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Fresh, energetic, repetitive - 66%

The_CrY, February 12th, 2010

Ecliptica shows us an album full of speedy, energetic, melodic power metal, in its earliest form. Sonata Arctica presented us with their debut album back in 1999, and compared to their later albums I think I can say Ecliptica was the raw essence of Sonata, that would be polished on later releases. Think of the lack of balance on the album, the overall oversmoothness, and the overwhelming of melodies. Tony Kakko sings literally sky-high on this release, but his voice sounds more controlled on later albums. All these things make a debut album very fun, since it’s mostly a copy of a band’s biggest influence, in this case a combination of Yngwie Malmsteen and Stratovarius.

When we put the CD in the player, and the first song “Blank File” begins to play, we are immediately blown away by the high tempo and the very melodic power metal. Though this opener isn’t quite the catchy Sonata Arctica as you can hear on later albums, the album does contain true SA classics. Songs like “Replica”, “8th Commandment” and “FullMoon” are songs that truly are the basis and the essence of the Sonata Arctica power metal sound. Although “Replica” quite easily bores me a little, the other two are easily candidates for the album’s best songs. Complemented by epic “Letter to Dana”, I think we have assembled Ecliptica’s holy trinity. Apart from that, the opener song sets the right ambience for the album, but the melodies are not really that catchy yet, and it’s not a convincing album overall.

The good side of this album is that it contains “Letter to Dana”. Being the only real ballad on the album makes it really stand out. It’s a story about a girl who fled from home and derailed a little, and it’s told through letters. The cohesion of all the instruments here is admirable, and the striking guitar solo really adds power to the song, turning it into an epic. Also worth listening to is FullMoon, a tale about a man becoming a werewolf while his wife is about to be eaten by himself. It starts of real gently, and then kind of explodes into the power metal anthem, with a true catchy sing-along chorus. Unfortunately there’s also less worthy stuff on the album, as I mentioned before. “UnOpened”, although it was the first single, really doesn’t say anything at all. It’s a simple song consisting of an average melody, standard song structure and continuous double bass drums, telling a story about getting a letter but not daring to open it. In the same line is “Picturing the Past”, which does not really have anything that comes to mind except for the notable guitar theme in the intro. I can’t really mention anything more about it simply because it has no hooks and can’t stay in my mind. We do have a worthy album closer though, in the shape of “Destruction Preventer”. Though it tends to believe you that it’s an epic due to the long silent intro, it’s just another power metal song, with some weird themes thrown in, nowadays immediately labeled as ‘hints towards their far future’ in 2007’s progressive Unia. Apart from that it has a catchy chorus, but repulsive themes just after the second verse. I guess this was a little too early for them to go progressive.

I mentioned earlier that this album sounds a little unpolished. Best examples for this are songs like “Kingdom for a Heart”, “Picturing the Past” and “My Land”. The idea of these songs is nice, but they grab those double bass drums way too easily, which gives little variety in the songs, since most of them have the same tempo. Even the Japanese bonus track “Mary-Lou” sounds as if they were in haste when making it, the acoustic version on “Orientation” offers a much more satisfactory tempo, giving the listener some time to get struck by the lyrics. Too give an even better view of the lack of variety on this album, there are but three songs that are not fast. The guitar sounds way too monotonous here, mostly just riffing along with the double bass drums on the background.

Having given a short overview of this album, I will conclude that this album is good, not great. It’s Sonata Arctica in their earliest form, making power metal with subtle hints of where they are going to in later albums, but also with little variety in the tempo’s, making it a bit repetitive to listen to. Overall, this is one album worth checking out, if you are a fan of Sonata Arctica. If not, you should check out Silence or Winterheart’s Guild first.

Strongest Tracks: “8th Commandment”, “FullMoon” and “Letter to Dana”.
Weakest: “UnOpened”, “Picturing the Past” and “Kingdom for a Heart”.

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