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Sonata Arctica
Reckoning Night
November 2004
Released: 2004, Sonata Arctica
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: CrashTest

RECKONING NIGHT marks the fourth studio album for Sonata Arctica and fifth album overall, counting the live release SONGS OF SILENCE: LIVE IN TOKYO. Hard to believe it’s been five years since these Fins released their debut album, ECLIPTICA. ECLIPTICA catapulted the band to the forefront of the melodic power metal scene in the blink of an eye. It was a strong debut, filled from start to finish with very catchy, melodic and memorable songs. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t been nearly as good ever since. SILENCE was catchy enough and had it’s moments, but it really didn’t have any true staying power. Then came WINTERHEART’S GUILD, an album worth a couple listens before being banished to the dust pile. Sadly, RECKONING NIGHT continues the downward spiral.



RECKONING NIGHT fails on two levels. First, it shows no real growth for the band, which could be forgiven if the music was strong enough. Satan knows there are plenty of bands that never really change their formula, but compensate by coming up with strong material time and again. That only leads into the second failure though ... the material. RECKONING NIGHT is some pretty bland stuff. The thing that made ECLIPTICA so good was that it was just so damn catchy and energetic. RECKONING NIGHT is neither.



RECKONING NIGHT isn’t all bad, as it does have moments that prove interesting. “Blinded No More” is a pretty decent track that shows off the band’s strengths. It’s got a catchy chorus and several nice guitar breaks, the best one being a dueling guitar/keyboard break in the latter half of the song. “Blinded No More” can best be described as a slower mid-paced song, which is what makes Sonata Arctica so hard to pin down at times. Are they a metal band or are they hard rock? They’re really not very heavy, either musically or lyrically, yet they do owe a lot to power and speed metal with their frequent speed riffing and double kick bass drums. Problem is, like most of their songs, “Blinded No More” doesn’t really inspire you to either pull out your lighter or bang your head. It’s something in between. Perhaps the label that works best is Metal Lite.



Another highlight is the album’s first single, “Don’t Say A Word.” Laying aside the atrocious CD cover to that single, the song is actually pretty good. It’s a mid-paced track with a nice mixture of guitar and keyboard riffing and a damn catchy, almost sing-along style chorus. I’m not familiar with the details of the band’s history, but the guy who added spoken parts to past albums makes an appearance here, as well as on a couple other songs on the album. Not sure whether the dialogue he adds is meant to carry on a storyline from album to album, but they keep bringing him back. Another nice addition to the song is the vocals. In parts of the song the vocals are aggressive, with a bit of that power metal growl that Edguy’s Tobias Sammet sometimes uses when he’s going for that extra oomph. In fact, the vocals in those parts are so different, I wonder if a guest vocalist is making an appearance here. Those parts don’t sound much like Kakko.



As for the rest of the album, it’s pretty forgettable. There are two throw-away instrumental tracks, one of which is the title track. It’s bad enough that the song breaks the continuity of the album, but why the band would choose a boring three and a half minute instrumental, bereft of either guitars or drums, as the title track is beyond me. It’s worth one listen and then becomes a skippable track thereafter.



Here’s the bottom line on Sonata Arctica: If you’re gonna make this style of music, memorable melodies and choruses are a must, as are energetic performances. This album is sorely lacking any of those things. Additionally, since the songs really aren’t that catchy, they tend to drag on a bit too long. Five minutes may not sound like a long time, but with this material it’s an eternity.



It’s doubtful this review will sway hardcore Sonata Arctica fans, who will now add me to their hitlists. However, if picking up some new Metal Lite is in your gameplan, pass on this album and go pick up Mob Rules’ new release, AMONG THE GODS. It’s a much better album in that style.



Highlights: Blinded No More, Don’t Say A Word



Genre References: Melodic Power Metal, Melodic Hard Rock, Speed Metal
Track Listing

1. Misplaced
2. Blinded No More
3. Ain’t Your Fairytale
4. Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night
5. Don’t Say A Word
6. The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet
7. My Selene
8. Wildfire
9. White Pearl, Black Oceans
10. Shamandalie
11. Wrecking The Sphere

Lineup

Tony Kakko - vocals
Jani Liimatainen - guitars
Marko Paasikoski - bass
Tommy Portimo - drums
Henrik Klingenberg - keyboards


Next review: » Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night
Previous review: » Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Sonata Arctica
Reckoning Night
November 2004
Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall

I start off by quoting the notes “The last album “WINTERHEART’S GUILDS” (03) set a new standard in the genre of melodic power metal, making Sonata Arctica one of the stars of that scene finally. Hardly another band could come up with their multi-faced style and power and songs like “BROKEN”, “THE CAGE” or “VICTORIA’S SECRET” became eternal classics – so true, so true.



Late during 2003 the band signed to a new label and work on this album began. I think that most fans of melodic power metal know who this band are ‘cause they have been in the business for quite a time. The members say that with this album they’re going to top it’s predecessor once more. Earlier this year came the EP “DON’T SAY A WORD” which was a sneak preview of what we had to expect from the guys and it sounded very promising.



As I said earlier the music they play is melodic power metal and they rely on strong keyboard playing and lead vocals. The guys are incredible skilled on their instruments and the music is very well-played. The songs are sing a long friendly and instantly stick in your brain. Even though the band relies on keyboard and lead vocals they have put in some really razor sharp guitar play and used heavy double pedal drum play. And of course they have snuck in a few ballads but in this case I don’t mind because the rest of the material is so strong that a few ballads can’t hurt.





The “RECKONING NIGHT” copy I have contains 11 tracks and the titletrack is an instrumental song called “RECKONING DAY, RECKONING NIGHT” where they only have used keyboards. I also have a bonus track on my promo copy called “WRECKING THE SPHERE” but it seems to be a track where the members just goof around and you can hear laughter before the song kicks off. The song only contains acoustic guitar, congas and no lead vocals, it’s quite a boring bonus track and I think they could have put on a real song instead of this child’s play. The same goes for the EP where they had put two songs from the album instead of putting a real bonus track on it. If they had done that it would have felt like we could have gotten more material for our money.



“MISPLACED”, “AIN’T YOUR FAIRYTALE”, “DON’T SAY A WORD”, “MY SELENE” and “WILDFIRE” are melodic, fast power metal with keyboard on top together with lead vocals. There are a lot of tempo changes and these songs are extremely sing a long friendly. “BLINDED NO MORE”, “THE BOY WHO WANTED TO BE A REAL PUPPET” and “WHITE PEARL, BLACK OCEANS” . The first songs are slower and border on ballads. Tony shows his remarkable vocal The third one is a mid-tempo track with a lot of tempo changes and razor guitar play. The third song is almost 9 minutes long. The last track is “SHAMANDALIE” which is a pure ballad that starts off with just acoustic and vocals before the rest of the band comes in. This one has a big chance on becoming a radio hit. This fall/winter they have headlined/ co-headlined with their Finnish colleagues and label mates Nightwish throughout Europe.



As I wrote earlier have Tony a remarkable voice but also the rhythm section with Marko on bass and Tommy on drums are real stable. This album is close to perfection and if you like melodic power metal I advice you all to check this out, even the cover is really nice looking. All of the older fans of the band are not going to be disappointed on this I can promise you that.



With this album Sonata Arctica is going to keep their position as one of the larger bands in this genre. The best tracks are “MISPLACED”; “AIN’T YOUR FAIRYTALE”; “DON’T SAY A WORD”; “MY SELENE” and “WILDFIRE”.



http://www.soundpollution.se
Track Listing

n/a

Lineup

Jani Liimatainen – guitar
Tommy Partimo – drums
Tony Kakko – lead vocals, keyboards
Marko Paasikoski – bass
Henrik Klingenberg – keyboards


Next review: » Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night
Previous review: » Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Sonata Arctica
Reckoning Night
February 2005
Released: 2005, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland

The Finnish power metal machine, Sonata Arctica, have delivered another “happy” batch of songs to their revelers with RECKONING NIGHT. Fans of the band eat their style up however I have always found Sonata Arctica to be the redheaded lovechild of the German legends, Helloween, and fellow Finns, Stratovarius, but that is just my personal taste. The band’s 1999 debut, ECLIPTICA, proves they can play the hell out of their instruments but the fluffy lyrics of Tony Kakko, schmaltzy ballads and dominant keyboard wankery just get under my skin. Unfortunately, RECKONING NIGHT is no exception and those very same elements that have befallen every Sonata Arctica release since ECLIPTICA are augmented on this release.



“Misplaced” features a mighty gallop and Kakko’s vocals are harmonized nicely. The rhythm section of Marko Paasikoski and Tommy Portimo hold up despite the caffeinated pacing of the track and make this one of the album highlights. “Ain’t Your Fairytale” is the most Stratovarius-esque with its over-the-top vocal delivery and intense double bass. If they were dead, the Timos would be spinning in their graves at the blatant worship shown towards them. “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet” is the epitome of what makes Sonata Arctica a thorn in my side. Kakko’s mushy lyrics and weepy delivery bring down any energy that was built up by rockers like “Don’t Say A Word” and its follow-up “My Selene.” Also, regarding the speedier numbers, these tracks seem to have been cast from the mold as there is very little to distinguish them from each other. Portimo’s hyperactive double bass dominates each track and new guitarist, Jani Liimatainen, slithers through impressive soloing but where is the variety? The band explores their epic side on “White Pearl, Black Oceans” and does a decent job of keeping the listener interested for nearly nine minutes. The interplay between guitar and keyboard is excellent and Kakko’s impressive vocal range is also showcased.



Unfortunately, this all adds up to a mediocre release, since for every positive, there is a negative to balance it out. Last year’s WINTERHEART’S GUILD saw a bit of an improvement in the downslide taken by the band but where that release took one step forward, RECKONING NIGHT goes two steps back. The band has continually evolved and moved away from their original sound on ECLIPTICA. In doing so, they have lost more fans than they have gained and RECKONING NIGHT will not bring back any of the lost souls, either. Fans of WINTERHEART’S GUILD will enjoy RECKONING NIGHT but those looking for a return to “classic” Sonata Arctica should keep on walking.



KILLER KUTS: “Misplaced,” “Ain’t Your Fairytale,” “My Selene,” “White Pearl, Black Oceans”
Track Listing

1. Misplaced
2. Blinded No More
3. Ain’t Your Fairytale
4. Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night… (Instrumental)
5. Don’t Say A Word
6. The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet
7. My Selene
8. Wildfire
9. White Pearl, Black Oceans
10. Shamandalie
11. Wrecking The Sphere (Bonus Track)

Lineup

Tony Kakko—Vocals/Keyboards
Jani Liimatainen—Guitar
Marko Paasikoski—Bass
Henrik Klingenberg—Keyboards
Tommy Portimo—Drums


Next review: » Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night
Previous review: » Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Sonata Arctica
Reckoning Night
February 2005
Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: MetalGeorge

For years standing as Power Metal’s best kept secret, Finland’s Sonata Arctica have slowly but surely clawed their way to Europe and Japan’s upper echelon. With RECKONING NIGHT, and the band’s forthcoming US debut at the New England Metal/Hardcore Festival, Sonata Arctica also seem to finally be making their name here in the States, as well.



About damn time, too, because I’ve been singing this band’s praises ever since my world was changed upon my first listen of the band’s ECLIPTICA debut. I actually owe it to the man himself, Evil G, in part, for turning me on to these guys, so thanks G! Anyways, the quality of the band’s records since that debut has remained steady, mainly due to the incredibly strong songwriting.



Very few Power Metal acts can construct songs which affect a listener the way Sonata Arctica’s do; vocalist Tony Kakko creating a bond between singer and audience the way I’ve seen few metal performers do ever. Yes, Sonata songs tend to burrow their way deep within your heart and stay there, and RECKONING NIGHT continues in this tradition, with tracks like “Don’t Say a Word”, “A’int Your Fairytale” and “Misplaced” destined to be played on this tour.



What is different about many of the songs on this album, however, lie within some of the tunings, structures, and overall HEAVINESS this record possesses. In addition to guitarist Jani Limatainen’s shred-technique, seven string guitars and progressive elements have also been incorporated this time around, to an off kilter, and sometimes jarring effect. The moshy breakdown/outro in “A’int Your Fairytale” (courtesy of the band’s underrated drummer, Tommy Portimo) serves as a good example of this, as well as within many of the album’s latter half; songs like “Wildfire” and the hard rocking “Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet”.



Another cool detour stylistically is displayed in the track, “Blinded No More”, where a more melancholic side of the band is shown within the song’s strummed, repetitive verse riff. Typically Finnish in style, it reminds me of the Suicide stylings of a band like For My Pain, or newer Nightwish. The album is surprising devoid of the numerous ballads that comprised much of the band’s previous long player, WINTERHEART’S GUILD, although “My Selene” is a great melodic rocker that stands alongside album closer “Shamandie” as the lone songs which fit this bill.



While longtime fans may be taken aback at first with some of this album’s experiments, I think that most (like me) will respect and enjoy these diverse tactics taken by the band, for the overall presentation of RECKONING NIGHT is one of pure musical bliss; melodic, epic, and emotional.



I also feel that metal fans who found themselves at odds with Sonata’s admittedly Euro-centric style of Power Metal will something to change their minds here, as well. RECKONING NIGHT has something for everyone, and is destined to be yet another brick in the wall for the Heavy Metal fortress Sonata Arctica have built for themselves.



Are you ready for the RECKONING NIGHT?
Track Listing

1. Misplaced
2. Blinded No More
3. A’int No Fairytale
4. Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night
5. Don’t Say a Word
6. The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet
7. My Selene
8. Wildfire
9. White Pearl, Black Oceans
10. Shamandie

Lineup

Tony Kakko-vocals
Jani Limatainen-guitars
Marko Paasikost-bass
Tommy Portimo-drums
Henkka Klingenberg-synth


Next review: » Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night
Previous review: » Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Sonata Arctica
Reckoning Night
December 2005
Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 5.0/5
Reviewer: MetalChick

The fourth studio release by this Finnish five-piece takes Sonata Arctica’s songwriting to the next level. They’ve gone from happy, loveable cheesy power metal, to a more sophisticated form of…well, cheesy power metal. Though that might be an oxymoron, this band has indeed polished up what they already were on their way to mastering.



“Misplaced” starts the album off with a blast, jumping right into the asskicking riffs at pounding speed that makes you want to headbang eternally. Sonata’s characteristic melodies are laced tightly throughout the entire song, and Tony Kakko’s vocals are at their best yet.



Kakko has also progressed in his lyric writing skills. Looking back at their earlier albums, ECLIPTICA and SILENCE for example, the lyrics are so basic, and in many cases it was quite noticeable that English is not their native language. Now Kakko’s lyrics are poetic; he knows how to take a simple idea and subtly express his thoughts, in perfect English no less. The lyrics of “Ain’t Your Fairytale” are so cleverly written that it can truly be interpreted in many ways. The darkness of them, however, doesn’t quite match the upbeat melodic music; it’s not until you read the lyrics without the music that you realize what he’s really trying to convey. And then there’s the song with the title that says it all: “The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet.” Well…I said he has progressed. He’s not perfect yet.



The main single from the album, “Don’t Say a Word,” is truly an addicting song. It’s catchy as hell, which is something this band has never had a problem achieving, and the layering of vocals in the chorus gives it so much power and energy that I feel the rush each time I hear it. The light, almost jingle bell-sounding keyboard melody that is perhaps a Sonata trademark, pops up throughout and is a great variation from the typical synth sounds in power metal.



Speaking of melodies, guitarist Jani Liimatainen and keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg bring this album to life and beyond with their combination of skills. The two can sure shred in their dueling solos, and Liimatainen’s chops truly kill all, but it’s never over-the-top.



Their second single, “Shamandalie,” is great proof that power metal heads can write some of the most beautiful songs. This ballad ends the record, and its beauty of piano, acoustic guitar, and perfectly executed singing is so dominating that you just want to listen to it non-stop because the chill it gives is so fixating.



RECKONING NIGHT is clearly Sonata Arctica at their finest. The Brie of cheese metal, if you will.
Track Listing

1. Misplaced
2. Blinded No More
3. Ain't Your Fairytale
4. Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night
5. Don't Say a Word
6. The Boy Who Wanted to be a Real Puppet
7. My Selene
8. Wildfire
9. White Pearl, Black Oceans
10. Shamandalie

Lineup

Tony Kakko - vocals
Jani Liimatainen - guitar
Tommy Portimo - drums
Marko Paasikoski - bass
Henrik Klingenberg - keyboards


Next review: » Sonata Arctica - Silence
Previous review: » Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child





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