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Whenever a band jumps into fame in their first or second album, they tend to fuck up very early. Most likely, a major label hires them and they just change their whole sound, become hated by their diehards and there goes the downfall. Sonata Arctica did an excellent debut album, and so was their second album, "Silence". They had gathered a few songs that sounded like a massive amount of power metal classics (and indeed they are) only with those two, having some heavy songs, other catchy, fast and melodic tracks and of course, some romantic, beautiful ballads. They faced the departure of their keyboardist, Mikko Harkin, as well. From this point, it was unknown what would happen with Sonata Arctica. Most likely, they would do another pile of pure awesome music similar to what they have done, but no. They faced some changes, and it was time to show the reaction towards this. This reaction is called "Winterheart's Guild".
"Winterheart's Guild" is the way Sonata Arctica shows maturity in their music. The changes are not audible from the very beginning, but they are bound to be found eventually. Tony Kakko's voice doesn't tend to go all that high pitched as it used to in older songs like "Blank File" or "Destruction Preventer", now he focuses more in the usage of his average range of voice and damn, it serves pretty well. It makes the album sound much more natural than it did previously; just check out "Victoria's Secret" for example. With the departure of Mikko Harkin he had to take charge of the keyboards again. On the other hand, they called over no other than the legendary Jens Johansson to help them with a few songs. Nowadays The Cage's intro is considered to be one of his greatest solos, see the success. More on with the keyboards, they are used widely in this album in the intros, along the verses and mostly harmonizing in the choruses. The usage of the harpsichord has been reduced a bit, but not totally. From this point on the guitar began to frequent the lack of solos in certain songs and replacing them for heavy riffs on instrumental sections, just like it can be noticed in "Unia" and "The Days of Grays", their two most recent albums. Other than that, the former guitarist Jani did a splendid job. The riffs don't follow the traditional "one power chord per bar" tradition, instead they keep a steady rhythm along the whole song and at times are left open for more resonance in the vocals. Now, they also get to harmonize with the vocals, but not in unison. The bass is not loudly heard but it is present in certain songs keeping up with the guitar, just like in "The Cage", or being on its own like in "Broken". Where the drumming is concerned I must say they did an original job. In the most standing out songs they did stick to the standard rhythms - you know - for the listener not to feel overwhelmed. In other songs, though, the rhythms are quite uncommon. They may be in something quite common but then there is an oddly placed double bass- that kind of thing.
The album's atmosphere is what makes it stand out so much. By the moment you see the cover art and the pictures in the booklet you'll already have an idea of what you'll find. All the music in here makes the listener feel like if trapped in a world of never-ending, dark winter. The rhythms, the vocals, the harmonies, everything, is just plain cold and gloomy. The way Kakko sings, with such calm and ease helps to make it more relaxing when listening to this album. It creates a perfect atmosphere, this is assured.
Considering how far the band had gone when creating this album, I would say it is an endeavor to be remembered. It is basically the last album where they played in this style, and it was utterly enjoyable because they already had managed to make it perfect. I would fully recommend getting it; it is a great album for the fans and for new listeners of the band.
Highlights: All of them but "The Misery" and "Draw Me".
With their third studio album, Sonata Arctica has shown us they can not only assemble a set of very melodic songs on high speed, but also let the songs together form a unity, an album. What was missing a little on albums like Ecliptica and Silence was the unity as an album. Where Ecliptica sounded mostly unpolished and repetitive and Silence was more polished yet unbalanced musically, Winterheart’s Guild is more perfected and purified. A true peak in the Sonata Arctica career.
Although the overall sound of the band has not been changed a lot since 2001’s Silence, it sounds less half-baked. Not only is there a restored balance on the album, nicely varying the fast songs with the slower ones, but it has been totally purified of fillers. Yes, that’s right; this is the first Sonata Arctica album of which I can say that I actually enjoy each song. Not that the previous albums had any repulsive songs, but some could just pass by without you noticing them. That’s a bad thing. So, now we’ve sorted out the differences compared to the other albums in their discography, let’s get into the music a bit more.
Basically, this is still the very melodic fast power metal as we know. Tracks like “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited”, “The Cage” and “Victoria’s Secret” are unmistakably trademark SA power metal songs with epic choruses and fast drums. What makes this album more different from its predecessors is also a bunch of subtle hints to Sonata Arctica’s future career: progressive influences! They are not dominant however, we wouldn’t notice if we didn’t already live in the future. I’m not speaking of longer songs like the epic “Gravenimage”, for they have done that on Silence with “The Power of One” already. No, the progressive part is present very clearly in “The Ruins of My Life” and the Japanese bonus track “The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me”. Cut-off bars, a swift change of themes like we are used on 2009’s The Days of Grays and weird, yet fitting, vocals to interrupt the basic melody that is sung. With solely the last mentioned being present on their last power metal album in 2004, I’d say this is pretty unique for Winterheart’s Guild.
Furthermore, Sonata Arctica introduces a new type of song on this album, that would feature on later albums as well, and it’s actually a new type of power ballad. “The Misery” and “Draw Me” both belong to this new type of songs. Even though Sonata has made power ballads on Silence and Ecliptica, this new type are more simple in structure and sound, yet a lot more effective. Who said a song needs to be complicated to be good? Now Sonata has found out that, we shall be looking forward to their ballads a lot more. Both “The Misery” and “Draw Me” have an extremely catchy chorus and main theme and they gain more power towards the end, as the distortion guitar joins in halfway. It really adds to the epicness.
Apart from the extreme ballad makeover, the power metal songs have also been given some extras. “Champagne Bath” starts of with a guitar solo with classical influences, which reminded me instantly of Yngwie Malmsteen with much more distortion. There’s also some very nice dueling between the guitars and the keyboards in this song. Also songs like “Victoria’s Secret” show signs of changes in the guitar department. The accompaniment consists more of chords than riffs and it’s overall a bit more keyboard-based, another subtle hint of what we can expect on later releases. A good example is the keys-solo on the intro of “The Cage”, and the keyboard-themes on “Victoria’s Secret” and “Abandoned, Pleased...”.
To come to a conclusion, Winterheart’s Guild was Sonata’s first peak. The entire way of songwriting has been revised and now the songs form a strong unity, a real album. This is the definition of Sonata Arctica’s power metal era. I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who is interested in Sonata Arctica or power metal. You will not be disappointed.
Stronger songs: “Victoria’s Secret”, “The Ruins of my Life” and “Draw Me”.
Weak songs: none.
Sonata Arctica's transformation from happy to depressing was quite a jarring one, coming seemingly out of nowhere and also so quickly that nobody really had time to comprehend what was happening. Ecliptica was just fantastic, a melodic Power Metal masterpiece, Silence was kind of like old Stratovarius on steroids, and then we got this one. Winterheart's Guild, an album that sort of gelled the sound down into a very calm and subdued album full of artistic vocal acrobatics and frosty, snow-caked guitar/synth melodies to top it all off. The band got a lot darker on this one, with the music sounding more intricate and personal than ever - a trait that would continue until the present day with their current opus Unia.
The important thing about this is that Sonata Arctica weren't really trying to make an album to headbang to. This is more of a mellow and reflective album than anything, and musically it is not quite as extravagant and daring as the band had been in the past, being more simplistic and relaxed than before. I can give them a certain amount of leeway for that, because really the style here is just too good to really condemn. Very charismatic and easy to identify. Nobody else ever really sounded like this. Now, the one thing that does bug me is the rather one-dimensional rhythm section, which sounds fine on the slower songs, but is pretty damn bland on the faster ones like "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" and "Victoria's Secret." The drums are just too simplistic for music like this, and the bass doesn't really do anything noteworthy either. It sounds very dry and like it could be much improved upon. This album is pretty much driven solely by Tony Kakko's vocal melodies, which are very layered and complex, always challenging the listener and always delightful to hear.
The best song on here is definitely "Gravenimage," which is a sad midpaced number with some absolutely brilliant "cold" sounding melodies and a somber vocal performance that shows how much Tony Kakko progressed vocally in the short time between Silence and this one. "The Cage" is the best fast song here, with an electric chorus and some truly vibrant melodic ideas, and "Broken" is a nice, darker tune with some experimentation - just listen to the way it trudges along through those aggressive, rhythmical chorus lines. The guitars are more up-front here, too, serving as more of a background element rather than a leading one, but there nonetheless. "Silver Tongue" is the other really good song here, as it has some truly wonderful vocal lines that I will never tire of hearing. It's just catchy as all get out.
I think what Sonata Arctica did here was actually very interesting: they didn't really make conventional metal albums, but what they did instead was essentially using a standard Power Metal template and twisting it into their own special little niche, adding a lot of their own personal touches and intricacies that will probably go past most of the metal world. This isn't perfect, with some slight problems like the drum and bass thing I mentioned before and a few songs that just aren't as memorable, but it is a testament to Power Metal creativity and more bands should try their own hands at this - it would be quite interesting to see what they come up with.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
I discovered a trend in power metal a long time ago that I used to think applied to every power metal band: with every album, there will be 90% decent songs and 10% truly remarkable songs. With this trend in mind, I heard the first track of Winterheart’s Guild and immediately thought “Yep, there was the memorable track, now here comes the filler.” Had someone told me after that that the best was yet to come, I’d have been seriously skeptical.
So, what exactly is so great about it? First and foremost: it has atmosphere. It seems Tony Kakko wanted to mix things up a bit and, instead of having the keyboards harmonize with the guitars, as in “Ecliptica”, he has the keyboards set the ambience all-together. In fact, with nearly every memorable piece of the album, you can find the keyboards doing something incredible (i.e. Champagne Bath, Silver Tongue).
And the songwriting. This is what songwriting should sound like. Clean, audible production gives every aspect of Winterheart’s Guild worth hearing a chance to shine. Every single song hits its mark. That’s right, no forgettable or throw-away tracks here. From the mid-tempo melancholic “Broken”, to the catchy harmonic opener “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited”, there is absolutely nothing to complain about or pick out. Tommy Portimo’s drumming is unsullied, never out of place or unnecessarily fast or slow. Marko’s bass is clean and sharp, and Jani continues to impress with his blissfully melodic guitar work. Its crowing achievement, I must save for last, lies in Tony Kakko’s wonderfully shameless lyrics. He does a truly remarkable job in conveying feelings of love and freedom (The Misery, The Cage), without being embarrassing or cheesy, something no other power metal act I’ve come across can claim.
I believe an album must EARN a perfect score, and Winterheart’s Guild has earned it, and more. This album left me speechless. This is an absolute, without a trace of doubt, MUST HAVE.
Seriously, this album rules this much that it is pretty damn close to being the best power metal album ever. It's just about as fucking awesome as Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Part 1, it's that fucking good. It combines all of the ideas from both Ecliptica and Silence and combines them into one. The best part about this album though, is that how it has no filler songs to fuck up the awesome moments of this album. Ever since I've listened to this album, I've fallen in love with it (not like that, but you know what I mean). If one just looks past all of the cheese, the fact that Tony can be somewhat of a "whiny" singer, and the fact that this is indeed a "flower metal" album with keyboards all over the place, one can see the greatness that this album contains. It has pretty much everything a great power metal needs; speed, power, emotion, solos, catchy choruses, tastefully done ballads, and most importantly, lots of melody. I really do not care what anyone thinks, this is one of the best power metal albums ever.
There are so many awesome songs on this album that it's hard to single out favorite songs, but my choices would have to be The Cage, Victoria's Secret, Silver Tongue, and The Misery. Each of these songs has something about them that makes them unique. The Cage has a very happy almost euphoric feel to it with how the keyboards are arranged. Victoria's Secret has probably one of the catchiest choruses I've ever heard, plus it's jsut so well done with the amount of emotion the song has. Silver Tongue has nice riffs, and The Misery is indeed a ballad, but for once, it's actually a ballad that isn't dull. The song actually alters my mood a little which is what a ballad is suppose to do. It sounds like something that an 80s glam metal band would do. Just the overall feel of the song is what makes it so special, and thus so great of a song.
Champagne Bath, despite the slightly incoherent part towards the middle, is also a winner. The guitar and keyboard solos just come together and amaze the hell out of me. About the only song that comes close to filler and thus brings the score down slightly is Gravenimage. This would sound pretty good on their previous album, Silence, but they could've done away with this song. It's decent, but it takes forever to get started, and once it does, it's just alright at best. If it weren't for this song, this would surely be the best power metal album ever.
As stated before, this album is a masterpiece, and a mandatory addition to any power metal fans collection. About the only thing that this album lacks is balls. I'm definently able to overlook this though, and if you overlook it as well, you will be amazed by some nice guitar and keyboard playing along with some nice (to me anyway) vocals. This is also an album to consider if you want your MCR worshipping girlfriend to get into metal. It worked for me anyway. This, along with Sonata Arctica's first two albums are all worth getting, and I'd recommend hunting them down, as soon as possible.
Sonata Arctica is a power metal band from Finland, founded in 1996. The band's sound is pretty similar to the sound of fellow power metallers Stratovarius. Winterheart's Guild is the 3rd studio album of Sonata Arctica (and it is the first CD I ever bought).
The album immediately kicks in with the first song, the track with the long title, Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited. The song is pretty fast, and is pretty catchy. The only thing that dissappoints me, are the drums, they can be called boring, they are just too simple, it sounds like something is wrong with the CD, and the same part is played over and over again.
The seconds song starts with an intro, which surprises me. I think it would be better if this was the opening song, and the intro isn't the only reason. Gravenimage is a great song, maybe one of the best songs of the entire album. This song also is catchy, and has great vocals. The guitar is good, not really special, the keyboard adds something to the music, which makes it more fun to listen to.
The whole album is a bit like this. It has good vocals, that fit the genre. The guitar and bass are good too. Some guitar riffs might be a bit boring, but the album has some great solos. The keyboards are pulled to the back a little bit, which is a plus, it now sounds more like one with the other instruments. The keyboard also has its solos, that sound very good (especially the one that starts The Cage). I think drums are disappointing, it's a little bit samey all the time.
Overall this album has fast,typical power metal songs, but also some slower songs, like Broken (which is one of my favorite songs of this album). The songs are very, very catchy. Some parts stay in my head for hours. But when a song is in your head all the time, you start wondering if you have the lyrics right (right? Or is that just me?). The lyrics are, in my eyes, pretty good. Maybe the lyrics could be less about relations, but they are very well-written, and might also be a bit poetic.
I'm very pleased with this album, and it was worth my precious money. This might be the best Sonata Arctica album so far. If you like power metal, this album needs to be part of your collection.
When one first examines this opus, this collection of varied and heartfelt songs, the first question to arise is obvious. What is the Winterheart’s Guild? In my estimation it is a name which underscores the true contrast between Sonata Arctica and most bands that are associated with Power Metal, a group of Romanticists who came out of the snowy hills of Finland to tell their thoughts on the world that they perceive with their eyes. Lyrically, it is the expression of reminiscence and nostalgia, be it the quest for freedom of “The Cage” or the melancholy ode to love of “The Misery”. Musically, it still caries the same sense of technical intrigue and blazing speed meshed with consonant keyboard ambiences and quasi-operatic vocals that was present on the previous 2 releases.
The songs on here are quite striking in the musical department, particularly due to the presence of keyboardist Jens Johannsen of Rising Force/Stratovarius fame on 4 of the songs here. It is a credit also to Jari Liimatainen as a lead guitarist for being able to hold his own when trading leads with a seasoned veteran in the art of keyboard shredding. Out of their lead exchanges, the one found on “The Cage” is by far the most riveting.
The fast tracks tend to run together a bit on here at times, though “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited” is easily distinguished from the rest of the songs, as it places the emphasis completely on Tony Kakko’s singing. The sheer density between the musical background when it mixes with the multi-tracked chorus of Kakko’s voices in harmony with one another is astounding, and rivals the final section of “San Sebastian (Revisited)” on the previous release. “The Cage” is pretty much the closest thing to true power metal, containing a triumphant chorus, plenty of speed and guitar shredding, and tells a grand lyrical tale from the point of view of a wolf in a cage. “Victoria’s Secret” and “The Ruins of my Life” have their charm, but compared to the opening track and “The Cage”, they are a bit inferior.
The mid-tempo tracks, as usual, often contain many changes and carry a strong amount of drama. “Gravenimage” has the most blatantly deceptive structure of these songs, going from a very ballad like piano intro to a rather agitated up tempo rocker. “Champagne Bath” is a Malmsteen inspired neo classical number, and although it is quite fast at times, compared to the 4 songs mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is mid-tempo. “Silver Tongue” is quite catchy, full of lyrical wit, although I think the keyboards could be a tiny bit lower in the mix on this one. “Broken” is probably my least favorite track on here, it has a nice heavy set of guitar riffs, but the beat is so dry and predictable that I feel like I’m listening to a metronome after the first 2 minutes.
The two ballads on here display the 2 strengths and weaknesses of this band in the musical/lyrical department, melancholy longing and melody. “Draw Me” is a charming ballad, though lyrically a bit somber. However, “The Misery” articulates the same theme that I can’t find myself identifying with, passion from the state of weakness. The poet depicted in this tale of woe sees his control over his own life fade for the wishes of another, one who would not return his love in any way that could measure up to such a sacrifice. It is here that the heart of winter truly freezes, leaving its would be lovers frozen inside, separated by a wall of ice yet forced to look at each other forever through the gloss of a lie, the lie that love is a sacrifice, rather than a reward. Although philosophically I can’t endorse the words of this musical poem, the melodies and the music are beautiful, and reminds me heavily of the power ballads that the Scorpions put out in the 80s and early 90s.
In conclusion, this is Sonata Arctica’s most polished album to date, although it is not quite as conceptually ambitious as “Silence”, which I consider to be a better album due to this. It is mostly an appeal to the Power Metal audience, but the lyrics on here are so dark and somber that I could see some fans of Goth Metal liking this. It is a good listen, although I believe that the sad moments on this album unnecessarily outweigh the triumphant parts.
My first review is of my favorite album by Sonata Arctica. I love pretty much everything about it – the lyrics, vocals, instrumentation, and production. Overall the music is energetic and uplifting. The songwriting, courtesy of Tony Kakko is well done; there are lots of great melodies and memorable moments. The vocals and instrumentation are flawless I daresay. Tony has a great voice and with a good range, and the rest of the guys are solid at their instruments. I would like to salute Jani Liimatainen, the guitarist, especially. m/ He is just as talented as a lot of the other players who get more notice than he does. Jens, who’s not technically in the band, does the lead keys on this one. The drumming is solid, though not exceptional; Tommy Portimo does exactly what the music calls for, as does Marko on bass. The production is bright and clean, everything can be heard. It’s a refreshing sound, like that of a lot of power metal. The lyrical themes/emotions are varied, but even the angrier songs such as ‘Champagne Bath’ still leave me feeling happy. I suppose that’s the nature of power metal, and the reason some people do not like it - it’s not “metal” enough, or it’s too cheesy. That being said, it’s not for everyone I suppose.
The album kicks off with ‘Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited.’ Musically it’s pretty intense. It has a brisk tempo with a lively double-bass beat (a similar beat to what will be played on most of the other songs) and palm-muted guitar chugging. We get solid vocal work from Tony, and keys help in creating a frosty atmosphere. It’s a good introduction to the album.
Next up is the excellent ‘Gravenimage’. It starts out with keys creating some nice atmosphere before the vocals come in over a delicate piano. It’s quite lovely! Soon enough the rest of the band explodes in and the song continues at a moderate pace. After wonderful guitar solo from Jani, the tempo is doubled. There is a lot of emotion in the both the lyrics and the instrumentation in this song. It ends in an epic manner.
A vigorous keyboard solo introduces the next song, ‘The Cage.’ This song is about a wolf that is imprisoned and wants to be free. I quite like this theme! More importantly, this song is written very well. It is upbeat, and has one of the best choruses of the album. The guitar/keyboard solos are also nice as usual. However, I must say the chorus highlight of the song. It is quite memorable and has a great melody. The key change at the end makes all the difference.
Next up is Silver Tongue. This is another upbeat song. Not quite as memorable as the previous track, but enjoyable nonetheless. In my opinion in contains the best solos on the album. I love the guitar solo – it’s perfect! It’s tasteful, technical, and fits the music very well. Once it finishes the keys and guitar play parallel to each other, and it’s equally excellent.
The first ballad of the album, ‘The Misery,’ follows. As with most ballads, it’s a sad song, in addition to being quite beautiful. Tony’s vocals on it are great as usual, and he sings with a lot of emotion. The backing vocals make for a lush feel and create some nice harmonies (as usual). I like this one a lot, the lyrics are nice, and the chorus is memorable.
‘Victoria’s Secret’ is next. Great title, awesome song. As one of my friends put it, the chorus/intro has almost a Native American feel to it. I had never thought of it like that, but I think it’s true. This is one of the best songs on the album. It has an awesome chorus as well as great solos by the keys and guitar. “Life is waiting for the one who loves to live, and it’s not a secret.” – how inspirational. As in ‘The Cage’ there is a nice key change at the end. As the final epic chorus concludes, drums are left playing alone, which lead directly into the next song –
‘Champagne Bathe.’ Some nice guitar work is featured in the intro. This is a good song, though not quite as outstanding as the previous. The highlight of this song for me is the keyboard, though mostly in the background, it adds a lot. Also the “you keep” at about 2:53 is one of my favorite parts of the whole album, for no particular reason. The song ends the same way it began, which is cool.
Next is ‘Broken.’ This song has a moderate pace, but still rocks. It’s a nice change from the hastened feel of the last two songs. Nice vocals/lyrics. I’m sorry if I keep saying that, but Tony is great. The song gets more intense with the great line, “Burning feathers, not an Angel. Heaven’s closed, Hell’s sold out” before concluding with another chorus.
After a about a minute of ambience, the fast paced “The Ruins Of My Life” starts up. This is another solid song, featuring some very hot solos at about three minutes in. These are the second best solos on the album I daresay, followed by a short breakdown with some creepy vocals after which things go back to normal.
The album ends with another ballad, ‘Draw Me.’ Not particularly memorable in my opinion. But as usually it has nice vocals a la Tony. I usually skip this one. It ends at about 4:00 after which there is some amusing chatter by the band and then about 5:00 of silence. Why do bands do that? Oh well, I’ll let it go.
So basically, this is a very solid album – great song after great song. The band gives a quality performance and the production let’s you hear every note of it. The music leaves me feeling energized, refreshed, and inspired. Any Sonata Arctica fan must own this. Any power metal fan will probably enjoy this. And plenty of people who don’t usually listen to power metal (me) may find something to like here.
Powerful, fast, melodic, heavy -these are just some of the words that describe this album. Sonata Arctica have been dealing out their own style of power metal for many years, but when Winterheart's Guild came out, Sonata Arctica's sound and image would finally be defined, recognized, and appreciated. Sonata's first album ruled, their second was okay, but the third one is their best by far.
While there are not that many songs which could be hits, most of the songs are decent and are enjoyable to listen to. Most being the fast, galloping riffs, with neat keyboard and hot guitar licks, with the occasional ballads.
There are two things that are 100% superb on this album. The first is the keyboard/piano parts. The keyboards in these songs are strong and add a lot of support to the melodies of the songs. Yes there is also piano parts, just listen to the ballad Gravenimage which has a beautiful piano intro and main theme. Also on Victoria's Secret, the piano plays a beautiful part during the verse and bridge. The keys are also very well done, adding in this balance. Jens Johansson also does some guest keys on some of the songs. Some great key moments include, the opening to The Cage, and the solo of this song. While not to technical, the opening key part of Victoria's Secret is also very powerful, and helps support the song so much, that if the part was absent, the song would sound incomplete.
The second superb thing that makes this album so enjoyable is the vocals. Lyric wise, you have the crazy, fantasy like lyrics. Typical "flower metal" if you must. Tony's accent is so thick sometimes, you think you know what he is singing about, but when you read the lyrics you get taken back. Tony really has hit his all time vocal performance on this album. The first two albums gave you the idea that he had a good voice, but this album opens up a very godly like vocal range. He can sing fast, but when his vocals are melodic, they are just as good, and extremely powerful. Gravenimage and The Misery are two ballads on this album, and are probably the best ballads I have ever heard.
Of course there are a lot of cool guitar riffs and licks on this album. The first two albums have a lot of nice technical riffs, but Winterheart's Guild has a lot of technical keys instead. There are some good solos to mention like the one in Silver Tongue and the opening to Champagne Bath. Everything flows together and the production is good. Bass is good and drums are good, they just don't stick out as much as the other instruments do.
What makes this album the best Sonata Arctica to date is the pure power that comes from it. If you hate and despise power metal, then you know what to do by now. But if you enjoy great melodies, awesome keyboard solos, and high ranged vocals with fantasy lyrics, this is your stuff. I enjoy most of the songs on this album, but some of my top picks are: The Cage, Victoria's Secret, Broken, and Gravenimage. This album is my pick for best Sonata Arctica album. It is a pure masterpiece of what power metal has become.
So this is my first review, and I thought I would chose an album that has changed my musical outlook on life.
Winterhearts guild is so good, words really do fall short of decribing it. The musicainship is top notch, the songwriting is catchy and meaningful (no throw away tracks here), and the lyrics have substance. There are only a few discs in my collection that truly deserve 100%. It is tempting just to put 100 up for any disc that you like a lot, but I believe an album must earn that rating and Sonata Arctica's third album is one of those.
Every song on this disc stands on it's own two feet. It puts you into one of those awkard circumstances, where you really want to hear a certain song so you desire to skip ahead, but the song you are in the middle of is just so damn good you can't bring yourself to push that button. Every song on Winterhearts guild is in a slightly different style than the other tracks too, which might be a reason the afore-mentioed paradox occurs, you can't hear the same thing again in other song you like more.
Winterhearts guild is definately more keyboard oriented than it's predecessor Silence, but Jani still gets plenty of opportunity to show off his chops. A lot of people complain of power metal being drowned down with keybaord lines, but here they just provide melody and substance with a couple of solos. I realiae it may sound contradicting to say a keyboard oriented album isn't bogged down in keyboard, but it is true. It just needs to be heard to understand.
Another great thing about this album and Sonata Arctica in general, they don't sing about dragons and victory like other power metal acts. The topics of dare I say it...love and forelonging are fequently brought up causing too many people to comment something like "Sonata Arctica is so gay dude" 9if I had a nickel...) Anyway these lyrical themes just give more depth to the songs and highly personalize the whole experience.
If some of you still need justification to have this in your collection, three people at different times who can't stand 98% of the music I listen to told me Sonata Arctica "is actually pretty good". And funny enough they all said this while "The Cage" was playing.
If anyone needs convincing listen to "Gravinimage", especially at 4:19 and all of this will be cleared up for you.
This is another release from Sonata Arctica of fluffy and furry things reincarnated as music. Well, that's not quite true. Sonata Arctica aren't always as happy and fluffy as they're made out to be, as often the lyrical and musical themes are very sad. Alas, this doesn't change the fact that they're very, very cheesy; Kakko's vocals are as usual very tongue-in-cheek and his Finnish accent bears strong influence on his vocals (he's pretty good nonetheless), and the music is in fact based more on the keyboards than the guitars in many moments.
The keyboarding is what you'd expect from this type of music and works pretty well within the context, and weaves the various sections of the songs together very skillfully, and it is and has always been the leading force of the band. But songs like the opening track "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" (most annoying song title ever), "The Cage" and "Silver Tongue" also brings forth some pretty heavy riffs, though still leaving them back a bit in the mix.
Most songs on "Winterheart's Guild" are built upon a heavy foundation of the essential abusing of the double bass pedal, which just gets redundant really fast.
Though like any Sonata Arctica album, "Winterheart's Guild" also has it's fair share of ballads. Gravenimage is the first one, starting out as a pretty decent piano-driven piece and then getting heavier later on. Very by-the-numbers, and not too notable.
"The Misery" has a very emotional and memorable chorus, and is overall pretty good. "Broken" is also ok, but nothing spectacular, as is the case with most of the material by this band.
The definite highlight of the album is "The Cage", which is by far their best song ever that I've heard. The shredding keyboard solos both in the beginning and in the middle of the song, and also the vocals, especially lift this song up above the rest- the vocal lines found on the song are incredibly catchy and memorable; the chorus is by far the best moment of the entire song.
"Winterheart's Guild" is overall a pretty decent album, very well showcasing the great emotion that the band is loved for by so many (and probably loathed by even more...). If you like this stuff, then this is definitely for you. But there's only really great song on here, that of course being "The Cage". Other songs worth mentioning are the opening track "Abandoned", "Silver Tongue" and "The Misery". But aside from these songs, the album is pretty average and tends to be a bit forgettable at times. They got some really good ideas at several places, like "Victoria's Secret" (but what kind of a fucking song name is that? Power metal about women's underwear..?) which has a really nice opening keyboard melodies, but they rarely manage to maintain the quality of the songs for long enough.
They're a good band, and they have both talent and potential, but sometimes they just don't get the songwriting together. I'm positive that they can do way better than this.
Remember how I said that the keyboards in Silence were less prevalent than in Ecliptica? And maybe you caught the implied assertation that this was the beginning of a trend towards a more guitar-favored sound?
Well, so much for that idea. This album is 90% keyboard work. Thrashy Power metal fans should stay away, as this album is most definitely NOT for you. For those of you who can appreciate the sound, however, there is a lot of good stuff on the album. The keyboard work is smooth and very well-done, with a handful of solos by guest artist Jens Johansson, one of the Gods of Metal known collectively as Stratovarius. The guitar plays backup, but it plays backup well, with solid underlying riffs that often double up with the bass. The drumming is solid and steady, and the vocals by Kakko are spectacular as always. Sonata Arctica fans will almost certainly not be disappointed, although as I said, this isn't for everybody.
Highlights. The opening track, which is very poorly named (Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited) is nonethless the best track on here. Gravenimage is a nice, long ballad, and it is immediately followed by The Cage, which opens up with one of Jens's godly keyboard solos and features a damn catchy chorus line. Silver Tongue is probably the heaviest song on here, featuring great, thrashy riffs by the guitar (it is probably the only real headbanger on here). Champagne Bath is catchy and well-done, although it sounds suspiciously similar to some of Sonata Arctica's other stuff. Broken is noteworthy simply for the killer vocal harmonies in the verses, and the bonus track is a very well-done song, although the beat is getting to be a bit overused in the music.
The low point of the album is Victoria's Secret. I honestly cannot understand why a solo release was made of this piece of filth. The riffs are mushy, and the production is one of those disasters where you have to listen really closely to hear the melody played by the keyboards. The vocals are too soft for the music, and unlike Kamelot, Sonata Arctica can't pull that trick off. The chorus is OK, but it doesn't save the overall song.
In general, though, this is a solid release from Sonata Arctica. It's worth the money, and I have enjoyed it.
Although, to be completely honest, they should bring the guitar back.
The first two Sonatas had some interesting stuff, although two thirds of their albums consisted of fillers and ballads of the braindead. This one is different in that aspect that most of the songs are decent, but there are not as many "great" ones than on Ecliptica. Anyway, "Victoria's Secret" is a great song, kind of their second "Full Moon". I love "Graven Image" cuz it's Braveheart - it sounds almost exactly like the James Horner's theme for Braveheart - beautiful stuff. However, some of the stuff here is really uninspired, like "Champagne Bath" and that retarded ballad "Draw Me", and if you have the japanese version of the album, you are "treated" to the most horrible, idiotic piece of art ever made: bonus track "The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me (Kill Me Please)".
The rest of the music belongs to the familiar Sonata's style. Sonata's singer definitely sounds better Stratovarius' Kotipelto, although his voice is often mixed with more effects than the voice of Britney Spears. The music is catchy, but sometimes tries to be too catchy becoming very cheesy and repetitive, but nevertheless beats all those german powermetal crap bands. The electronic mixing and effects and the overuse of keyboards makes this sound occasionally more pop than metal - it's like these guys have never listened to anything heavy, like Slayer. I think Sonata should try to become more heavy, but I have a feeling that they will just become cheesier on each album.
I want to correct some things about the previous review... The new keyboard player Henrik, didn't play in this album... That was why Jens Johansson played solos in 4 of the songs. And Tony played keyboards in all the songs (mainly backgorund)... in which he is extremely good... (he also played all backgorunds in Silence and Ecliptica). Another thing is, the ballad is called just "The Missery"...
The album is great. The songs are somehow different, Tony sings pretty fast, sometimes you can't follow the lyrics. I think it is pretty different form silence, but still has its own greatness. What I don't like so much are the 2 ballads, "The Misery", and "Draw Me" which don't achieve the great quality of "Tallulah" "The end of this chapter" or "Letter to Dana"... I find them a little bit boring, like "The Misery" 's chorus: "If you fall I'll catch, if you love I'll love, and ..."
The surprise of this album is the epic song "The ruins of my life", sings about a battle in a kingdom... but with a Sonata love theme: "all these wounds only heal when I'm home".... very good song.
The Album is not sonata's best... Silence has set a very high standard... But it is a good evolution for Sonata... i think it is different than Silence, and that is good