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Inspiring as a cold winter night - 90%

kluseba, September 11th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Avalon (Japan)

Sonata Arctica's tenth studio record Talviyö is as beautiful, enchanting and inspired as its outstanding cover artwork which underlines the Finnish album title that translates to Winter Night.

The album has however received average to negative reviews so far. It's true that the band won't ever go back to its traditional European power metal roots. It's a fact that the album production is somewhat muddy and especially the guitar play sounds powerless at times. The record includes two fillers with the numbing ''The Last of the Lambs'' and the sleep-inducingly soft conclusion ''The Garden''.

The rest of the material is however the best the Finnish quintet has delivered in decades. Opener ''Message from the Sun'' for instance manages to create a haunting, inspiring and magical atmosphere right from the first seconds onwards and includes everything one could expect from a Sonata Arctica song from epic keyboard sounds over moving guitar melodies to expressive vocals which are still absolutely unique even though Tony Kakko seems to look about ten years older than he actually is on recent press photos.

The band harkens back to its progressive era circa Unia with songs like the complex and creative ''Whirlwind'' that includes more ideas than similar progressive power metal bands offer on entire records or the calm, intellectual and symphonic ''The Rave Still Flies with You'' that has the highest potential to grow with multiple spins.

The Finnish quintet also includes more power metal elements on this release than on its more experimental predecessor The Ninth Hour. The dramatic, melodic and poignant ''Who Failed the Most'' moves brain and heart while Japanese bonus track ''You Won't Fall'' should please to fans of old date and should have been included on all versions of the new record.

Sonata Arctica managed to chose immediately appealing singles to promote the new record. ''A Little Less Understanding'' can be seen as a continuation of ''I Have a Right'' as it deals with the difficulties of bringing up a child but the song is much more diversified without losing its catchy melodic side. Despite being instantly memorable, the song is instrumentally complex and also has a satisfactory heavy undertone. ''Cold'' is my personal highlight on the album as the song opens with dreamy acoustic guitars and smooth vocals before it evolves into a heavy and surprisingly modern stomper with expressive vocals and a courageous bridge with domineering bass guitar sounds. The band proves that it hasn't lost its capacity to combine creative and experimental song writing with catchy and emotive vocals. The lyrics are also easy to empathize with as Sonata Arctica doesn't only convince in the fantastical realms but also in bringing to life emotional struggles of all kinds as in this track.

Sonata Arctica's Talviyö is a creative, diversified, emotive, memorable and profound melodic metal output that deserves more attention and especially more positive reviews than it gets. The final result sounds closest to a mixture of The Ninth Hour and Unia as it mixes mellower melodic soundscapes with heavier and progressive parts. This release is a career highlight and one of the greatest power metal releases of the year.