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The excellent debut of Sonata Arctica - 95%

OSheaman, July 21st, 2003

You have to respect bands that have incredible debut albums--the bands that already know what their sound is, what they want it to be, where they're going with it and how they're going to get there. Often life in the big leagues will change a band's sound, for better or for worse. Fortunately, Sonata Arctica is now 7 years old and still have the same sound that they did in their first amazing album, Ecliptica.

Don't be thrown off by the picture. I don't know who the hell submitted that one, but all the band members look like they've got cucumbers stuck up their asses, and it really pisses me off. Still, there's nothing I can do, so for the time being you must take my word that this band will most certainly kick your ass if you are not totally prepared.

Sonata Arctica follows the same style of Power Metal as Stratovarius (lovingly dubbed "Flower Metal" by our very own closet fan, UltraBoris), but they are not Stratovarius. They are Sonata Arctica, with their own unique sound and a wide variety of songs that range from lightning-fast ass-kickers to slow, beautiful ballads. The bass is strong, and the keyboards are very present, but the guitar riffs are stronger and the vocals are crisp and clean. There are some excellent songs on here, and this band is definitely worth a listen if you like Stratovarius, Kamelot, Rhapsody or any Power Metal band that sounds remotely like that (which includes most bands this side of Gamma Ray).

Highlights are bountiful on this excellent album. Blank File, the opening number, almost immediately hits you with a strong, fast riff backed up by a strong bass and a 1-2 drum beat. The vocals are amazing, especially the chorus, where you will learn just how fucking high Tony Kakko can sing (really fucking high, in case you were curious). 8th Commandment starts out with more lightning-fast guitar playing in the leagues of Yngwie Malmsteen, and yes, the keyboards come in and take the lead, but you know what? Big fucking deal. The song is still amazing. Replica is an *AMAZING* ballad that makes my list of the top 3 ballads of all time (the other two being Stratovarius's Forever and Iced Earth's Watching Over Me). Full Moon is, simply put, Sonata Arctica's best song, and one of the best Power Metal songs of all time. It starts out with a great piano solo and then moves into a fantastic galloping rhythm with great riffs and astounding vocals. Picturing the Past is the completely underrated speed demon of a song that blows the fuck out of you from square one with a guitar solo that I did not think was humanly possible, followed by more fast keyboards solos and great vocals, including a really unique and *high* chorus line. Destruction Preventer is a long, fast epic with shitloads of lightning-fast solos and the single highest note I've ever fucking heard put out by any vocalist, male or female (it's at 6:03, if you're curious). Finally, the bonus track, Mary Lou, has a fantastic opening riffset upon which is based a very solid song.

Is it a thrashy headbanger of an album? Not really. If you want to headbang nonstop, get Painkiller by Judas Priest or Darkness with Tales to Tell by Manticora. For those of you who want to listen to actual complex music with lots of *fast playing* and *good singing*, Sonata Arctica more than fits the bill. This album marks one of the most distinctive sounds ever in Power Metal, and it is worth every penny you'll spend purchasing it.