Released: 2004, Nuclear Blast
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.