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Best SA to date - 96%

PowerMetalGuardian, June 14th, 2005

Powerful, fast, melodic, heavy -these are just some of the words that describe this album. Sonata Arctica have been dealing out their own style of power metal for many years, but when Winterheart's Guild came out, Sonata Arctica's sound and image would finally be defined, recognized, and appreciated. Sonata's first album ruled, their second was okay, but the third one is their best by far.

While there are not that many songs which could be hits, most of the songs are decent and are enjoyable to listen to. Most being the fast, galloping riffs, with neat keyboard and hot guitar licks, with the occasional ballads.

There are two things that are 100% superb on this album. The first is the keyboard/piano parts. The keyboards in these songs are strong and add a lot of support to the melodies of the songs. Yes there is also piano parts, just listen to the ballad Gravenimage which has a beautiful piano intro and main theme. Also on Victoria's Secret, the piano plays a beautiful part during the verse and bridge. The keys are also very well done, adding in this balance. Jens Johansson also does some guest keys on some of the songs. Some great key moments include, the opening to The Cage, and the solo of this song. While not to technical, the opening key part of Victoria's Secret is also very powerful, and helps support the song so much, that if the part was absent, the song would sound incomplete.

The second superb thing that makes this album so enjoyable is the vocals. Lyric wise, you have the crazy, fantasy like lyrics. Typical "flower metal" if you must. Tony's accent is so thick sometimes, you think you know what he is singing about, but when you read the lyrics you get taken back. Tony really has hit his all time vocal performance on this album. The first two albums gave you the idea that he had a good voice, but this album opens up a very godly like vocal range. He can sing fast, but when his vocals are melodic, they are just as good, and extremely powerful. Gravenimage and The Misery are two ballads on this album, and are probably the best ballads I have ever heard.

Of course there are a lot of cool guitar riffs and licks on this album. The first two albums have a lot of nice technical riffs, but Winterheart's Guild has a lot of technical keys instead. There are some good solos to mention like the one in Silver Tongue and the opening to Champagne Bath. Everything flows together and the production is good. Bass is good and drums are good, they just don't stick out as much as the other instruments do.

What makes this album the best Sonata Arctica to date is the pure power that comes from it. If you hate and despise power metal, then you know what to do by now. But if you enjoy great melodies, awesome keyboard solos, and high ranged vocals with fantasy lyrics, this is your stuff. I enjoy most of the songs on this album, but some of my top picks are: The Cage, Victoria's Secret, Broken, and Gravenimage. This album is my pick for best Sonata Arctica album. It is a pure masterpiece of what power metal has become.