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Melodious fury, strike down upon thee! - 94%

Empyreal, July 28th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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