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What a magnificent album this is, Reckoning Night, by the masters of theatric power metal. Sonata Arctica have always been rather diverse in the music they write. Their unique (albeit unusual) lyrical themes and melodies have always made me think of them as a kind of 'fairytale' band. Many of their songs tell stories of heartbreak and loneliness in an otherworldly way, which suits the voice of Tony Kakko perfectly. They know how to create a sound that is brilliantly different to any other power metal band, with songs like 'Wolf and Raven' and 'The Cage' having a glowing, magical feel to them. This record has many of these rich, glorious melodies.
The organ at the start of 'Misplaced' tells us that this will be an incredibly diverse, almost experimental album as soon as it kicks in. This is truly the perfect way to start this release, mainly because of the vocals. In the chorus they have a dreamlike feel to them with a real nice melody that mimics the keyboard at the start. The keyboards are prominent in most songs, standing out especially in 'Don't Say A Word'. A fantastical song which really sums this album up: graceful, enchanting and almost mischievous sounding in places. The choirs in the chorus compliment Tony Kakko's voice perfectly, giving it an epic feel. The ethereal symphonies in the background of 'Ain't Your Fairytale' are a reminder of the band's talent for atmospherics.
Whilst there are some songs that go all out on theatrics, a few are just good ol' fashioned rock songs. 'Blinded No More' struts along with a semi-uplifting vocal melody, and comes as a nice, brief change from the more symphonic tracks. Some of the drumming is incredibly well timed with 'The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet' having a complex math-core esque time signature at the start. Each song moves along at its own unique pace, from fast traditional speed metal to dainty, gentle ballads. 'White Pearl, Black Oceans' is the best song on the album. Every member of the band shines here, and they showcase all the styles they have. From surreal, ghostly choirs to piano-laden melancholy and then fast, galloping drums. 'Shamandalie' is also a pitch-perfect track: a melody-rich piano centric track with some unbelievable high notes from Kakko. It almost has a feel of songs like Greensleeves from times long past.
Reckoning Night is a grand, entrancing and glorious release from a highly respected power metal band. Every song is distinguishable from one another, and because of the huge range of styles here it will always keep you coming back for another listen. These hymns of grandeur should not go unnoticed by diehard fans of the genre.
A career defining album.
Reckoning Night is probably Sonata Arctica’s magnum opus; having no weak songs and some rather diverse styles, this album is extremely strong. Even though Unia is my personal favorite, when looking at this from an objective stand point this is probably the band’s finest work. The style is much the same as Winterheart’s Guild, with a lot of progressive influence that is prevalent in songs like “Blinded No More” and “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet”. At the same time, the album is very balanced with faster pieces, mid tempo tracks, and slower songs. The progressive side of this album is one that should be examined closely, because Sonata Arctica truly begins to move further in that direction, beginning right here.
The highlights include “Misplaced”, “Ain’t Your Fairytale”, “Don’t Say A Word”, “Wildfire”, and of course, “White Pearl Black Ocean”. “Misplaced” is a highlight, but also interestingly a downside to this album. My problem is that it just sounds too much like it was created to be a live song and it’s just not as good in the studio. That hole in the very beginning is the root of this problem; in For The Sake Of Revenge (live album), it was a perfect place for Tony to yell and get the crowd riled up, but in the studio version that just annoys me. I actually just flat out refuse to listen to the studio version when I could listen to the live version, though it is a good song at any rate.
“Ain’t Your Fairytale” is the obligatory wolf song that Sonata Arctica loves putting on their albums. It’s a solid song with a good chorus and some great guitar work. “Don’t Say A Word” is an awesome song with a sneaky chorus that isn’t immediately catchy [Editor's note: Really?], but once you figure out what he’s saying you’ll probably have it stuck in your head for a while. It’s also part of an ongoing story about an obsessive stalker that SA has had going on. The other parts can be found in Silence (“The End Of This Chapter”) and Unia (“Caleb”), making for an interesting cross-album story that I really enjoy. “Wildfire is an intriguing and very heavy song that starts yet another cross-album story (the rest of which can be found in “Wildfire ll & lll” on Stones Grow Her Name). It was also the heaviest song they had written up until “Somewhere Close To You”.
Last but not least, “White Pearl Black Ocean” is the closest thing to an epic that the band has attempted since Silence (“The Power Of One”, which was not very good), and it’s a complete winner. This song is an exemplary bit of songwriting and lyric writing that adds spice to the drawn-out and intriguing structure of the song. In some ways, it actually reminds me of Blind Guardian’s “And Then There Was Silence”. I love the chorus of this song and it does something different that Sonata Arctica is well known for: changing the chorus multiple times throughout the piece to keep things interesting. The best part in this song (or in their whole discography) comes at 6:56 where Tony goes up high and separates from the back up vocals to sing “black oceans beneath come and swallow me” up high. I just absolutely love that part, and I sometimes skip through the song to it.
The overall style of this album is actually very diverse which I really like. it’s got so many different styles and feels to it, but the atmosphere of the album stays somewhat the same; it feels very ethereal and dark (for Sonata Arctica), almost like it’s meant to sound like it’s being performed at sea. I think that is where it’s true strength over SA’s other albums lies, it doesn’t overuse ballads and the ones in this are very good (though there’s only one true ballad); it’s the most consistent they’ve written that’s for sure. I would definitely characterize this as progressive/power metal and both parts are equally good. All in all, this is a really good album with tiny flaws, (I seriously only took off .25 for Reckoning Day Reckoning Night, because it could and should be a lot more interesting and as it is does not need to be three minutes long). The progressive side of this definitely starts to prepare the listener for the aggressive bombast of a jewel that is Unia.
I've kind of outgrown power metal. I don't know, maybe it's because it tries so damn hard to be epic and bombastic and ends up as ridiculous, or because it's too uplifting and light-hearted when compared to, well, pretty much the rest of metal subgenres, or because it's very formulaic, and most of it's experiments on progression end up as pretentious and overblown (and I'm not referring to the follow-ups of this album, mind you). For some strange reason, this album, and this band, stuck with me.
Why? If they're like, one of the cheesiest, poppiest bands in the genre. Well, there's more than meets the eye (or the ear) with them, because they really found themselves in here. On Winterheart's Guild they were already developing a style of their own, but this is their coming-of-age, of sorts. Gone is the Stratovarius-on-steroids formula of Ecliptica (why the hell most people consider that piece of immature, unoriginal record to be their best, or their 'most listenable' is beyond me), and they've instead taken that influences, modified them, and thus making them more subtle. The excessively high-pitched vocals of Tony Kakko are not as prominent and over-the-top, and instead they tend to sound lower and a bit raspy, being much more bitter and grittier than before. The guitars are relatively heavier, and they have a stronger presence, with more memorable riffs, and the rhythmic section does their job well, it's not exceptional, but it's not mediocre either.
Despite being a huge presence of keyboards in this record (as usual with this band), they are more subtle, with the plastic, annoying tone of yore being replaced with a Hammond-esque sound which gives them a more proggy vibe. Besides, they are used to create this cold, wintery atmosphere which seems like the perfect scenery for the dark fairytales portrayed by the lyrics. They're no longer the usual happy, ridiculous power metal lyrics *coughHelloweencough* but portray quite somber themes, like in Don't Say a Word, where some guy rapes and stabs his ex-girlfriend, who he's been stalking for a long time, Wlidfire, when a man burns the town he comes from in revenge for years of abuse towards him, or White Pearl, Black Oceans, where a lighthouse keeper accidentally causes the death of the crew of a ship, and, eventually, guilt leads him to kill himself. Though, besides of this dark themes, Kakko still writes his typical broken-hearted, romantic lyrics, and sure, they're sappy, but the man makes them work.
So, an overall heavier sound can be evidenced in almost the entirety of the album, with the songs being angrier and more intense than before, fast songs and mid-tempos alike. Exceptions are Shamandalie, the only full-on ballad on the entire record, My Selene, a fast ballad of sorts, and the 'least good' song in here, keeping the speed but with a more romantic theme, and Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night, a quite melancholic, haunting piano piece.
Those subtle changes in the music make up for a more remarkable listening experience, accentuated by another feature that modified (and, eventually, took over the sound of the band in their divisive next release): progressive metal influences. Besides the aforementioned Hammond-esque keyboards, the song structures are more elaborated and complex, with the most notable examples of this being The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet or White Pearl, Black Oceans.
Even though all the songs are enjoyable in their own, standouts include the soaring Ain't Your Fairytale, the angst-ridden Don't Say a Word, the epic, somber 8-minute White Pearl, Black Oceans, and Wildfire, quite simply the fastest, heaviest song they've ever done, and hell, who am I kidding, my favorite of their entire discography.
Recommended for fans of power metal, or why not, metal in general, since it turns out to be a grower, and surprisingly appealing to some people who are into more extreme stuff. Definitely underrated.
Sonata Arctica’s Reckoning Night is a tough album for me to review. On the one hand, it is still very unmistakably Sonata Arctica and all that comes with it (with a very fluffy, poppy, commercial flower-metal sound of a sort upon which I have heaped my fair share of scorn in the past). And yet… I find myself constitutionally incapable of actively disliking this album. It’s somewhat strange, this beast, yet attempt to track its movements we shall.
And ‘movements’, it seems, is the right word – there are quite a few symphonic and progressive elements to be found in here, as demonstrated with the dark, brooding, almost-completely-keyboards-and-strings title-ish track ‘Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night’ and its lead-in to the powerful and catchy ‘Don’t Say a Word’ (which itself features its fair share of shifts, in a downright jazzy way – strangely enough, I can well imagine this quirky song being in the soundtrack to a video game like Star Ocean 3, as well as several other songs on this album). The deliberately-unbalanced and counterintuitive time signatures on ‘The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet’ as well serve to cinch the deal that we’re well out of the range of simple power metal here. ‘Misplaced’ is an awesome song, manically-paced and damn catchy. The churning layers of sound are here well-modulated and controlled. After my review of Hammers of Misfortune’s The Locust Years I’ve taken a great liking to the use of the Hammond organ and its stylings within a prog-power context; you won’t find me complaining about the keyboard work on ‘Misplaced’. ‘Wildfire’ is fucking brilliant, a heavy, ballsy, speedy attack, with Kakko really outdoing himself on those screams – easily the high point of the album. ‘Ain’t Your Fairytale’ comes a close second, with its heavy bass riffing. Actually, most of the tracks on this album have their moments. We do have some genuine conviction on this album, yessir.
The perennial problem remains that we have these syrupy keyboard melodies taking up far too much of the slack here, to the point where the guitar leads become almost an ornamental afterthought. An unmitigated plus on ‘Misplaced’ and ‘Wildfire’, at other points (‘My Selene’, ‘Shamandalie’) they become distracting. Kakko’s vocals, even if they are good at earnestly wheedling out sing-along melodies and would be more than welcome in a straight-up folk or folk rock outfit, do tend to lack (as they habitually tend to do) the metal edge. It’s directly analogous to someone training in kung fu for health reasons and pulling off each punch and kick well and correctly, so that it looks ‘nice’ (as though it were a dance move), and someone who trains in kung fu to beat the everloving shit out of you. Kakko certainly can do the latter if he puts his mind to it, but for the most part he is more intent on being correct than on being powerful. (And it isn’t like you can’t do both, either. Mac McDermott – may he rest in peace – once of Threshold is a textbook example of someone whose voice can be well-modulated and still have a definite metal / hard rock edge.)
‘White Pearl, Black Oceans’ is pretty overrated, as these things go, nearly to the point of being annoying. It’s mawkish and sappy where it should be powerful (particularly near the beginning). The middle section, where the song picks up some tempo and some decent bass riffing, actually manages to hold up the song’s reputation, for a while, but the transpose in the instrumental section near the end is nothing more than a cheap and overused way of sounding epic when your song is not – see Exhibit A, ‘My Selene’.
All that doesn’t really decrease my enjoyment of the album – and make no mistake, this is an enjoyable album, even if I class it in my personal ‘guilty pleasures’ category. The sound quality is sterling and well-balanced, as is to be expected from an album of this genre. I can easily see why this album receives such acclaim, and absolutely respect the people who give this album an 80% rating and over (even if I don’t). Sonata Arctica truly exerted themselves to the utmost on this album. But even so, the musical style has several elements which I don’t particularly care for. A qualified recommendation for this one.
15 / 20
This album, along with Winterheart’s Guild, represent to me the best era of Sonata Arctica. Both albums form the transition between their early Stratovarius clone era and their later attempts at trying to experiment and sound progressive and failing miserably.
Reckoning Night is where SA’s experimentation began. Half of the tracks show signs of things to come, while the other half sounds like they could have been in Winterheart’s Guild. Because of this mixture of songs, the album doesn’t sound to coherent. There is no flow or sense of unity between the tracks. This might bother some, but honestly, it’s not a big deal since the songs are real good.
The album starts with “Misplaced”, a track that has Winterheart’s Guild written all over it. It is fast, keyboard driven, catchy. A nice way to begin the album. “Blinded No More” follows, and this is a mid tempo song, very similar to “Broken” from the previous album. Then comes a highlight, the mandatory wolf song featured in every album. “Ain’t Your Fairytale” is full of catchy and varied vocal lines, just like Blind Guardian likes to do. The lyrics are among the best they have ever written, about the conflict between men and wolves.
“We have a common past, an ancient bond
The people once broke
We would only take what we need,
They would harvest our weak,
But they hunted us all,
We ended the last of them, thus far, ten lifetimes ago
In hopes of healing the sore, but the war still went on”
…amazing. Second highlight in a row, lead single and concert staple follows, “Don’t Say A Word”. Hats off Mr. Kakko, you have managed to create so many catchy vocal lines and voices into one song. Tempo changes, spoken parts, guitar solos, this song has so many things going on and still manages to rock hard and sound coherent. Next song is an experimental song “The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet”, now this is how you craft a song if you want to experiment. No need to add stuff just for the sake of doing it, or you will end up going nowhere *coughUniacough*. Four albums after and guitarist Jani Liimatainen is allowed to contribute a song “My Selene” one of the better songs in Reckoning Night. I specially like the part when Tony sings “In the end I'm enslaved by my dream…”. If you like this song, you will love Cain’s Offering album, for those who don’t know, it’s Jani’s new band along with Timo Kotipelto. “Wildfire” is next, and it would be a highlight if it wasn’t for the unnecessary spoken intro.
I could write an entire review just for the next song. Forget about the overrated “Wolf & Raven” from the overrated Silence album. This right here is SA’s crowning achievement, they will never write a song as good at this one, and it is definitely in my top 10 best PM songs. “White Pearl, Black Oceans...” is the tragic tale of a lonely light house guardian. I will not spoil the story, you need to listen to it yourselves. The music accompanies the guy throughout the story, and switches according to the mood of the story. The main melody sounds very pirate like but still different than a Running Wild song, and a lot catchier. The song is epic, even without a solo, SA’s swansong to me. The band lost it after this, pretty understandable since it would have been so hard to top this song. It ends with the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, leaving us thinking and trying to digest what we just heard. Heck, you could write a movie about this song's story.
The album closes with a nice ballad “Shamandalie”, the calm after the storm, nice piano and acoustic guitar, building up until distortion kicks in. Good way to end the album.
This album is arguably their most underrated and overlooked, so if you haven’t listened it, go do it. Or just skip straight to “White Pearl, Black Oceans...”, you will be satisfied.
Sonata Arctica's first three albums were pretty faithful to each other in style: a mix of super-fast and melodic power metal anthems mixed with good but somewhat unimpressive power ballads. The band's fourth album follows a similar formula as well, but with a few surprises along the way. It would be the band's first forray into experimenting with progressive metal that would be further delved into and adopted in Unia and The Days of Grays while keeping a strong power metal feel. But while there may still be familiarity with some experimentation, it still creates a fresher sound than ever before.
The band doesn't delay at all with the opening of the album as it immediately opens with the blazing-fast guitar riff of Misplaced (lyrically a seemingly sort of sequel to My Land) before pausing for a moment and switching to a keyboard riff. This is what seems like a traditional Sonata melodic power anthem, but there is also a heavier sound involved, making this truly a new start for the Finnish band. The fast-paced intensity of Misplaced transitions to the first "power ballad" Blinded No More. But this could hardly be considered a power ballad as instead of being overly soft, it has a slow and steady heavy riff which features perhaps the first instance of progresssive metal. Followed by this is the trademark album "wolf song" Ain't Your Fairy Tale, a basic power metal Sonata song. But the surprises continue as the nex song Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night, is a symphonic and orchestral soft instrumental before continously transitioning to Don't Say a Word. This is perhaps the most unique track on the album, with a fast-paced melodic theme that is also dark and eerie with lyrics of madness and obsession, a hauntingly light keyboard, and the normally upbeat Tony Kakko sounding truly villainous and evil. The Boy who Wanted to be a Real Puppet is another example of a power metal/progressive metal mix, but the transitioning soft/loud and fast sound ends being somewhat unimpressive. The power metal kicks back in again with another strong track My Selene. But like Misplaced, this power metal song sets itself apart from the rest of Sonata's traditional sound with a very catchy melodic but with a full and heavy riff in the chorus but a light keyboard during the verses. Wildfire is another truly unique track with a very heavy and aggressive sound that is borderline thrash/speed, features an eerie spoken word intro, light keyboards, aggressive vocals by Tony, and angry harsh vocals by then-newcoming keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg. White Pearl, Black Oceans is the longest track on the album and is the most varied, with a power ballad intro, transitioning to a power/progressive metal sound, back to power ballad, back to power/progressive metal, ending with power ballad. Shamandalie is nice but is another standard, traditional Sonata power ballad.
Now here's where things get tricky. The album's final track is listed as Wrecking the Sphere, which is an impressive over-7 minute power metal track with a heavy sound similar to My Selene and Misplaced, but this track is only the Japanese version of the album. All others are replaced by a hidden track called Jam (under the name Wrecking the Sphere) that is a tropical, latin-styled instrumental that was basically a sort of demo the guys did for fun in the studio. This is probably the biggest problem of the album, as it lacks a really strong closing track.
This is perhaps the most important album in Sonata'a history, because it marks the band's turning point: keeping a familiar style while preparing to adopt new sounds that would be especially prevalent in the controversially different Unia and The Days of Grays. The power metal is there, the emotion is there, and the power ballads are there, but with added progressive elements everything feels more powerful and stronger without dropping the melodic sound Sonata won fans over with. This is Sonata Arctica's strongest outing and it still features the basics. Tony's tenor is still impressive, Jani's guitar solos are still spectacular, and the stunning keyboard solos still complement the guitar solos, this time with Klingenberg. Once again, there is much good on this album with nothing truly bad, but it will once again come down to fan's preferences for power metal over power ballads. Even Jam can be enjoyed for light-hearted humor. The guys from Finland really hit there stride here.
Sonata Arctica is a band that, in my opinion, deserves recognition. They have changed their sound practically in every album, starting off with "Winterheart's Guild" since they pretty much kept the same sound of "Ecliptica" in "Silence", and they still have the luck to keep their fans (at least until this album). Kakko is the one to decide how each song would be, and that affects the overall sound, as it is imposed by how he is feeling. Anyways, he did this album, "Reckoning Night", and got a pretty good job out of it.
Kakko chose to take a slower approach this time. It might not be noticed at first, since "Misplaced" is pretty fast and preserves the old Sonata's essence, but by the time "Blinded No More" kicks off the change will be right there. There is an imposing of a different sound by the progressions used on the guitar and those being supported by the keyboard of the, at that moment, new keyboard player: Henrik Klingenberg. The sound is much harder to digest, as it is not progressive in the Dream Theater type but in a way that it is hard to understand at first, a good sample of this would be "The Boy Who Wanted to Be A Real Puppet". As mentioned, there are songs that keep old Sonata's bits to them, like "Misplaced", "Ain't Your Fairytale", and "Don't Say a Word" which would possibly be the ones to push you to listen the album. It might be a little weird for Sonata Arctica, but there is only one ballad in the whole album, and it's the closing track, "Shamandalie". Its spotlight is off for the keyboard, but there are some heavier riffs in the mid-ending of the song.
A song that is worthwile mentioning would be "White Pearl, Black Oceans". It is pretty iconic, not only because of it's lenght, but because what it carries. The song doesn't have one single solo in its whole length. I know this may sound negative, but it actually is not. The whole song is a huge packaging of massive choruses, strings and anything you want to call epic, as well as variating progressions and rhythms, plus it adds several themes and varies a lot. The song by itself is worth buying the album.
"Reckoning Night" is pretty much a mixed bag. It has those aggressive songs that every metal album deserves with the heavily distorted, down tuned guitars and fast, string-shredding solos, as well as it has some slower songs that focus much more on the keyboard and vocals, letting the guitar be much more rhythmic along with the bass and the drums. There is not a precise way to categorize this album, but it certainly is interesting and I do recommend it, certainly it will provide a fun while.
Sonata Arctica is a miracle. I'm a huge fan of power metal, and was blown away by the song "Don't Say a Word" when I first heard it. Soon after I purchased the rest of this album, and before long I decided it was the greatest album I had ever heard. It has some songs that are more metal, headbanging type songs like "Wildfire," but also some quieter songs like "Shamandalie."
I'll start off by talking about the song "Don't Say a Word" because that song alone is worth spending ten bucks on. It's the first single from the album. It gets right into the action with some awesome guitar riffs, and then the vocals start. It starts out pretty mellow, with some rather quiet vocals, and then it gets awesome. The verses on their own are catchy and powerful enough to make this an amazing song, but then the chorus. I literally get high off of the chorus in this song. It is just so powerful and so catchy, and is forever stuck in my head. After the second chorus it gets kind of weird, but in a good way. There's some very deep spoken vocals, and then it shortly breaks into a great keytar solo. After that, there's a guitar solo, and then a final double chorus. The final chorus gets higher and more triumphant, and I feel like crying because it is so good. I have listened to this song about sixty times, and so far I just haven't gotten tired of it. This has got to be my favorite song of all time. This song, and the rest of the album, will forever be playing on my iPod constantly.
The other songs are amazing, too. "White Pearl, Black Oceans" is the next best, and probably in my top five for greatest songs ever. This one is more mellow, sort of like some of the songs on Unia. It's about nine minutes long, and I would say this was one of the songs that started them on their more progressive side that's apparent on Unia. I say it's progressive because the sound keeps changing and it's long. It doesn't follow a verse-chorus-verse-chorus format. It does sort of have a chorus that keeps appearing, but it almost seems random. The song starts out slower, but picks up the tempo later on. Anyway, I think the chorus is really catchy and it is overall a beautiful song.
Some other highlights are the opener, "Misplaced," which not only is a good tune, but also has great lyrics that I can relate to at times, and "Wildfire," which is probably the heaviest song. It starts out with a cheesy intro that I think is pretty hilarious. Then the song starts for real and is just fantastic from beginning to end. "Shamandalie" is much slower and quieter than any other song, and takes more getting used to. After a few listens, I really started to love it. It's pretty much the most beautiful song ever. "The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet" also had to grow on me, but I ended up liking it. It tells an interesting story. "Blinded No More," "Ain't Your Fairytale" and "My Selene" are also great songs. The only point that's somewhat weak is the instrumental "Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night," which is beautiful but seems more like a filler than anything else.
Overall, this album is a must have for any power metal fan. You won't be disappointed.
After an adventure of polishing their sound and balancing their albums, Sonata Arctica seems to have discovered the secret of their genre and is now experimenting a little with it, trying to push the borders. While still pleasing the fans of their older albums they have changed a few things in their performance, and I believe we need to look back at this album from this day to be able to understand what they did.
So here we are, the final power metal album by Sonata Arctica, the Finnish band, or legend by now, that seemed to have conquered the hearts of many melodic metal fans. What come to attention immediately are the rawer guitars and vocals. Was Sonata getting tired of their overpolished speedy sound? I believe so. Not only does the album feel terribly uninspired at times, it also feels like they are a bit bored with making the same old power metal over and over again. Seeing what they did in 2007, I believe I’m not totally wrong by stating these things. They wanted a change for sure, and this album is still power metal, with subtle hints to their 2007 album Unia.
Not only the heavier guitar and vocal sounds are a cry for a change, but also the vocal melodies. They are mostly still the sing-along anthems we are used to, but now vocalist Tony Kakko tends to step out of line and do a weird melody in between more often. He also sings more with multiple voices, something that would feature a lot more on later albums. I said sometimes they even sound like they were uninspired, or tired. That is very audible on the beginnings of “Don’t Say a Word” and “Wrecking the Sphere”. It sounds like ‘oh, we have to make it fast again, of course’. The songs turn out to be real nice ones in the end, but still.
Enough moaning about changes, is the album good? Well, yes, the album is very good. The balance is still present, nicely varying fast from slow, or mid-tempo. It contains good fast songs like “Misplaced”, “Ain’t Your Fairytale” and “Wildfire”, there is a very beautiful ballad in the shape of “Shamandalie”, and there are a few epics like “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet”, which has clear progressive influences, and “White Pearl, Black Oceans”, an 8-minute lasting story about a ghost ship, as I understood. The last mentioned is a true fan favorite, but I believe it’s severely overrated. Sure, the song is good, but it’s way too long and slightly overdone. Especially near the end, when they reach for the chorus one more time and throw a double bass drum underneath it. I’m glad they’ve stopped doing those things nowadays. Furthermore there is a black sheep in the shape of “Blinded No More”, which is a mid-tempo song with a progressive hue to it. It doesn’t sound like any of the other songs on the album, and hints heavily to the forthcoming album Unia in 2007, though the overall ambience is still the ‘old’ Sonata.
To get a little into details, I will describe the album highlights. Since I feel the quality in songs is very equally spread among the songs, it’s pretty hard to find highlights. Nevertheless I’ll begin with “Ain’t Your Fairytale”. Seemingly just another fast power metal song, but contains an immensely cool guitar riff just after the chorus. The song itself is about a pack of wolves attacking a village, but getting caught. If this one deserves a mention, then surely does “Don’t Say a Word”. It’s the sequel to Silence’s “The End of This Chapter”, and therefore continues the story about the pathetic stalker, this time in the shape of a fast song. Having no typical intro to give you time to orient, it starts right away. The song itself doesn’t really become interesting until the chorus, which is one their finest to date. Then there is “Wildfire”. It starts off with a cheesy conversation which concludes they’re going to set something on fire. Then the bomb explodes with a heavy and aggressive theme accompanied by a deep Hammond organ. Although this kind of organ also appears on “Misplaced”, I think it’s much cooler on this song. Last of the highlights is Japan-only track “Wrecking the Sphere”. It starts off with a keyboard intro, and then kicks off with the familiar double bass. A little forced at first, but then when the bridges and the solo’s begin you’ll be sold. The epic keyboard solo at the end adds the finishing touch to the last song off the album, and closes to power metal chapter to the Sonata Arctica career with style.
To make a relatively long story short, Reckoning Night is Sonata Arctica’s last power metal effort. It’s obviously trademark Sonata, but hints subtly towards their next album Unia. Still, if you like Sonata Arctica or just power metal as a whole, you would like this album.
Stronger songs: “Ain’t Your Fairytale”, “Wildfire”, “Shamandalie” and “Wrecking the Sphere”.
So after Winterheart's Guild, we got this, Reckoning Night, a much more complete sounding and epic album. This was a really heavy and dark release for these guys at the time, this band who everyone mostly associated with happy sunshine and long, elaborate rainbow bridges and fluffy care-bears. Sonata Arctica these days are a much more progressive and strange beast, but this was really the catalyst for their jumping off into that particular abyss, so let's dive in!
Reckoning Night starts off with a barrage of defiant Power Metal ass-kickers that I bet most bands wish they could replicate: "Misplaced," "Blinded No More" and "Ain't Your Fairytale." The opener is a fast, catchy number with a huge, hooky chorus and a Hammond organ sound to back it up with style and class. It's got a darker, chugging sort of tempo that adds an extra bite to the music that the band didn't have in the past. "Blinded No More" is heavy and mid-paced, and it also has a huge, hooky chorus, this time with even darker and angrier lyrics than before. "Fairytale" is a classic Sonata Arctica romp with a faster tempo, and it resembles the band's older sound more than most stuff on here does. And did I mention it has a fantastic chorus? The band's chorus-writing skills were fucking excellent here, and I will never shy off admitting that. These choruses all rule, meticulously constructed and layered to the point of perfection, and, if I might say, better than any Blind Guardian chorus off any of their recent albums.
Pretty much all of these songs have strong choruses, without exception. Like "Don't Say a Word"? One of the most complex and layered and intricate songs the band ever wrote; a tumultuous Power Metal waterfall of riff and melody alike. "My Selene" is nice, with a very catchy and easy to listen to melody that just skips along like a rock over water. "Wildfire" is heavy, fast and angry, and on the other side of the spectrum we have "Shamandalie," which is a sweet and somber little ballad without much grandeur at all.
The unmentioned songs, though, get a bit strange. "The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet" is a moody, calculated and searing song that is perhaps the most indicative of what they would go on to do with "Unia," with its obscure and surprisingly un-catchy structure. "White Pearls, Black Oceans" is a mammoth epic with wintery, frigid melodies that sort of hang there, as if they are a part of a watery mist over a clearing as people walk by with Christmas gifts in their hands, snow crushed under their boots. The vocals are just superlative, and I actually think this is one of Tony Kakko's best performances - heartfelt, warm and just well done all around. The lyrics are also cool, telling some sort of demented twist on the Titanic tale, or something of the sort. Yet another tragic love story from the masters of it. And that goes double for the entire album.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
I was searching the records in a local store and happened to see “Reckoning Night” by Sonata Arctica. I made the simple human mistake of judging an album by its cover and decided to purchase it. A mistake indeed, this album is bad.
Sonata Arctica fans love the vocals of Tony Kakko, but others think he’s full of air. I in fact enjoy his vocals to a point. He’s not the greatest metal singer ever as some claim him to be, but in the studio he’s respectable. Many of his live performances can be argued as stale. Here he does a decent job. Henrik Klingenberg should be happy that his keyboard playing drowns out everything Sonata Arctica does, and here it’s evident once again. Jani Liimatainen is a good guitarist and can play. The solos he can pull of can be extraordinary. I say can be, because here nothing proves that he can play the way he actually can. Riffs and solo’s are generic which makes him look bad. Marko Paasikoski plays bass on the album; it’s hard to tell because it’s drown out. At some points you can here it at all. Tommy Portimo is a good player who deserves much more recognition than he receives from the band. The line-up here is good enough to create something solid.
Unfortunately that doesn’t happen. This feels like radio family power metal. The band is notoriously known for covering their music with keyboards and here is no different. This can become quite annoying at times. Most of the songs here are boring and go nowhere. The opener “Misplaced” is a good track. A cool riff, which is hard to find on this album, is evident. The vocals by Kakko are solid. “Don’t Say A Word” is also respectable. “White Pearl, Black Oceans” is above average although I wish the length were cut down a little. This is about it; everything else here is a little to boring for my taste. Nothing exciting happens here, it’s everything you’d expect.
I wouldn’t buy this, don’t make the mistake I did in buying this. I’d give it a listen first, because I know many of you enjoy this. I in fact do not. If you’re a Sonata Arctica fan you’ll no doubt eat this up and praise it for everything it does. Otherwise, I’d stay a
Sonata Arctica has been a fairly consistent emulator of the Stratovarius approach to Power Metal. The lyrics are a bit varied and progressive, the guitar and keyboards are at the forefront, and the vocals reach towering heights with a somewhat nostalgic tinge to them. However, some of the weaknesses that Sonata Arctica carries in the rhythm section are a key part of their separation from the band that they are influenced by. Tommy Portimo is no Jorg Michael, he lacks the latter’s sense of spontaneity in the drum fills, and tends to sound like a drum machine at times. This was less noticeable on the last two albums as the keys and the vocals were keeping it interesting, but on this release a few tracks expose this flaw.
The album starts off strong with “Misplaced”, which is musically a hybrid of the speed driven neo-classical cookers that dominated “Silence” and the more vintage Deep Purple instrumentation of older 80s acts. We have an intro with a prominent organ part that abruptly stops for a few seconds of silence before kicking into a more Malmsteen inspired set of riffs. However, after the rather bombastic opening number we loose the sense of triumph with “Blinded no more”, which is slow both in terms of tempo and development. The riffs tend to be bland and the vocal lines are anti-climactic. “Ain’t your Fairytale” sees the tempo pick up again, but sadly we lack strongly defined chorus to keep this one from being a mere power metal cliché. Not a bad song, but you definitely get a better version of it in “Weballergy” or “The Cage”. The instrumental “Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night” is a quality demonstration of the piano’s capability of telling a story without words, and the only true drawback is that it is an instrumental that follows 2 fairly weak songs.
“Don’t say a word” kicks the drama back up a notch in the vocal department and provides us with a truly powerful set of melodies. This was probably the best pick for a single ever made by this band thus far. “The Boy who wanted to be a real puppet” is an interesting lyrical twist on the Pinocchio tale, and the music follows suit with a set of more varied sections than previous songs. “My Selene” is Jani’s love song to his significant other. Lyrically it is almost gothic in nature, although musically it is a typically triumphant power metal anthem with all the drum line and riff trappings to boot. “Wildfire” sees the return of our neurotic sounding narrator from “Silence”, and with it a rather twisted tale of a man losing his mind and seeking vengeance for some nameless crime upon an entire town by engulfing it in flames.
From here on it seems that we are left with an otherwise typical Sonata Arctica release with some flaws making it comparable to their green debut, but then some sort of musical miracle just came out of Tony Kakko’s well of ideas. “White Pearl, Black Oceans” is probably the most brilliant composition that this band has put out yet, and crushes the notion that this band can’t write an epic track that can shack up to their shorter anthems. The chorus is unforgettable, love it or hate it, you will not be able to get it out of your head once you hear it. The lyrics tell a rather disturbing tale of a man who keeps a lighthouse and falls asleep, causing the deaths of an entire ship of people by failing to light it for one night. The end result is a man who looses all he has and ends his sleep in the same manner as the people who were his responsibility.
The album closes with a decent ballad in “Shamadalie”, which again showcases the strength that they carry in the keyboard department. Tony’s vocals are melancholy yet strong, accompanied by a well balanced set of acoustic and electric guitars. I can’t really say that its musically better than “The Misery”, but it carries a strong sense of contrast from section to section that puts it into a class by itself. The last track is an unlisted collection of musical ideas that are pretty much improvised, it reminds me a bit of the stuff at the end of Dreamtale’s “Ocean’s Heart” after the close of Wasteland.
In conclusion, this is not Sonata Arctica’s best release, but it is still worthy of the band that put it forth and has some exceptional musical gems contained within. We have a couple of weak tracks, but this was also the case with the debut and that proved to be a strong album. This release comes recommended to fans of Stratovarius, Nightwish, and other bands in the Finnish scene that tend to blur the lines between Power Metal in terms of music, and Gothic/Progressive lyrical themes. Fans of Power Metal in general will find much to like, although those who like the more upbeat and lighthearted approach of bands like Gamma Ray and Helloween might not identify with the lyrical content.
I’ve always asserted that an album should be a collection of songs that “flow” or at least maintain some continuity that makes it clear that they were recorded in the same album session rather than just being a bunch of songs (however good they may be) burned onto a CD. I consider Kamelot’s “The Black Halo” to epitomise this ideal and that album is indeed greater than the sum of its parts – listening to the whole piece is far more rewarding than listening to any single song.
With “Reckoning Night” I have encountered something that I have only once experienced before and that remains something of a paradox. Each song is a self-contained tale with its own distinct identity and all the trappings of Sonata Arctica’s brand of modern power metal, yet the album’s continuity is not compromised; it really is possible to think of each song as a chapter in the same book that is the album. The only thing that I can think to compare it to is Blind Guardian’s “A Night at the Opera”, though the songs on “Reckoning Night” are far easier to “digest” and more instantly accessible than those on ANATO. “Reckoning Night” also shares some musical similarities with ANATO, particularly in the dense layered sounds and the attempt to pack any one song with as many catchy melodies as possible – this is most distinctly realised on the tracks “Don’t Say a Word” and “Wildfire”. Perhaps the rather unique production that emphasises a soft, booming sound from the rhythm section (which complements the clean keyboards brilliantly) has something to do with maintaining the consistency and fits really well with the atmosphere of some of the songs, particularly the melancholic epic, “White Pearl, Black Oceans”.
Tommy Portimo’s drumming remains the weakest part of the band’s performance as his uninspired and repetitive use of the double bass on some of the songs can become tedious at times. The production downplays this, however, and it won’t make you want to kill yourself (see “Blank File” from their debut album) and the interaction between the drums and bass on “Don’t Say a Word” is actually very enjoyable, suggesting some evolution of Mr Portimo’s technique.
The keyboard frequently takes a lead role and is distinctly “flowery” at times and although this naturally leads to downplaying the role of the guitar there are still some enjoyable riffs to be found (the best of which is the one which opens and closes “The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet”) and some great solos, which always feel an integral part of the song and are never just played for the sake of soloing. Tony Kakko might not make the greatest frontman but his vocals on this release are as strong and as full of passion as on any of his studio recordings and his performance definitely adds a lot to this release.
Surprisingly, and pleasantly if you don’t subscribe to the infallibility of Sonata Arctica’s emotional ballads, this release contains only one ballad, “Shamandalie” (which is somewhat reminiscent of “Tallulah” from the “Silence” record). Rather the album has more than its share of fast paced blazing tracks such as “Misplaced” and “Ain’t Your Fairytale” and a couple of mid-tempo tracks: “The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet” and “Blinded No More”.
This is one of the few albums out there where every song can genuinely be called a winner. Kakko’s lyrics have, since Ecliptica, consistently (aside from a few slips) been amongst the best and most meaningful in Metal. They’re better than ever on this record (by far the best I’ve heard of any genre) and lend each composition extra credibility and purpose, essentially turning every track into a little parable that will make its mark on your soul even as the insanely catchy music takes up residence in your skull.
To scrutinise each song would be an exercise in futility as nothing I can say can express my regard (or convince anyone else of said regard – and is that not the purpose a review?) for this album beyond what I have said above, suffice to say that if you’re a fan of melodic power metal this is an essential part of your collection. Instead I will endeavour to highlight some of the most enjoyable musical treats on offer on this album.
“White Pearl, Black Oceans” is my favourite Sonata Arctica song and one of my favourite songs of all time. This is the epic of the album and features many changes in tone and tempo (swapping between slow, mid-tempo and a speedy rush towards the climax of the piece) and even boasts a few “headbangable” moments. The lead swaps between the keys and the guitar at various parts in the song to aid the changing tones that complement the narrative nature of the song. Thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end and comparable to Blind Guardian’s mighty “And Then There Was Silence”.
“The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet” and “Don’t Say A Word” are also are standouts in an album of standouts. The former contains some brilliant vocal melodies, great (and flowery) keyboard parts and boasts a “happy power metal” vibe whilst the latter is a much darker affair which gallops along to an impressive performance by the rhythm section and has perhaps the most memorable chorus of the album (which is saying something).
I feel I’ve got to justify the “perfect” 100/100 rating I give this album. Put simply, I consider it the best of its style that I’ve heard and it also has that elusive, unexplainable and deeply personal quality that ensures, should you let yourself come under the music’s spell, that this is an album that you will treasure above all but the most spectacular releases.
Of course, I recognise that this disc is not for everyone: for example many metal “purists” believe staunchly in the mystic properties of the keyboard as a prominent instrument to instantly and irrevocably turn any who hear it gay. These people as well as those who really haven’t enjoyed any of Sonata Artica’s previous works should probably spend their money elsewhere, though those of you who were sitting on the fence concerning “Ecliptica” should check this out – Sonata Arctica’s evolution from their previous (less mature) works is really quite spectacular.
I've been hearing for years about how great Sonata Arctica is. I have checked out many of their songs back then and I really wasn't impressed. I mean every element of the songs was good, but it just seemed bland, and like something was missing. When I heard this album came out, I didn't even care. But recently, my friend convinced me to get this album and give Sonata Arctica another chance. And I was shocked by the excellence of this album.
There is barely anything to complain about on this album. Its a pretty long one, so you get to enjoy a lot of it, the instruments and melodies are very interesting, there's an epic, I mean there isn't much more you could ask for. From the speedy and heavy "Wildfire" and "Misplaced" to the more classic rock feel of "Blinded No More" to the excellent and sad solo on "My Selene" this album has practically no flaws. The riffs and vocals of the verses on "Ain't My Fairytale" are just simply amazing. The synths in the background just add to the atmosphere. The vocals on "White Pearl Black Oceans" are also impressive. You could tell the vocalist has a talented voice. I love how the song builds up as it heads on for the first 3 or so minutes. It goes from light, to heavier, to even heavier, and then just tops off with a terrific melody and really high pitched and strong vocals.
There is also some quirkiness on this album which is not necessarily a bad thing. "Wildfire" definitely has some weird melodies and lyrics. I think they even stuck a line from a Queen song in here. Pretty clever and downright creepy. The only somewhat bad thing on this album is the instrumental "Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night" which is just boring and the beginning to "Wildfire" which is spoken in a really retarded elfish sounding voice.
This album has a lot of variety from ballads to epic, to classic rock, to heavy to keyboard instrumentals to brilliantly thought out solos...it really feels like Sonata Arctica took their time to make this album great and really wanted to make this very creative and clever, and they succeeded. One of the most pleasant surprise albums I've listened to in a while.
I’ve always struggled with this band. As much as I love my power metal, Finnish act Sonata Arctica have never cut it with me. I remember being nonplussed with the 1999 Ecliptica’ debut and the follow up, 2001’s ‘Silence’ passed me by completely. Last year’s ‘Winterhearts Guild’ was an improvement, but the prospect of reviewing ‘Reckoning Night’ still didn’t fill me with joy, to say the least.
Sonata Arctica have always battled with the Stratovarius-clone tag, and whilst there is evidence of a move towards establishing their own style, I can’t help but think that most of their improvements are superficial. The essential problem I have with Sonata Arctica is that they are just too melodious. Granted, Power Metal IS based around harmonic melodic hooks, but SA takes it a tad too far. Everything on this is literally flooded with overly melodic, saccharine sweet harmonies. It all becomes a bit too much to bear. The ‘Happy’ power metal vibe is truly 100% captured on ‘Reckoning Night’.
Sonata Arctica may have moved away from complete Stratovarius adoration on RN, but the influences of others is still prevalent. Judging by the huge, choral like gang choruses that plague this disc, it appears that SA have been listening to a fair dose of the kings of melodic Power Metal - Blind Guardian. Oh yes, the shadow of Hansi Kursch looms large here. The thing is, Sonata’s attempt in aping the masters of this form of music doesn’t even come close. There’s no song writing genius here. It’s all standard fare speedy, up-tempo power metal. RN suffers by attempting too much. Too many bombastic keyboard runs, too many pointless virtuoso guitar solos, too many soaring vocals, too many melodies!! It’s just all too swollen and bloated.
As much as I have tried to get my head around RN, I just can’t endorse the final product with anything more than a bemused appraisal. Sonata Arctica appear too smart for their own good. I’d like them to stick to one or two distinct melodies and write some simpler songs. Furthermore, if they’re going to use Blind Guardian as a template, they should use their ‘Nightfall in Middle Earth’ disc rather than ‘Night at the Opera’ (which has the same bloated feel that RN does).
There are people going absolutely nuts over this new SA disc. Make no mistake; this band has a loyal and dedicated following (Fucking hell, I wonder what they think of Lost Horizon? -now there’s a GREAT power metal band!). Personally, aside from a killer production and a more than nifty piece of cover artwork, I can’t see what the big deal is. Even if you are a Power Metal fan, SA proves that some of it can be mind numbingly annoying. Listen before you buy this one folks.
If you ever need an example of a band that drastically changed its sound over only three albums, look no further than Sonata Arctica. The band evolved from an intense, virtuosic guitar experience with soaring vocals and catchy melodies to a heavily-produced chorus line with little but power chords from the guitars, keyboard meedling, big, epic vocals, and a drum line that absolutely flies. Not that this is terrible music or anything, but it is quite a change from the original Ecliptica.
This album is more of what we got on Winterheart's Guild, and now that the novelty of that has worn off, we begin to see some of the flaws in this musical style. For instance, a lot of the songs sound exactly the same. Misplaced, Ain't Your Fairytale, Don't Say a Word, My Selene, and Wildfire all have very similar sounds in both chord structure, song progressino, and overall feel of the song. There are also a *lot* of those fucking slow ballad-esque songs, which are nice in moderation but not so nice when each fast-paced song is alternated with a slow ballad. The obligatory epic is also in this album with White Pearl, Black Oceans (epic in the sense that it switches between being fast and being slow in the same song).
The album isn't a complete flop, though. At the songs' basic cores, we still have high-quality power metal. The keyboard work is excellent and virtuousic as always, and Sonata Arctica manages to show why they are the masters of the "beautiful" song, for what that's worth. Many of their slower songs as well as the choruses in their faster songs have amazing vocal production. We're talking A Night at the Opera-ballpark level vocal production here. Sonata Arctica has some incredibly epic moments and some awe-inspiring passages, but they try too hard to get them and they're buried around some middling stuff.
Overall, it's not bad and it's not great. Frankly, if this were a new band, I probably wouldn't like it so much. Sonata Arctica has an established reputation which allows them to flop around like this while still being loved by critics and fans alike. And the sound is most definitely all their own. No band can copy the distinctive music that is Sonata Arctica's. The problem is, if they keep going in this direction, nobody will want to, either.