual complex music with lots of *fast playing* and *good singing*, Sonata Arctica more than fits the bill. This album marks one of the most distinctive sounds ever in Power Metal, and it is worth every penny you'll spend purchasing it.

Flower metal fails to own anything! - 15%

UltraBoris, August 21st, 2002

This album pretty much summarises everything that is wrong with modern European "power" metal. WHERE'S THE POWER!?

The really bad part of this album is not the fact that the keyboards are the lead instrument, but that they are not even used correctly - the production completely highlights the drums, especially the incessant double bass, which can kill a horse after one or two songs, it's that damn repetitive. There must be some rule in power metal (especially Finnish and Italian power metal) that you HAVE TO USE THE DAMN DOUBLE BASS. Or else, the great Satan will take away your precious production values and turn you into Megiddo.

I wish.

This album is filled with songs that try too damn hard to put in hooks, and therefore end up being not memorable at all. Songs like "Blank File", the supposed "classic" of this album, just try too damn hard. They take a bastardised speed metal riff and ride it into oblivion, playing the first eight or so notes over and over again. "Uhh, Judas Priest called. Freewheel Burning intro riff is only supposed to be played four times, not four hundred."

At least there is a riff - the rest of the album gets quickly worse. The guitars just kind of are there, because they are supposed to be, while the keyboards go off into random lands of wankery while the vocals tend to be the cohesive elements carrying the song. Uhh no, that's not how to make metal, kids.

It's just so fucking horrible - the songs get very very tiring very very fast, as they are all the same, all being played overfast with little regard to guitar composition, and those damn keyboards are cheesy as fuck.

Oh yeah and there are ballads too. I will not begin to describe them, choosing to say only that my time would have been better spent if I had chosen to, instead of listening to them, anally pleasure an adult male rhinoceros.

Oh yeah and for the certain people that think this is better than Painkiller? "EVIL'S GOING UNDER DEADLY WHEELS!!!!!" You know who you are.