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Pride in Those Verses - 89%

Ergonal, February 15th, 2014

Sonata Arctica has a history of making excellent power metal, but this time around, they've upped their musical quality even higher. In today's world of music, some artists can get away with the appeal to fans with just a bunch of filler and a couple catchy choruses here and there, but when it comes to making music, Sonata Arctica goes above and beyond the expectations of a band and its fans that would try to achieve such astonishing works in their entire career. It is easy to tell that this band spends more time creating their masterpiece instead of having just a few good tracks and then filling the rest up with bland crap just to get to the usual ten songs.

A main theme that every song on this album has is good verses all around. Not a single song has poorly written verses or even "okay" verses. The riffs in the verses are meaty in songs like "Broken", where each crunchy chord is periodic, giving emphasis on them individually, all in all bringing the song to its maximum potential. The same can be said for "Silver Tongue", where they use the 6/8 time signature to their advantage in order to make the verses heavier and backed by a powerful driving force. In songs like "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" and "The Cage", the rhythm of the guitars is built off of the speed of the tracks, using that as their momentum, and the result is rich guitar work that makes the songs fast, exciting, but controlled in a way that they do not become chaotic. The guitars in some of the other tracks, including: "Victoria's Secret" and "Champagne Bath", however, leave a little something to be desired. In those few songs, the riffs are somewhat hidden behind the drum patterns, which are, if I might add, up to standards; not exceedingly amazing, yet not underwhelming either. However, the guitars in these couple of tracks mainly consist of just single chords, drawn out for two or four measures before they change again, consequently bringing down the quality of the entire song while their at it. It's this way for all of "Victoria's Secret", but there is a small bit of redemption in "Champagne Bath" because of a little doodad riffing in the parts of the chorus without vocals.

Soloing is excellent. No complaints there.

The vocals, as usual, are wonderful. Tony Kakko's voice seems to fit right in with the other instruments. But, the quality of the vocalist does not always reflect the album. Although in this particular circumstance, the songwriting is an equal match for the one who executes it, if not a tiny bit better. Every song has vocal lines that are written extremely cleverly, from the passionate cries from "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" and "The Ruins of My Life" to the angry shouts in parts of "Silver Tongue" and "Champagne Bath". Some of the vocal highlights of the album are in "Broken" and "Gravenimage". In "Broken" the song can't really decide whether it wants to be in major key or minor key, ending up with an eerie tone, an unpredictable chorus, and an overall sophisticated sound. "Gravenimage" is just catchy as heck in every moment of it, starting whenever Kakko begins his first notes, soft at first to go along with the beautiful piano in the background, and as the song progresses, the intensity of the vocals and the other instruments gradually rises, until there is no other word to describe it except: "epic".

The ballads on the album are both good, but I'd have to give the edge to "The Misery" over "Draw Me". When comparing between albums, I still think that "Letter to Dana" from their debut album "Ecliptica" is still a little better than the ballads from "Winterheart's Guild".

As for additional notes, the transition between "The Ruins of My Life" and "Draw Me" is absolutely awesome, going from a sequence that sounds like chaotic perpetual falling to a peaceful and serene closer.

"Winterheart's Guild": great album. It will not disappoint.