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Winterheart's Guild Part II - 85%

OSheaman, October 6th, 2004

If you ever need an example of a band that drastically changed its sound over only three albums, look no further than Sonata Arctica. The band evolved from an intense, virtuosic guitar experience with soaring vocals and catchy melodies to a heavily-produced chorus line with little but power chords from the guitars, keyboard meedling, big, epic vocals, and a drum line that absolutely flies. Not that this is terrible music or anything, but it is quite a change from the original Ecliptica.

This album is more of what we got on Winterheart's Guild, and now that the novelty of that has worn off, we begin to see some of the flaws in this musical style. For instance, a lot of the songs sound exactly the same. Misplaced, Ain't Your Fairytale, Don't Say a Word, My Selene, and Wildfire all have very similar sounds in both chord structure, song progressino, and overall feel of the song. There are also a *lot* of those fucking slow ballad-esque songs, which are nice in moderation but not so nice when each fast-paced song is alternated with a slow ballad. The obligatory epic is also in this album with White Pearl, Black Oceans (epic in the sense that it switches between being fast and being slow in the same song).

The album isn't a complete flop, though. At the songs' basic cores, we still have high-quality power metal. The keyboard work is excellent and virtuousic as always, and Sonata Arctica manages to show why they are the masters of the "beautiful" song, for what that's worth. Many of their slower songs as well as the choruses in their faster songs have amazing vocal production. We're talking A Night at the Opera-ballpark level vocal production here. Sonata Arctica has some incredibly epic moments and some awe-inspiring passages, but they try too hard to get them and they're buried around some middling stuff.

Overall, it's not bad and it's not great. Frankly, if this were a new band, I probably wouldn't like it so much. Sonata Arctica has an established reputation which allows them to flop around like this while still being loved by critics and fans alike. And the sound is most definitely all their own. No band can copy the distinctive music that is Sonata Arctica's. The problem is, if they keep going in this direction, nobody will want to, either.