Released: 2014, Nuclear Blast
I would hate to say Sonata Arctica is ‘back’ because in truth they never went anywhere. I enjoyed all of their albums to varying degrees, but some of the more recent ones not quite as much as the speed driven, clean burning sounds of the first three records. The reason that some early commentary on Sonata Arctica’s eighth album, PARISH’S CHILD is being labeled a return or ‘comeback’, is that there is some validity to the perception.
For example, he first time in 10 years a wolf makes an appearance on the album cover. The original logo is back as well, but other than that not too much has changed. Long time bassist Marko Paasikoski is out and Pasi Kauppinen is in but the band is still stable, still on Nuclear Blast ands still run by Tony Kakko. Musically, the band has, admittedly, written a few faster, lighter hearted songs than the last couple of records but certainly not a complete regression to the early sound.
The album opens fun and fast with a fast one-two punch. On ‘Running Lights’ it is a bit odd to hear Tony sing about driving fast, it seems almost too conventional to write a song about fast cars but they pull it off. There are a couple of quirky songs with a voice-over such as ‘Blood’ and ‘Larger Than Life’ and the song ‘X Marks The Spot’ has to be heard to believed. It has a very bizarre vocal line akin to an American televangelist preacher from the deep-south, which I feel detracts a bit from actually a quite heavy and fast song. Following that is a very well done and tender ballad simply entitled ‘Love’ featuring a gentle acoustic piano line accompanying Tony’s quiet delivery, until it turns into more conventional power ballad territory at just past the two-minute mark. The album finishes in a grand manner with an orchestrated and symphonic piece running ten minutes, loaded with choirs, piano and keyboards, and the aforementioned quirky voice-over. It is a beautiful epic song in a style that Sonata is getting better and better at, almost soundtrack like in quality, more akin to something you might hear on Nightwish album. Many of the songs have that trademark sing-along choruses that will play very well in live concerts.
Overall, PARIAH’S CHILD is faster than the last several albums with at least two-thirds being fast or having bursts of speed. Oddly enough the title track was relegated to Japanese bonus track status. If the song was strong enough to name the album after it, why not put it on all the versions as a regular track? Despite my undying love for those first three simpler albums, Sonata Arctica continues to make daring and bold Power Metal albums with nuance, and sophistication that few bands are able to match. PARIAH’S CHILD manages to straddle both eras of the band very well, sure to please those who wish for the older sound and those who appreciate the song-writing and dynamics of the more recent releases.