Sonata Arctica + Freedom Call + Twilight Force
@ O2 Academy Islington, London
1st May 2015
Review & videos by Oliver M.
Photography by Taya Uddin
Just one year after the successful Pariah’s Child European tour, Sonata Arctica are back on tour throughout the Old Continent to promote their new release “Ecliptica: Revisited; 15th Anniversary Edition”. It is in fact a complete re-recording of their debut album “Ecliptica” that includes two new bonus tracks. The Finnish wolves were obviously very productive and inspired in 2014. They released a brilliant eighth opus “Pariah’s Child” which marked the return to their melodic speed metal roots to the great satisfaction of their old fans. It was critically acclaimed but it seemed it wasn’t enough for Tony Kakko and his mates.
Indeed, they re-recorded their first masterpiece entirely in the same year in order to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Was it really necessary? Absolutely not. “Ecliptica” launched Sonata Arctica’s career straight in 1999 and is still one of their finest jewels to date. However, it is important to mention that the Finns didn’t have a choice really, as their Japanese label asked them to re-record it. Anyway, I think it is great news for all their fans since they are playing the album in its entirety for their current European tour.
Regarding the UK, they had one date in London only, at the O2 Academy Islington on the 1st of May. It wasn’t surprising at all as melodic power metal has never been a popular metal style on the British lands. Nevertheless, this show was quickly sold out and I have to say that the presence of Freedom Call also helped a lot to sell many tickets. They started their career around the same time as the headliners and have recently re-released their third opus “Eternity” to celebrate 666 weeks since its original release in 2002. It is funny to see two fantastic bands celebrating the anniversary of their respective classic albums on the same tour. That made this gig even more special and unforgettable.
The first supporting act was Twilight Force (3.5/5), a young horde of Swedish warriors coming straight from a medieval fantasy world. Formed in 2011, they quickly signed with Black Lodge Records (which is a very good start for them to be honest) and released their debut album “Tales of Ancient Prophecies” last year.
They play epic power metal in the purest tradition. Despite the absence of originality in their compositions and lyrics/imagery, they perform this style very well thanks to their good musicianship. They’re talented, there’s no doubt about it, but the only drawback is their obvious lack of personality musically speaking.
Twilight Force is one more “dragon metal” horde to be added to a never-ending list of acts evolving within this scene. Personally, I love bands who mix symphonic speed metal with sword and sorcery lyrical themes, but regarding the music, it sounds too much like their compatriots Morifade and Insania (who were both far superior).
I’m sure they have listened a lot to the masterpieces “Possession of Power” and “Sunrise in Riverland” for example. Their live performance itself was very interesting, although there were some sound issues. It was indeed a pity we couldn’t hear some guitars properly.
Christian Hedgren’s high-pitched voice was impressive on stage and was definitely the strong point of their set. It was also enjoyable to see each member disguised as a warrior, adventurer, elf, thief and wizard.
Of course, it looks so cliché, but that is part of their charm! Before leaving the stage, Christian raised his sword to thank a conquered audience. Very promising.
1) Forest of Destiny
2) Enchanted Dragon of Wisdom
3) Twilight Horizon
4) Gates of Glory
5) The Power of the Ancient Force
Hailing from Nuremberg, Freedom Call (4.5/5) delivered an amazing performance as expected! Since the release of the wonderful “Stairway to Fairyland” in 1999, they are considered as one of the leaders of the German melodic power metal scene (some members used to play for Gamma Ray for instance).
Their first three albums (including “Crystal Empire” of course) are undoubtedly their best, and their fans are glad to know they are currently on tour to celebrate the 666 week anniversary of their classic opus “Eternity”. Fortunately, there were no technical problems for them, and we could hear their great guitar solos without any problems.
The Bavarians played almost the entirety of the album including the speedy (“Metal Invasion”, “Flying High”, “Ages of Power”, “The Eyes of the World”, “Island of Dreams”), the mid-tempo (“Land of the Light”, “Warriors”), the beautiful ballad “Bleeding Heart” and a nice brand new song “666 Weeks Beyond Eternity”.
They were so excellent that they should have been a bit disappointed and frustrated for not headlining a European tour. Following the example of Tobias Sammet, Chris Bay is a very charismatic vocalist who communicates a lot with the crowd and loves to make some jokes.
It was a pity they were only performing as main support act. They deserve better, even if the headliners are more talented/known from a global point of view. Freedom Call received a warm acclaim from their fans who asked for more songs at the end of their set. Let’s hope they will headline more gigs in the near future.
1) 666 Weeks Beyond Eternity
2) The Eyes of the World
3) Flying High
4) Island of Dreams
5) Bleeding Heart
6) Metal Invasion
7) Ages of Power
9) Land of Light
The first time I saw Sonata Arctica (4.5/5) live was precisely in Nuremberg during the Pariah’s Child 2014 European tour. I remember very well their performance since it was astonishing and I was glad to see they did it once again for this exclusive London show!
It has been a while they have kept using a dispensable intro & outro in which we can hear an annoying voice-off telling useless jokes. I hope the band will remove this boring voice-off very soon as it clearly doesn’t bring anything positive to their packs of wolves which expect and deserve better than that.
After delivering the epic “White Pearl, Black Oceans…” (from “Reckoning Night”) and the brand new “X Marks the Spot” (from “Pariah’s Child”), they brilliantly performed the whole “Ecliptica” album while a big part of the audience was singing along with Tony. Their UK fans have been waiting for this for a long time as most of them tend to prefer Sonata Arctica’s early years.
At the time of its release, this icy offering was praised by the international press, even though a few journalists from national magazines wrongly accused the band of copying Stratovarius’ monument “Visions” in their reviews. There are of course some influences but the accusations were totally exaggerated.
Anyway, when you practise a musical style like melodic power metal, being original is almost an impossible task for any act. By the way, the original version of “Ecliptica” is much better than the new re-recorded one as it is more atmospheric and the keyboards haven’t been highlighted enough on the new version.
It was a great pleasure to hear power metal pearls such as “Blank File”, “My Land”, “Replica”, “Full Moon”, “Letter to Dana” and “8th Commandment” (whose fast intro reminds automatically of “Forever is a Long Time” by Yngwie Malmsteen).
In the end, they closed the concert with a recent track from “Pariah’s Child” again (“The Wolves Die Young”) and an old successful song released as a single (“Don’t Say a Word”). Concerning the guitars, I still miss Jani Liimatainen a lot as he is much more talented than his successor Elias Viljanen. That would be awesome if Jani could come back, but I think I’m dreaming!
Thanks to Sonata and Freedom Call for making that night epic and memorable.
Intro: Can-Can Jaakolla
1) White Pearl, Black Oceans…
2) X Marks the Spot
3) Blank File
4) My Land
5) 8th Commandment
7) Kingdom for a Heart
9) Letter to Dana
11) Picturing the Past
12) Destruction Preventer
14) The Wolves Die Young
15) Don’t Say a Word
(with “We need some Vodka” outro)