Sonata Arctica - Winterheart's Guild

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: 8215-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 55:00:00

Winterheart's Guild is the third full-length album from one of the powerhouses of youthful symphonic power metal -Sonata Arctica.

So, what does Winterheart's Guild bring to the table that they haven't done before? To be honest, not that much. But that doesn't mean that Sonata have sat on their laurels, because they still deliver a speedy tour-de-force of Finnish power metal -with ripeness and clever song-writing written with speed and melody in mind. Like their previous albums, the opening song is stunning and "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" is one of the most solid tracks Sonata have written and whilst not breaking the mould too much, the song is extremely catchy.

A bit of focus on this album will be the inclusion of Jens Johannsson (Stratovarius) on a few of the songs -namely his trademark rapid keyboard solos -but the rest are performed by vocalist Tony Kakko. Speaking of Tony, his voice sounds stronger and more confident, but is still quite immature in comparison to other bands. Sonata Arctica have again included plenty of tempo changes mid-song to mix up the songs. One of my favourite songs is the fast paced "The Cage" which is typical Sonata but so full of lyrics and rhythm changes with a choral melody that just explodes in your head. There's some really great soloing from Jani Liimatainen (g) especially in the song "Silver Tongue" where there is a heaviness that overrides the generally happy nature of SA albums. The most diverse number has to be "The Ruins Of My Life" with its straight intro, but the final half of the track has the band throwing everything they've ever done into a massive blender and switched it on to full. Similar to the very weird "Champagne Bath."

The first major change of pace occurs on track six, "The Misery," which is a world-away from the lame ballads on their last studio album. Winterheart's Guild also attempts to meld -sometimes unsuccessfully -each song together into a flowing theme. Which reminds me, lyrically the album is wonderful and a real exploration of the mind. Thankfully, they are growing in this department. And I must give credit to the artwork on the inside sleeve! I don't think I've seen anything better, but unfortunately, like the last album, the font and typeset of the lyrics actually clash with the background.

Let's face it, for what Sonata Arctica play -fast-paced melodic power metal -this is a terrific album. Of course, for those who detest repetitious melodies and overdone production (courtesy of the band themselves and the tried-and-true formula of Mikko Karmilla (mixing) and Mika Jussila (mastering)) then your calling is elsewhere.

All in all -a familiar album that has everything a fan of power metal would want. Don't be put off by people saying power metal is becoming boring. It's only boring to the ones who always thought power metal was just a passing phase. This is a great album.

Similar To: Stratovarius, Edguy

Also released by Spinefarm

[This review originally appeared March 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited (5:37) / Gravenimage (6:58) / The Cage (4:37) / Silver Tongue (3:58) / The Misery (5:08) / Victoria's Secret (4:43) / Champagne Bath (3:57) / Broken (5:18) / The Ruins of My Life (5:14) / Draw Me (9:26)

Tommy Portimo -drums
Henrik Klingenberg -keyboards
Jani Liimatainen -guitars
Marko Paasikoski -bass
Tony Kakko -vocals

Jens Johanssen - keyboards

Ecliptica (1999/2003)
Successor (ep) (2000)
Silence (2001)
Orientation (2001) (Japan Only ep)
Songs Of Silence - Live In Tokyo (2002)
Winterheart's Guild (2003)
Takatalvi (ep) (2003/2004)
Reckoning Night (2004)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin FI

Added: February 20th 2005
Reviewer: Gary Carson
Artist website:
Hits: 920
Language: english


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