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Day follows night - 60%

kluseba, August 13th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Having become a fan of Sonata Arctica thanks to their passionate live shows, I asked the merchandise guy what records I should buy to start getting into the band since I had occasionally heard a track or two before but couldn't get into the band. He recommended Reckoning Night and since the album got very positive reviews, I decided it was worth a shot. However, the record confirms what I have always thought about Sonata Arctica. The band has talent and its very own dark fairy tale style but the songwriting is at times odd and tough to get into.

The opener of an album often has a massive impact on everything that follows. If the opener is great, it will have a positive impact on a record that might have a few fillers later on. However, if an album starts with an underwhelming track, it can leave a negative impression even if the album improves. The latter is exactly what happens here. Ironically titled ''Misplaced'', the opener would be an exchangeable standard European power metal song, if it weren't for that unnecessary and weird break after about ten seconds that leaves the listener confused. Is the record broken? Did something happen to my sound system? No, it's just Sonata Arctica trying to be experimental. And whenever the band tries to experiment on this album, it sounds, wait for it, misplaced. Let's take the quasi title song ''Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night...'', an atmospheric keyboard instrumental that could come from a Myst computer game of the mid-nineties which painfully tries to introduce the next song but fails to add anything to it. Simply stated, it's a filler.

The first four songs of the album are more or less forgettable until the dynamic, engaging and melodic single ''Don't Say a Word'' saves the record's first half from being a complete failure. We have neither unnecessary moments of silence nor three-minute long instrumental wankery here but simply a song that manages to find the right balance between being catchy and offering ambitious changes in a smooth way. This song can be seen as a turning point as the second half of the record saves the day and is a drastic improvement over the first half. ''White Pearl, Black Oceans...'' is one of Sonata Arctica's atmospheric, melodic and smooth progressive power metal pieces that invites you to dream yourself far away. ''Shamandalie'' is the mandatory and predictable power ballad somewhere between Bon Jovi and Helloween but performed with genuine passion. Power metal fans will get a dose of fast and melodic songwriting with ''My Selene'' that sounds a little bit too fluffy for my taste but is objectively above average material. The songwriting of all these tracks sounds fluid yet inspired, focused yet courageous, coherent yet progressive.

The first four songs of the record are all over the place while the final six tunes show a more focused songwriting effort that saves this record. Still, Reckoning Night is not a good starting point if you want to get into this band. I would recommend to start chronologically and listen to Ecliptica first. Reckoning Night is rather a record for faithful fans of the band who already own most of the other releases.