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Fluffy pink objects and furry bunnies. - 69%

Nightcrawler, August 25th, 2003

This is another release from Sonata Arctica of fluffy and furry things reincarnated as music. Well, that's not quite true. Sonata Arctica aren't always as happy and fluffy as they're made out to be, as often the lyrical and musical themes are very sad. Alas, this doesn't change the fact that they're very, very cheesy; Kakko's vocals are as usual very tongue-in-cheek and his Finnish accent bears strong influence on his vocals (he's pretty good nonetheless), and the music is in fact based more on the keyboards than the guitars in many moments.

The keyboarding is what you'd expect from this type of music and works pretty well within the context, and weaves the various sections of the songs together very skillfully, and it is and has always been the leading force of the band. But songs like the opening track "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" (most annoying song title ever), "The Cage" and "Silver Tongue" also brings forth some pretty heavy riffs, though still leaving them back a bit in the mix.
Most songs on "Winterheart's Guild" are built upon a heavy foundation of the essential abusing of the double bass pedal, which just gets redundant really fast.

Though like any Sonata Arctica album, "Winterheart's Guild" also has it's fair share of ballads. Gravenimage is the first one, starting out as a pretty decent piano-driven piece and then getting heavier later on. Very by-the-numbers, and not too notable.
"The Misery" has a very emotional and memorable chorus, and is overall pretty good. "Broken" is also ok, but nothing spectacular, as is the case with most of the material by this band.

The definite highlight of the album is "The Cage", which is by far their best song ever that I've heard. The shredding keyboard solos both in the beginning and in the middle of the song, and also the vocals, especially lift this song up above the rest- the vocal lines found on the song are incredibly catchy and memorable; the chorus is by far the best moment of the entire song.

"Winterheart's Guild" is overall a pretty decent album, very well showcasing the great emotion that the band is loved for by so many (and probably loathed by even more...). If you like this stuff, then this is definitely for you. But there's only really great song on here, that of course being "The Cage". Other songs worth mentioning are the opening track "Abandoned", "Silver Tongue" and "The Misery". But aside from these songs, the album is pretty average and tends to be a bit forgettable at times. They got some really good ideas at several places, like "Victoria's Secret" (but what kind of a fucking song name is that? Power metal about women's underwear..?) which has a really nice opening keyboard melodies, but they rarely manage to maintain the quality of the songs for long enough.

They're a good band, and they have both talent and potential, but sometimes they just don't get the songwriting together. I'm positive that they can do way better than this.