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Sonata Arctica - Talviyö

Sonata Arctica
by Guy "Kai" Naiman at 19 September 2019, 2:59 AM

Twenty years ago, “Ecliptica”, an album that is widely recognized within the Metal community as one of the fundamental and most important albums of European Power Metal, was released, and the Kemi-based SONATA ARCTICA, who were, up until that moment, relatively unknown, flourished and became one of the biggest powerhouses within that sphere. With 2019’s approaching end, the band, who in the meanwhile suffered from fanbase instability, released “Talviyö”, or in English, “Winter’s Night”, their tenth album to date.

“Talviyö” sees a mature and confident, if not recollected, side of SONATA ARCTICA. It does seem as if the band ultimately decided to slow things down with this record – and acknowledge the fact that they are not the young and jolly teenagers they were twenty years ago. This makes “Talviyö” more of a Melodic Rock album, that still holds many older mannerisms the band became known with - but doesn’t focus on them anymore. Throwback-enthusiastic fans will cherish the first two tracks, “Message From The Sun” and “Whirlwind”, that, while contain some of the cheesiest moments of the album, overall dwell in the comfortable territory for most fans, even for the most cynical of them.

To me, “Talviyö” has many similarities with the band’s fifth album, “Unia”, as SONATA ARCTICA were experimenting quite a bit with progressive phrasing and interesting songwriting in this album, while also is an album which amasses the nuances of each previously released album. “A Little Less Understanding” is perhaps the best example in the record for that, and “Ismo’s Got Good Reactors”, the album’s sole instrumental piece, can be easily considered as one of the best instrumentals in SONATA ARCTICA’s history. The epic “The Raven Still Flies” is the epicentre of “Talviyö”, with it’s marvellous reprice and instrumental galore.

SONATA ARCTICA, rightfully so, carefully chose the singles based on how memorabable they are. The choruses on “Cold”, “A Little Less Understanding” and “Who Failed The Most” are virtually sing-alongs for the band’s upcoming live setlists. This, however, does not contradict with the fact that these tracks are qualitative, and the lyrical theme of these pieces are as touching and beautiful as ever, and match their respective composition like a pair of gloves.

The lyrical aspect in “Talviyö” splits to two main themes. The bigger portion of tracks were written about the ecological damage caused by humans, and its future outcome. Tony Kakko was clear and to-the-point as always with the lyrics – blaming politicians, inattentive civilians and corporations, when amongst the songs written about this topic, “Storm The Armada” and “Who Failed The Most” pierce best. As Kakko explains, the second lyrical theme is about the winter season – which where the album’s name is derived from. The lone kook among scholars in “Talviyö” is the dreary “The Last Of The Lambs” – which tackles another chapter in the theatrical Caleb storyline.

What caused controversy in this solid album, though, is the band’s attempt to create a “live” sound; it seems the majority of tracks were recorded simultaneously in a single session, and the album produced appropriately. This, unfortunately, created a muffled and muddy wall of sound, that at times, pushed the vocals, drums and guitars too low in the mix, or making them virtually unauditable. This is tragedy, considering “Talviyö” is definitely the best SONATA ARCTICA album since their 2009 effort, “The Days Of Grays”.

Ultimately, SONATA ARCTICA are not into the Power Metal thing anymore and have outgrown it; Therefore, the music in “Talviyö” is slower, more keyboard-driven, more coherent, honest and pure, while the Kakko quirkiness still dominates. The musicianship between the band members improved dramatically, and the fact they were confident enough to record the album simultaneously, irregardless the outcome, is nothing short of a proof for that. If you can look beyond the production mishap, “Talviyö” will have a soft spot in your heart.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 5

3 Star Rating

1. Message From The Sun
2. Whirlwind
3. Cold
4. Storm The Armada
5. The Last Of The Lambs
6. Who Failed The Most
7. Ismo’s Got Good Reactors
8. Demon’s Cage
9. A Little Less Understanding
10. The Raven Still Flies With You
11. The Garden
Tony Kakko – Vocals
Elias Viljanen – Guitars
Pasi Kauppinen – Bass
Henrik “Henkka” Klingenberg – Keyboards
Tommy Portimo – Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast


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Edited 06 August 2020

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