Getting Into: Sonata Arctica

Written by: Baz Anderson
Published: 02.01.2010
With these "Getting Into" articles I will present a fair, full description of a band's discography of studio albums with a clear rating out of five, as a way of aiding people that want to get into such bands but do not know where to start. Usually reviews have different authors and are written at different points in time - so this is a clear guide of how to get into the band in question.

Sonata Arctica
Power Metal
Finland

Sonata Arctica are perhaps one of the archetypal so-called "flower metal" bands, but here we are going to look beyond tags and to where you should and should not be looking if you are new to the band. These guys are massive in their home country of Finland and have found commercial success there in recent years. They can still be considered a power metal band, but although they are not as heavy as the German power metal bands they have a neo-classical influence and make heavy use of the keyboards. The band's main man Tony Kakko writes most of the music and the lyrics for the band, which gravitate most of the time towards love and the trials of relationships. The band have evolved over the years and this article will describe each step of the path the band has taken thus far.


Ecliptica (1999)

Ecliptica is where it all started. Wild, fast power metal with a ton of double bass drumming and wild, wailing vocals. The main key to this album is the fantastic songwriting employed to create such memorable songs as "Replica" and "Fullmoon" that are still atop the fan's favourites to this day. The band didn't sound as good here as they have done since, Tony's vocals although still great, didn't have the experience he has gained since behind them, and the music as a whole is much more straight-forward than more recent offerings. This may still be the best Sonata Arctica album, it might not, but for the purposes of introducing yourself to this band then Ecliptica is the best place to start.

Silence (2001)

With such a debut album the band had a tough job to follow it, but did so successfully two years later with Silence. Here the band moved forward in sound but not so much in any other department. The production on the album is slightly thicker and sounds much better than the first album. Tony and the band sing and play their instruments better than the first album too, but where Silence falls down is the lack of any songs as special as those found on the first album. That doesn't mean to say "Weballergy" and "Wolf & Raven" aren't amazing, furious power metal hits, or that "The End Of This Chapter" isn't the darkest the band has ever been, because it is. The problem with Silence is consistency.





Winterheart's Guild (2003)

Again, the band had given themselves a hard challenge following the previous album. Winterheart's Guild is where the critics finally started to make themselves heard, and the momentum of the band somewhat slowed down. Musically the band hadn't slowed down at all and we can once again enjoy Sonata Arctica doing what they do best. This album might not have been as appreciated as it should have been, because with this one the band somewhat seemed to relax and the keyboards especially make the songs flow as if gliding leisurely through the air on some magical journey. "The Cage" and "Victoria's Secret" are the highlights with their awe-inspiring choruses, and the slow, last song "Draw Me" is also worth an honourable mention. Again, maybe the band's best album, maybe not, but for the purposes of introducing yourself to the band, maybe not as good as some others.

Reckoning Night (2004)

This is where things started to change a bit. The production on this album will be the first thing to stick out because it is much thicker and heavier than before. The band still stick to the good old, tried and tested power metal style however, but with this album they introduce a whole new level of depth in the music. Lyrics are deeper, and the music is slightly more original. This is where Sonata Arctica started to get a little bit quirky, but on the whole Reckoning Night is another solid power metal album with yet more classics such as "Ain't Your Fairytale" and the eight minute epic "White Pearl, Black Oceans" to hook themselves firmly into your head. Heavier, deeper, more complex. This one might not be the easiest to initially get into, but it is well worth it once you are there.






Unia (2007)

By far the most controversial album, among metal fans, the band has released. This is also the most commercially successful the band has been. The band have moved almost completely away from typical power metal with this release. Unia is a very melodic heavy metal album that showcases the band's quirky side they started to hint towards on the last album much more. The album probably threw a lot of people off due to how different it was. The original backlash against the album, although not entirely unfounded, was also perhaps not so deserved. The album is not bad for what it is, but what it is isn't what people thought Sonata Arctica were. There are some good songs such as "In Black And White" and "The Harvest", but this is not the best place to start with the band.

The Days Of Grays (2009)

Most recent the band have released perhaps the most mature album of all. The Days Of Grays is an album of two halves. The first half is bombastic and especially with "Flag In The Ground" almost a glorious return to the up-tempo power metal past. The second half is again not so much power metal, but melodic heavy metal. It would be premature to call this a return to the past, but this album is the product of a band that has done the power metal thing and done the commercial thing, and now have just written a solid album of melodic metal. The main problem with the album is that the second half dies down and needs the kick of just one or two more up-tempo numbers, but away from this we can once again enjoy Sonata Arctica in fine form. This wouldn't be a bad album to introduce yourself to the band with, but you would have to keep in mind that it is different to what most people know the band for.




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Overview

We can see that the band has changed over the years and they are no longer the wild power metal force they once were, but they have however moved slightly towards the progressive and regardless of music tags are still releasing good quality material. It is fair to say that if traditional, fast power metal is your thing then the earlier albums are the ones to go for. If you like darker, more modestly paced melodic material then maybe the later material would please you more. Away from studio albums the band released a number of EPs, but songs you should hear from these such as "San Sebastian" tend to find themselves on albums anyway. The band's last live album "For The Sake Of Revenge" is not necessary considering the setlist wasn't the best they could have chosen and provides nothing new for the listener, although if you can't get enough of the band then it is there for you. The recent negativity towards the band is based entirely on the change of style. You know what you like, make up your own mind.

Written by Barry Anderson


 



Written on 02.01.2010 by
Baz Anderson
Member of Staff since 2006.
More articles by Baz Anderson ››




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Vitriolic Hate - 02.01.2010 at 20:35  
Good article,well done!totally agreed!
Promonex - 02.01.2010 at 20:52  
Very good article and I agree with most of what you said. Especially the Getting Into scores are spot on. I personally would've mentioned the addition of Henrik Klingenberg on keyboards just before "Reckoning Night" as his incorporation of the hammond organ had a significant impact on the band's overall sound.
And out of the EP's I think "Takatalvi" deserves an honorary mention as it features the brilliant songs "Dream Thieves" and "The Gun" (the latter being more on the heavy metal/hard rock side) which aren't to be found on any album. And their great cover of the Scorpions' "Still Loving You." I actually got to know the original only afterwards and nearly fell asleep waiting for something to happen
Introspekrieg - 02.01.2010 at 20:53  
I think it is best to start with Reckoning Night and move backwards, this way each album gets better for you. Nice article, I really like the formatting!
Promonex - 02.01.2010 at 20:58  
Written by Introspekrieg on 02.01.2010 at 20:53

I think it is best to start with Reckoning Night and move backwards, this way each album gets better for you. Nice article, I really like the formatting!

I disagree. I think Barry pointed out the right way as you'll learn to appreciate the maturation of the songwriting a lot more if you start with Ecliptica. I don't think I would have liked Ecliptica as much if I had heard songs like "The Ruins of My Life", "Gravenimage", "White Pearl, Black Oceans" or "The End of This Chapter" before.
Introspekrieg - 02.01.2010 at 21:02  
Written by Promonex on 02.01.2010 at 20:58

I disagree. I think Barry pointed out the right way as you'll learn to appreciate the maturation of the songwriting a lot more if you start with Ecliptica. I don't think I would have liked Ecliptica as much if I had heard songs like "The Ruins of My Life", "Gravenimage", "White Pearl, Black Oceans" or "The End of This Chapter" before.


Point taken, good songs. My introduction to them went: Silence - Reckoning Night - Winterheart's Guild - Ecliptica
Maybe it's the reason I still enjoy Silence the most...
Fat & Sassy! - 02.01.2010 at 23:00  
Written by Introspekrieg on 02.01.2010 at 21:02

Maybe it's the reason I still enjoy Silence the most...


I agree. It is one of the only PM albums I can still listen to all the way through.

Nice article, I honestly would have rated the albums the same way. I do like the pumpkins as stars thing too.
Warman - 02.01.2010 at 23:27  
I like these articles Baz, very well written. You made your point clear and I agree in many ways. Although "Silence" probably always will be my favourite Power Metal album.
Baz Anderson - 03.01.2010 at 00:10  
Thanks everyone! It's been a while since I did one of these, apologies.

Written by Fat & Sassy! on 02.01.2010 at 23:00

I do like the pumpkins as stars thing too.

Haven't you seen the others? I suppose I did do them in 2007, that was a while ago now.
I did Sinner - here - Judas Priest - here and Gamma Ray - here.
tulkas - 03.01.2010 at 00:23  
Cool! I too love S.A. and think that the best way to get into them is by following their discography in chronological order. I still have to say that maybe Reckoning Night is my fav album, but they all have something I love, all of them have great songs that I can just listen to over and over. Aside from the music, lyrics are also amazing, which for me is a great plus if you already have great music. That amazing combination is probably what makes this one of my fav metal bands.
Njord - 03.01.2010 at 02:15  
Excellent article. I'm not a big fan of SA but Silence touched me in a very deep way, instead of the other albuns that told me so little..
I guess I would like them to follow one way after Silence that they didn't took..
Powaga - 03.01.2010 at 03:29  
Nicely written article! I disagree with the rating and some comments about Winterheart's Guild which I consider their best album by far but it's ok. The lack of consistency was what I always thought about Silence but never knew the name of that feeling. Thanks for enlighten me with this!
-Mayhem- - 03.01.2010 at 09:23  
Well done even though I don't agree with the ratings at all since I prefer Unia and Days of Grays ver the rest and I don't like Ecliptica so much.
But of course I still accept other peoples opinnions and especially if you say them in a nice way like in this article.
Angel_Lament - 03.01.2010 at 13:26  
Great Overreview of SA, thanx, I couldn't agree more, though I like Winterheart's guild and REckoning Night more than Silence, but I agree that Ecliptica is their most succesful album, but there is something I didnt understand, you said that Silence had consistency problem, so do u mean that comparing to Ecliptica or the structure itself????
The Shape 1973 - 03.01.2010 at 15:04  
I still think that Days Of Grays is an underated album, I think it suffers from the backlash of Unia. It is my album of 2009, it has the power metal of earlier work plus a bit more variety to be different from the usual Euro Power metal.

I still like the first two albums the best, especially Silence which is every bit as good, or better than Ecliptica.
RafaRata - 03.01.2010 at 18:42  
Unia is my favorite.
Rose Of Nemesis - 04.01.2010 at 04:01  
Written by Vitriolic Hate on 02.01.2010 at 20:35

Good article,well done!totally agreed!



Yeah true
Wes - 05.01.2010 at 15:38  
I LOVE this kind of article, thank you so much! I hope there will be more of these

I just started getting into the band, this is great, thanks
Raiden - 06.01.2010 at 04:43  
Good to see some more of these Barry! They're really quite useful articles!
Mr.Tugboat ;) - 06.01.2010 at 12:05  
Saw them last night , it was an ok gig for them but i dont know how so many people thought they put on a kickass show last night when esniferum totally out classed them
Uirapuru - 06.01.2010 at 17:34  
I found Silence way easier to get into than Ecliptica.

As you said, Ecliptica has ''Wild, fast power metal with a ton of double bass drumming and wild, wailing vocals.'' in contrast with the extremily catchy and full of ballads Silence.
Stratoman - 11.01.2010 at 18:51  
Good article but i have to say that there are songs such as "Paid in Full" and "Don't Say a Word" that had to be considered highlights in their respectives albums, besides i guess the last live album "For the Sake of Revenge" has a good setlist i agree it wasn't the best the band could have chosen but it's not worth recording another "Songs of Silence".
Above it all i liked the article, keep doing that.
MeloDeathViking - 12.01.2010 at 19:46  
Great article Baz! I think you really hit the nail on the head in terms of where all the critisism comes from. I think most of it is undeserved in terms of the last two albums, but that's just my opinion. And trust me, I used to bad mouth Unia a lot until I really gave it a chance, so that's where I'm coming from.
Nicoline - 31.01.2010 at 11:52  
This was a great article, good job.

The first album I heard was Unia, so it is my favourite. I didn't enjoy Ecliptica as much to begin with, but now I've come to appreciate the "fantastic songwriting". SA is unquestionably on my top three list of favourite bands, and I recommend anyone who don't know them to give them a listen.
Milena - 09.02.2011 at 14:07  
Great article, you've really hit the spot there. It's kinda funny how Unia went to be their greatest commercial success when it's actually the most alternative and weird out of the bunch. But hell, I adore it, and I adore TDoG too.
ErnilEnNaur - 09.02.2011 at 17:01  
Why do we suck up to haters by using their terminology? To start an article on SA by stating that they are called "flower metal" by some haters is just as stupid as beginning an article on Chloe Moretz by stating that she is described as "rather doable" by some pedophiles.
Baz Anderson - 09.02.2011 at 17:47  
Written by Guest on 09.02.2011 at 17:01

Why do we suck up to haters by using their terminology? To start an article on SA by stating that they are called "flower metal" by some haters is just as stupid as beginning an article on Chloe Moretz by stating that she is described as "rather doable" by some pedophiles.

I think you've missed the point. There is no "sucking up"... I am clearly stating that in this article, we're going to look at the music, regardless of how people might categorise them, or refer to them as.
ErnilEnNaur - 09.02.2011 at 18:06  
Written by Baz Anderson on 09.02.2011 at 17:47

Written by Guest on 09.02.2011 at 17:01

Why do we suck up to haters by using their terminology? To start an article on SA by stating that they are called "flower metal" by some haters is just as stupid as beginning an article on Chloe Moretz by stating that she is described as "rather doable" by some pedophiles.

I think you've missed the point. There is no "sucking up"... I am clearly stating that in this article, we're going to look at the music, regardless of how people might categorise them, or refer to them as.


Which is no different from opening an article - I'll use the same example of Chloe Moretz - by stating that even though some people watch her films because they are pedophiles, your article will focus on her acting and not on her appeal to sex offenders. It's completely unnecessary. If you're going to talk about Sonata Arctica and not about their fans/haters, then don't mention their haters, like this:

Finland's Sonata Arctica are one of the leading European power metal bands etc. etc. etc.

No mention of their reputation, no mention of "tags" or anythng else that is irrelevant to your article (which was good and pretty much accurate otherwise). We're not stupid, you don't have to mention things you won't be discussing in your article in order for us to understand that you aren't discussing them.

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