Reviewed: June, 2020
Rating: 4.5/5 (Just the DVD)
Over the years I’ve done a number of more ambitious series of reviews instead of simple stand-alone reviews. This is perhaps my most ambitious project yet. This series of reviews was born out of three seemingly dissimilar and unrelated components; my viewing habits, a stockpile and the global pandemic of 2020.
As a habit and personal preference, I don’t watch a lot of TV. I prefer to read and listen to music. Over the years whenever I have bought a CD, often it will come with a bonus DVD. I would listen to and enjoy the CD and because I don’t watch much TV I just started putting the CD’s with a bonus DVD in a pile, thinking to myself, “I’ll watch the DVD….‘someday’. Over time the pile grew and grew and grew.
Secondly, it has long been a personal goal of mine, and Metal-Rules.com, to review every Hard Rock and Heavy Metal DVD on the planet. Over the years we have reviewed hundreds of stand-alone DVD’s, more than almost every other Metal webzine. However these little bonus DVD’s that come with CD’s are often, dare I say it, are largely inconsequential or ‘throw-away’ DVD’s, with not much substance other than a video or two, or maybe a brief ‘making of’ the album at hand. They are neat for the die-hard fans who want to shell out a couple extra bucks for the deluxe version of the CD but mostly they are not a big deal, very often there is not enough true content to release on their own.
At the tail end of March 2020, like many thousands of people, I lost my job due to lay-off’s precipitated by the global pandemic. In my first real full-week of self-isolation, it was April 1st in the evening, and I was sitting thinking, “How am I going to keep myself productive and occupied these next several weeks?” And there it was, sitting on my desk, staring me in the face as it had all these years. A pile of EXACTLY 50 CD’s with bonus DVD’s that needed reviewing! That ‘someday’ had suddenly became, ‘now’.
And so begins… The Covideo Chronicles. (Covid + video…get it?) By the time you read this I will have reviewed all 50 DVD’s sitting in that pile and compiled this series. 50 DVD’s. 50 days. 50 reviews. Some of these bonus DVD’s are full concerts and documentaries, some are merely a few minutes long. My goal was to do a very quick synopsis of the DVD (not even the CD) just the DVD. I’m quite sure many of these albums have already been reviewed over the years here on Metal-Rules.com. In fact, the longest part of these reviews will probably be my rambling introduction.
These are in no particular order. I was thinking of doing them chronologically by release date or maybe alphabetically but in the end I decided to review what I felt like watching that day. This exercise was a simple daily task, it kept me keep me amused and primarily I’m glad to get that damn pile off my desk. Enjoy!
For a band of their stature I’m surprised that Sonata Arctica don’t have more live albums. LIVE IN FINLAND is only the band’s third live album (to date) and it has been nine years and four studio albums since this one came out. This two CD set came with two bonus DVD’s!
DVD 1 is a straight up concert as the title suggests captured in Finland in Oulu, Finland on April 15th, 2011. I watched this concert exactly nine years later, almost to the day. Ive listened to it but never watched it. Filmed on the DAYS OF GRAYS tour this is a big budget affair. Huge stage. Huge custom lightning rig. Pyro. Explosions. Big crowd. Multiple cameras everywhere capturing everything from near and far. The production was much bigger than when they played in my town!
The 19 song set, actually 17 excluding intro and outro covered a nice chunk of their career. It also demonstrated that new new guitarist Elias Viljanen was up to the task of filling the big shoes of the departed Jani Lanitainen. When addressing the crowd vocalist Tony Kakko switches back and forth between Engkish and Finnish with ease. I’m a big fan of the band so this 100 minute show was excellent in all respects.
DVD Two is where the extra value lies. We are treated to two partial concerts and no less than seven bonus features totalling around 2.5 hours. A massive value to be sure.
The first segment is four songs from the second Sonata Arctica Open Air Fest 2 which was sometime in the summer of 2010. The actual date and location of this gig is surprisingly hard to pin down. The CD has eight songs but the DVD only includes four! It is a lower quality shoot.
The next section was filmed in Feb 27th, 2011 in Milan, Italy as part of an acoustic show. They do three songs with a boisterous crowd singing along. The sound quality is good but it is a single still camera at the back of the crowd. I think the three songs were enough to give us a taste of what the concert was like.
Up next is a brief ‘making of’ the video for the ‘Flag In The Ground’ video. It was a typical behind the scenes segment lasting about five minutes.
The making of LIVE IN FINLAND was a bit longer at 13 minutes. It is a fast paced look at getting ready for the big final show of the tour and it is bolstered by some interesting commentary from Tony and Henrik. It’s amazing how much work goes into these shows, and we get additional commentary from the several different crew members taking about lights, sound, and cameras. There is also a segment of quick interviews with fans who travelled from England, Hungary, Holland etc to see the show.
To me anchoring the DVD are your documentaries totally almost 90 minutes. called ‘Life On Tour’. There is a 25 minute tour doc of the Finland tour and an hour long tour doc of the Latin America tour.
The Live in Finland follows the band on a five or six date tour of their home country. They travel by bus and it seems relaxed and happy, not too many drunken antics.
The Latin American tour documentary is one of the best, most interesting tour docs I have ever seen. Instead of hours of useless footage, the band actually produced it like a mini movie. From Day one with the bus picking people up to go to the airport to the last man standing when they get back to the airport in Finland. There are lots of interesting facts about the places they visit, some comedy, some sound-effects, a map that follows them all across Central and South America. They have a nice message from fellow Finn, Tarja of Nightwish when they pass by her hometown when the band plays in Buenos Aries, Argentina. The whole doc is extremely well done. It is not too often I would say this, but I would actually watch this tour documentary again.
Up next are three videos, always nice to have on disc. All of them are pretty plain performance videos, with the exception of ‘Flag In The Ground’, which has more performance segments laced in.
There are three photo galleries, one of a club show in Finland and one of the band at Sonisphere during the day. These are OK to watch once. The last one is actually really cool. Back in 2010 or so the band held a contest for people to submit artwork for the single for ‘Flag In The Ground’. Over 200 people submitted an entry. Every one is displayed on-screen for less than a second so you have to have your finger on the pause button on your remote if you want to see more detail. Some entries were OK, some were average but lots were really, really bad, some bad on purpose, obviously submitted as a joke, like the photoshopped picture of a guy drinking a can of beer. I can’t imagine the band ever using this as artwork but they must have had a good laugh when they saw it!
Come to think of it there were many, dozens of American entries all very patriotic looking, rebel flags and the Statue of Liberty etc. I suppose I never made the connection but the song is about a young couple, settlers wanting to immigrate and being separated while he sails to America in colonial times, so I suppose it makes sense that there was a lot of American imagery. I like this style of feature, the only other time I can recall it being done is when Metal Church printed the entries to design their album cover in the booklet of their 2008 album, THIS PRESENT WASTELAND.
These two bonus DVD’s take about four hours to watch everything. It is an incredible value and a really deep look at where the band was ten years ago. This is a must own for Sonata fans.