ALBUM REVIEW: Sonata Arctica – Clear Cold Beyond

Finland is reported to be one of the happiest countries in the world. Even though it can produce some fantastically grim Metal acts, this Nordic nation has some jubilant bands as well.

Sonata Arctica is known for their peppy Power Metal prowess and have been making pleasant melodic goodness for over twenty-five years. They have explored a softer side in recent times, but are now getting back to being heavier on their latest record, Clear Cold Beyond (Atomic Fire Records).

“First In Line” is a punchy piece that kicks the good times off with a bang. The speed, vibrant tones, and textured grooves project a get-up-and-go energy. The keytar plays an essential role in this band’s signature sound and it is given a lot of opportunity to shine on this record.

The synths sturdily sing alongside Tony Kakko’s full, vivacious voice, both inviting the listener into a rosy expectancy. The next few songs carry a Dragonforce-like bombasticness.

“California”, “Cure for Everything”, and others have titillating theatrical elements to them. The bouncy, multifaceted movements have video game vibes. Kakko uses his broad vocal capabilities to project stories that are everything from sinister, dreamy, to exciting. His ability to articulate and tell a tale, in his animated, melodious narrative sweeps the listener away.

Keys and strings are swift and drumming expert Tommy Portimo provides tasteful density on top of the danceable exuberance. “Dark Empath” is a highlight on the album because it nods to the band’s popular 2004’s “Don’t Say a Word” and 2001’s “The End of This Chapter” songs. The spirited urgency captures the theme of “the thrill of the chase” spot on. The kooky, catchy choruses will have the listener singing along. Elias Vilijanen’s playing holds keenness and intuitive merit when his melodies parallel with the vocals in an engaging way.

The second half of the album shifts to a slower gear by being more pensive, yet still perky. The serenading on “A Monster Only You Can’t See” and “The Best Things” adds a softness that allows a thoughtful breather after all the intensity.

It picks up again on “Angel Defiled”. This number stands out for its eccentric, uncanny elements that make for a great drinking song. Everything is tied up with the title track which is a powerful rock ballad. There are two bonus tracks on the digipak and vinyl if you want an extra treat.

This is a delightfully fun, festive, feelgood record. It is refreshing to hear them bring back some of their older sound and here is to the next album being even heavier.


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7 / 10