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White Pearl, Black Oceans... - 96%

metroplex, February 26th, 2012

This album, along with Winterheart’s Guild, represent to me the best era of Sonata Arctica. Both albums form the transition between their early Stratovarius clone era and their later attempts at trying to experiment and sound progressive and failing miserably.

Reckoning Night is where SA’s experimentation began. Half of the tracks show signs of things to come, while the other half sounds like they could have been in Winterheart’s Guild. Because of this mixture of songs, the album doesn’t sound to coherent. There is no flow or sense of unity between the tracks. This might bother some, but honestly, it’s not a big deal since the songs are real good.

The album starts with “Misplaced”, a track that has Winterheart’s Guild written all over it. It is fast, keyboard driven, catchy. A nice way to begin the album. “Blinded No More” follows, and this is a mid tempo song, very similar to “Broken” from the previous album. Then comes a highlight, the mandatory wolf song featured in every album. “Ain’t Your Fairytale” is full of catchy and varied vocal lines, just like Blind Guardian likes to do. The lyrics are among the best they have ever written, about the conflict between men and wolves.

“We have a common past, an ancient bond
The people once broke
We would only take what we need,
They would harvest our weak,

But they hunted us all,
We ended the last of them, thus far, ten lifetimes ago
In hopes of healing the sore, but the war still went on”

…amazing. Second highlight in a row, lead single and concert staple follows, “Don’t Say A Word”. Hats off Mr. Kakko, you have managed to create so many catchy vocal lines and voices into one song. Tempo changes, spoken parts, guitar solos, this song has so many things going on and still manages to rock hard and sound coherent. Next song is an experimental song “The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet”, now this is how you craft a song if you want to experiment. No need to add stuff just for the sake of doing it, or you will end up going nowhere *coughUniacough*. Four albums after and guitarist Jani Liimatainen is allowed to contribute a song “My Selene” one of the better songs in Reckoning Night. I specially like the part when Tony sings “In the end I'm enslaved by my dream…”. If you like this song, you will love Cain’s Offering album, for those who don’t know, it’s Jani’s new band along with Timo Kotipelto. “Wildfire” is next, and it would be a highlight if it wasn’t for the unnecessary spoken intro.

I could write an entire review just for the next song. Forget about the overrated “Wolf & Raven” from the overrated Silence album. This right here is SA’s crowning achievement, they will never write a song as good at this one, and it is definitely in my top 10 best PM songs. “White Pearl, Black Oceans...” is the tragic tale of a lonely light house guardian. I will not spoil the story, you need to listen to it yourselves. The music accompanies the guy throughout the story, and switches according to the mood of the story. The main melody sounds very pirate like but still different than a Running Wild song, and a lot catchier. The song is epic, even without a solo, SA’s swansong to me. The band lost it after this, pretty understandable since it would have been so hard to top this song. It ends with the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks, leaving us thinking and trying to digest what we just heard. Heck, you could write a movie about this song's story.

The album closes with a nice ballad “Shamandalie”, the calm after the storm, nice piano and acoustic guitar, building up until distortion kicks in. Good way to end the album.
This album is arguably their most underrated and overlooked, so if you haven’t listened it, go do it. Or just skip straight to “White Pearl, Black Oceans...”, you will be satisfied.