Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sonata Arctica - Silence (2001)

For too long this blog has suffered in silence - and why? Because I discovered QI, the BBC show that is Quite Interesting. Thus the last two months have been spent either watching episodes of that and making art, or writing my stories.

But now I have watched almost all of it, and must savour the last few episodes, and it is back into the music blog.

This time we have the splendiforously titled "Sonata Arctica" from Finland. Formed in 1995 and still active today, this album is their second full length affair.

The cover is quite beautiful, a split shot of day and night, with a similar scene mirrored in each. A dark shadow of a figure, in one bearing a spear, the other a lantern, stands beside a lake, with pine trees about him and grassy foothills becoming snowladen mountains.

We being with the hauntingly, poetical "Silence":
 "It truly makes the most beautiful music, everything it has to give..."
Piano, an archaic, slightly decrepit voice speaking in sightly menacing, slow tones.

Then its time to take off as the disc spins into a fury and blasts into "Weballergy". Triumphant rhythms swell with glory and victory. Tony Kakko's vocals are high and almost obnoxiously cheerful and the drums move along at a trebly tempo. Plenty of keyboards layered upon drums and rhythm guitars soaring like rainbow unicorns with fairy wings.

Light and lilting, ethereal harpischord like a ladybird's wings, before we surge into the glorious, the over hyper-cheerful of "False News Travel Far". There's a nicely fluttery bit in the middle, before the heavier bass reminds me of a bygone era and is swallowed by the dragon of fast guitars and trebly-laden keyboards.

Telephones? Not vey medieaval. Suspicious caller... "you almost got away from me, didn't you...." Now we are in to one of my favoured pieces, the slow "End of the Chapter" in which we aspire to power ballad, with more modern setting, lovelorn messages and aggressive chorus. Alas, Kakko still sounds happy.
Even with lyrics like : "I have never wished you dead ... yet..."
Oooh, almost synth-pop, so many keyboards, I feel like I've been transported back to the 80s.
They should totally cover Ultravox.
He's stalking her too, sneaking into her house at night, stealing her jewellery.
Sounds less happy now, bit dangerous.

Faster, furious - "Black Sheep" is another fast and cheerful piece. I wonder if they're trying to be Stratovarius, but are a little too high on the treble side - like Skylark.
What's with all these bands starting with "S"?
Chorus is wonderfully catchy, followed by a waterfall of keyboards.

Another haunting opening, and then into the faster and more menacing "Land of the Free". Aggressive, frantic.

Then we fade back into something slower and actually romantic. "Last Drop Falls" is a song of love and longing, but mainly realising that the one he loved was rather less than ideal.

Back to the fountaining keyboards. A glorious firework display of sound. This is "Sans Sebastian". Rther lovely keyboard solo, with the guitars charging in to stage a full frontal attack.

"Sing in Silence" is another slower piece, with dewdrop sprinkling like shattered crystals, or maybe delicate keys.
"Fragile as a rose in the snow..."
It has a fragile, delicate beauty.

A snowstorm of crystal rose petals, sharp and deadly is "Revontulet".

More keyboard/piano leads us into yet another power ballad - this one is to "Tallulah". There's a hint of melancholy in Kakko's chipper tones, slower and slightly haunted. Another song of losing love.

Back into the aggressive and full frontal guitar assault (no keyboards, no wait, there they are). "Wolf and Raven" captures the racing wolf as it rampages through the snow, the raven soaring above it.

Slow again for "The Power of One" which starts with rain and music as grey and forlorn as the implied weather. This is the epic track of the album, and starts with some nicely slow and dream-like, longing vocals.

Overall, this album is something of a chore to listen to from beginning to end. It does have a nice blend of the heavier intermingled with the light, but the cheerful vocals start to grate on the eardrums after a while. There is no question that they are skilful musicians, displaying a distinct flare for the dramatic, but I think they need a little more vocal variation.

I rate this 6.5/10

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