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The Child of Sonata. Go Figure. - 80%

Baragon94, May 24th, 2012

After being given the boot from Sonata Arctica, guitarist Jani Liimatainen set out to further his musical career in this supergroup of Finnish power metal musicians. I had known of this group for awhile, and had always put off giving "Gathering the Faithful" a listen, figuring that I would eventually get around to it. When I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised; while I was certainly expecting a good effort from this Finnish supergroup, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. A bit foolish of me really, given the musicians involved in this project; Jani and Mikko Harkin both formely of Sonata Arctica, Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius, and Jukka Koskinen of Wintersun and Norther. So you can take one look at the lineup and pretty much guarantee a good listen. And "Gather the Faithful" gives us just that.

As far as originality goes, "Gather the Faithful" doesn't score many points as it basically screams Sonata Arctica. Literally the only difference between the two bands is that Timo is singing the songs; if Tony Kakko was on vocals then it might as well be a Sonata record. Not that that's a bad thing, as "Gather the Faithful" is a stronger release than anything Sonata has done since Reckoning Night. Jani is a commendable composer and it's cool to see him doing his own thing for a change. Again though, it doesn't differentiate much from his stuff in Sonata, but then again, he didn't write the songs then. He's always been incredibly underrated as a guitarist, and he has some tasty axe work on display here, although it is not his best work by any stretch and it would be nice to see more lead guitar to spice up an otherwise keyboard driven album with pretty basic riffing.

The keyboards are excellent though and have a very wintery atmosphere. "My Queen of Winter" is an obvious but effective example. Timo does a fantastic job on vocals, as always, but some of the lyrics he sings are so incredibly cheesy that it makes you want to gag. For all that Jani says about power metal being stupid because of fantasy subject matter, choosing to write sappy love lyrics isn't a viable substitute. It doesn't sink the big picture though, and Timo sings to such perfection that you let it slide. His singing on the acoustic/piano tracks "Into the Blue" and "Elegantly Broken" is particularly well done. It'd be great if he and Jani could bring this to a live stage, but that seems unlikely to happen.

All in all, this is a very solid power metal release, and should definitely be checked out by fans of Sonata and Stratovarius. It won't blow your mind, as we've heard all this before, but you could do far worse than a valiant effort from a Finnish supergroup.