Sonata Arctica + Thunderstone
@ The Classic Grand, Glasgow
24th March 2017
Review & photos by Oliver M.
Six months after their amazing live performance at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, Sonata Arctica came back to the UK as part of their 2017 European tour. The Finnish wolves were promoting their latest opus “The Ninth Hour” which has been very well received by the international press so far. Released by Nuclear Blast in October last year, this ninth album impressed me due to its inspired melodies and complex compositions.
This intensive European tour had 9 dates in the UK which was obviously surprising. Power metal music has never been popular in this country although a few bands still have a very strong fanbase such as Dragonforce and Firewind for example. We had the opportunity to cover their recent concert in Glasgow. By the way, The Classic Grand is a very nice venue and provides an excellent sound. It’s undoubtedly one of the best venues of the city.
After interviewing Tony Kakko, I was informed that Striker (the first support act) had cancelled their show. Indeed, vocalist Dan Cleary wasn’t able to sing properly due to some health issues. Formed in 2007 in Edmonton, those Canadian Power metallers have made five albums and one EP until now.
Two of them (“Armed to the Teeth” & “City of Gold”) were released by Napalm Records but they haven’t found a new label since. They were promoting their new self-produced album and I would have been curious to see how they sound live. Hopefully, I’ll see them at another tour.
As Striker had to cancel their show, Thunderstone offered an extended set to my great satisfaction. I’ve been a big fan of them since the release of their first eponymous album in 2002. They’re one of the leaders of the Finnish Power metal scene after Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica of course and were mainly promoting their latest work “Apocalypse Again” released by AFM Records.
It was the second time I saw them live. I remember they delivered a great headlining show at the Black Heart in London last year. This time, the musicians were wearing black suits and looked so smart. That was unexpected! The Finns gave an excellent live performance once again.
Nino Laurenne is not only a brilliant producer and sound engineer (he worked with so many well-known bands) but also a very talented guitarist. His solos were flawless. Moreover, Pasi Rantanen’s high pitched vocals have always been one of the band’s strongest points. He was even more charismatic with his black suit that night!
During the beginning of their career, Thunderstone was always compared to their close friends of Stratovarius but that comparison wasn’t fair at all. They actually added some slight thrash metal influences to their compositions, especially as from “The Burning” (widely considered as their masterpiece).
Their riffs are generally more aggressive compared to most of Power metal acts. However, Jukka Karinen’s synths bring a nice melodic touch to the songs. It was a pity they didn’t perform “Let The Demons Free” as it’s one of their classics.
That was the only negative element I could see. Fortunately, they closed their set in apotheosis with “Until We Touch the Burning Sun”. That’s definitely one of the band’s best tracks thanks to its impressive chorus. Hope to see them again soon!
Sonata Arctica (5/5)
As Sonata Arctica came on stage, the audience became instantly way more enthusiastic! The venue was packed although this gig wasn’t sold out. It was very good to see they have many fans in Scotland.
That was the 4th time I saw them live and as always, the Finnish wolves gave a fantastic show. The setlist was almost the same as the one they did for their recent London concert last year. There was no surprise here.
As expected, Tony Kakko and his mates played five songs from their excellent 9th album (“Closer to an Animal”, “Life”, “Fairytale”, “We Are What We Are”, “Among the Shooting Stars”).
They also performed to perfection some classics from their early masterpieces (“FullMoon”, “Tallulah”, “The Power of One”, “Don’t Say a Word”, “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited”).
Furthermore, I really enjoyed a lot hearing “I Have a Right” as it’s more of a rock song than a heavy metal one! Some fans have been disappointed by the “Stones Grow Her Name” album because it leans more towards hard rock compared to their previous Power/Progressive metal works.
Anyway, it has some very catchy choruses. The solos performed by Elias Viljanen and Henrik Klingenberg were impressive as usual.
That’s also the case for Tony’s high-pitched voice. I like his traditional speech called “Keeping Live Music Alive” in which he deeply thanks everyone for buying tickets, CDs and merchandise.
However, I find their “Vodka” outro a bit useless. In the end, it makes Tony even more charismatic and they received some warm applause from the crowd. Congrats!