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Some versions of Sonata Arctica’s debut album contain an eleventh track, “Mary Lou.” For band enthusiasts, the only other way to acquire this song (besides downloading it) is as the B-side to the band’s single “Unopened.” If you are such an enthusiast, than I can recommend this as worth tracking down. Otherwise…..don’t bother.
The single opens with, of course, the track “Unopened,” a mid-paced number that appears on their debut album. While it’s not the best song off of there, it could easily be considered the catchiest, featuring lots of cool harpsichord synth (especially the intro) and lots of trademark Tony Kakko vocal hooks. The lyrics are a bit cheesy (it’s about an unopened love letter) but the song is catchy enough that it’s not an issue. The synth melody starting at 2:07 is pretty sweet as well.
The real reason to bother tracking this thing down is “Mary Lou.” Leading off with a killer opening riff (seasoned with a flanger effect), the song would have fit very well into the mid-paced category songs off of Ecliptica. The story here is a bit sappy for even power metal, but again, Kakko’s vocals make it worthwhile. The solo here is pretty nice too, as well as that sudden stop in the chorus immediately after the solo. Another great song by a great band.
But again, if you aren’t a fan of them, this is valueless to you. SA faithful, however, would do well to have the killer B-side in their collection.
Ah, so here I am reviewing the very beginning of one of power metal's most loved and hated bands, Sonata Arctica. They didn't even have any albums out when they put out this single. This was their early days, so expect the happiest, keyboard-laden, Stratovarius-influenced power metal there ever was. And that's pretty much what you get. The music here isn't innovative or thought provoking, or even heavy. It's just some light, fluffy power metal that goes easy on your ears, and is generally inoffensive and catchy, music for easy and safe listening. The lyrics are a hoot, too, being written by a bunch of Finnish teenagers with little to no command over the English language, so you can expect a lot of unintelligable phrases and lines. But hell, give them a break, they were just starting.
I'm not going to bother with any more pretension. UnOpened is the worst song on Sonata Arctica's 1999 debut Ecliptica being the most poppy and annoying of the bunch, with lyrics that are insipid and not really up to standard with their better works. Tony Kakko sounds a lot like Timo Koltipelto except better, and the production is pretty shoddy and light, not having any real backbone to it at all. It doesn't really stick with you at all, being a quick, poppy, accessible little radio jaunt that fades from memory quickly and without much of a fight. However, one thing I can't help but like here is that opening keyboard line. It's catchy and the only worthwhile idea in the song, and is the only reason I even remembered such a bland song.
Next up is Mary-Lou, one of the fastest songs I've ever heard them do. Maybe it's just the fact that I heard the acoustic version first, but this song is fucking insane, an exuberant speed run that should've definetly made it onto their debut, because it's better than half of the stuff on there. In fact I am going to bump the review up an extra 3 points because this song is damn good. The lyrics tell a tale of a girl who has run away from home, but in just about the worst English I've seen from a power metal band. In fact, this is one of the best songs they've ever written. I can't help but think this is a great song. "Promise you the moon, but won't maaaaaaarry you!" And that riff is actually pretty damn cool. So cheesy and over-the-top that it makes for a full platter of power metal goodness. No matter how lame the lyrics are, this song will remain a tragically forgotten Sonata Arctica classic.
So, final verdict? Catchy, stereotypical power metal that's generally less annoying than most stuff Stratovarius has put out lately, and the start of a great fucking band. Only recommended to enthusiasts.