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tread carefully with this one.... - 55%

krozza, October 12th, 2004

I’ve always struggled with this band. As much as I love my power metal, Finnish act Sonata Arctica have never cut it with me. I remember being nonplussed with the 1999 Ecliptica’ debut and the follow up, 2001’s ‘Silence’ passed me by completely. Last year’s ‘Winterhearts Guild’ was an improvement, but the prospect of reviewing ‘Reckoning Night’ still didn’t fill me with joy, to say the least.

Sonata Arctica have always battled with the Stratovarius-clone tag, and whilst there is evidence of a move towards establishing their own style, I can’t help but think that most of their improvements are superficial. The essential problem I have with Sonata Arctica is that they are just too melodious. Granted, Power Metal IS based around harmonic melodic hooks, but SA takes it a tad too far. Everything on this is literally flooded with overly melodic, saccharine sweet harmonies. It all becomes a bit too much to bear. The ‘Happy’ power metal vibe is truly 100% captured on ‘Reckoning Night’.

Sonata Arctica may have moved away from complete Stratovarius adoration on RN, but the influences of others is still prevalent. Judging by the huge, choral like gang choruses that plague this disc, it appears that SA have been listening to a fair dose of the kings of melodic Power Metal - Blind Guardian. Oh yes, the shadow of Hansi Kursch looms large here. The thing is, Sonata’s attempt in aping the masters of this form of music doesn’t even come close. There’s no song writing genius here. It’s all standard fare speedy, up-tempo power metal. RN suffers by attempting too much. Too many bombastic keyboard runs, too many pointless virtuoso guitar solos, too many soaring vocals, too many melodies!! It’s just all too swollen and bloated.

As much as I have tried to get my head around RN, I just can’t endorse the final product with anything more than a bemused appraisal. Sonata Arctica appear too smart for their own good. I’d like them to stick to one or two distinct melodies and write some simpler songs. Furthermore, if they’re going to use Blind Guardian as a template, they should use their ‘Nightfall in Middle Earth’ disc rather than ‘Night at the Opera’ (which has the same bloated feel that RN does).

There are people going absolutely nuts over this new SA disc. Make no mistake; this band has a loyal and dedicated following (Fucking hell, I wonder what they think of Lost Horizon? -now there’s a GREAT power metal band!). Personally, aside from a killer production and a more than nifty piece of cover artwork, I can’t see what the big deal is. Even if you are a Power Metal fan, SA proves that some of it can be mind numbingly annoying. Listen before you buy this one folks.