SONATA ARCTICA, Labyrinth, Triosphere
@ O2 Islington Academy, London
25th March 2011
Review: Rhiannon Marley
There was already a large crowd outside eagerly queuing for tonight’s gig when we arrived, with the doors opening exceptionally early for a gig, I was surprised to see the venue packed so early in the evening! With fans blocking the stairways inside desperately trying to get to the merchandise section, this was not the best place to have it, but it didn’t take long until we were inside!
Norwegian supporters ‘Triosphere’ are flying the epic-soaked flag high and mighty tonight.
With titanium-lunged front-woman ‘Ida Haukland’ blistering through a classic metal recipe.
Their fusion of buckled clobber, guitar bends and swishing barnets serves as a great warm-up for the big Fins.
Fellow members of the warrior clan, Labyrinth, also thunder through a similar formula with polish and panache.
Unfortunately, with the interview time that we are booked in for with ‘Sonata Arctica’, it means we can’t catch their whole set, meaning we also miss support band ‘Labyrinth’…we are disappointed to say the least.
But after the interview, it’s not long before Sonata Arctica take to the stage.
It’s no secret who’s the brightest of them all. With an audience throwing a multi-generational, multi-ethnical pick ‘n’ mix of horns, it seems almost a disservice to diversity for the Arctica’s set list to still be so weighted in 2009’s spitfire ‘The Days of Grays’.
No matter; their performance, passion and precision are blazing.
While ‘The Days of Grays’ is steadfast, it’s not solitary; singer and predominant creative force Tony Kakko’s strongly-accented rasp and impressive falsetto storm their way through one or two early classics, too.
While 1999’s ‘Ecliptica’ gems ‘Replica’ and ‘Full Moon’ are brought to the table, alongside ’02’s ‘Winterheart’s Guild’ snippets ‘Victoria’s Secret’ and ‘The Misery’, to keep the long-time devotees standing to attention.
With a sprinkling of ’07’s ‘Unia’, including ‘In Black and White’ and YouTube smasher ‘Paid in Full’, plus a smoking closure with their comic take on the folk-rooted ‘Hava Nagila’: the ‘Vodka Song’, Sonata Arctica are pulling more than a few decent punches this evening. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my life again”, declare the lyrics of ’09’s ‘Juliet’. Evidence of narcissism? Could be. Thespianism? Maybe. But also highly infectious artistry, which the group inject through the puppet strings of their songs, and use to bring them to life tonight.
Their sixteenth year in perfecting their craft has honed their species of sonic storytelling. They’ve married Elias’ fretboard acrobatics and a collective ‘classical’ technicality, to an intensity which manages to duck its head under the extreme end of the cringe-worthy histrionics for which the genre is notorious…just about. Musically, they’re battering into the higher echelons of solid Viking criteria. They’re all galloping rhythms, circular power-chord riffs, and arpeggios in all the colours of the rainbow. Sure, they’re ‘soundtrack-esque’, and nibbling the corners of pretentiousness, like all the others.
But Sonata Arctica hit the ‘power-o-meter’ at a ratio which, by hook or by crook, is still anchored more in the music than the melodrama. Why? Because it’s the fans, not the band, who supply greater hysteria, through their adoration, and Kakko doubles as the showman: the one to indulge in the furthest depths of self-conscious dramatisation. Self-assured, but skidding to a halt before self-caricature, Sonata Arctica sow the seeds of their musical integrity and cogency with a performance that is professional, instrumentally competent, and…wait for it…emotionally believable.
Full Sonata Arctica set-list:
(Everything Fades To Gray (Intro))
Flag In The Ground
The Last Amazing Grays
As If The World Wasn’t Ending
Paid in Full
In Black and White
Don’t Say A Word
Vodka (Hava Nagila)