Sonata Arctica - Ecliptica


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Spinefarm
Catalog Number: SPI91CD
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:19:00

From Finland emerges another neo-classically-influenced speed metal band very similar to Stratovarius. In fact, you'd think that these two bands were related in just more than both sharing a residence in the same country. Right off the bat - if you are a Stratovarius fan and can't get enough of that sound and style, then look no further than this band. The difference is, this band is talented enough on their own not to be called a clone of that band. There are many similarities between the two bands but there are many differences as well. For a band this young to be this good is quite an amazement, and brings to mind the young talented Edguy, whose youthful approach to German power metal brought hope to that genre as well. Such may be the case with Sonata Arctica, who have brought some more excitement to this particular genre which has been much owned by Stratovarius over the past few years.

THE STYLE

As you might have guessed based on the mention of Stratovarius, this band is neo-classically-influenced speed metal, sometimes driven by the same double bass gunfire as the mighty Strat, and at times veering off into power ballad land to break up the constant barrage of double-barreled attack. To keep mentioning the comparisons to Strat might not be too kosher with many fans of the band, so I will list some of the major differences between the bands.

First, Sonata Arctica draws from the neo-classical influences, but rather than beat that sound to death, they inject a more melodic sound into that sound to produce some real catchy tunes. You don't mind the speed because of the great melodies they inject into every song. The lyrics are a bit different as well - Sonata Arctica seems to get a bit more personal in their approach, choosing to use people in certain situations, and also referring to the people by name. The lyrics in the ballads can get quite mushy as well, and it's actually refreshing to see a band just saying what they want without worrying about what the listening world might think of the lyrical content of the songs - a good example would be "Are you gonna leave me now, when it is all over, are you gonna leave me now, is my world now over"... Somehow, when these guys do it, you don't seem to find yourself focusing on the cheese so much because they surround each and every song with tons of melody and passion. Sonata doesn't use a separate keyboard player like the mighty Jens Johansson in Stratovarius (who is capable of keeping up neo-classically with Timo Tolkki), but Tony the singer (they don't give last names [on the album]) doubles as the keyboard player. And a hell of a job he does of complementing the guitarist with his own barrage of melody. The interplay between the guitar and keyboard is admirable indeed. The song structures differ quite a bit as well, as Sonata seems bent on keeping just about perfect melodies tied to every song regardless of the speed. Every ballad, every speed demon, every other song is just loaded with a ton of fun melodies that will have you looking around for something to bang on while keeping time with these guys.

THE BAND:

Tony [Kakko] / Keyboards & Vocals
Jani [Liimatainen] / Guitars
Tommy [Portimo] / Drums
Janne [Kivilahti] / Bass

THE VOCALS:

Tony has an interesting voice - it's powerful, somewhat thin, and totally melodic. He sounds like a cross between Timo Kotipelto (Stratovarius) and DC Cooper with a Finnish accent. He possesses a very precise and clear voice, and isn't afraid to reach into ranges that he might not be able to, but does anyway because he sounds like he needs to vent those particular notes out regardless. He sings with tons of passion, tons of spirit, and is fun to listen to. The only problem I can find is that some people might not like his very thick Finnish accent. It's not hard to hear, and he does not try to disguise it at all - in fact, he sounds like he is proud to bear that accent and uses it throughout the disc. This may make some of his words hard to understand at times, but his clarity and passion more than make up for this small artifact. A couple of times he does reach way up into ungodly vocal ranges, and although it sounds like he might be straining a bit, his spirit and passion again overwhelm you and makes you glad that he went through the trouble of doing it...a very interesting singer - one who you know loves what he is doing.

THE PRODUCTION:

Marvelous. I wish I could find a flaw in this sound - as I normally go out of my way to find at least one, but this is about as good as it gets. I've played this a car, on a boombox, a main system, and headphones and I get a thrill with each system. The sound just pours out at you from all sides, and every instrument is recorded brilliantly. Not one instrument is out of place, and the mixture of keyboards, vocals, and guitars is so precise that it gives you chills on songs like "Letter to Dana". The guitars are mixed right along with the rest of the sounds, no more or no less. The drums are mixed as well, and they have a huge, crisp punch to them. The snare drum in particular sounds like it should, full, and thick instead of that tinny, cardboard sound that plagues lots of prog metal these days. The bass is full and tight instead of boomy and muddy and undermixed. In excellence is the vocal recording. Every singer should sound this good - accent or no accent. Tony 's solid voice should get a lot of the credit, but the recording gives his voice a clean, crisp advantage and takes his harmonies and does wonders with them. Given the amount of vocal harmonies, keyboards mixed with guitars, and pounding drums having to mingle with bass, I'd say someone did their homework and made this disc sound special for these newcomers...hats off again to the Finnish for producing great sound - when was the last time you heard a bad sounding Strat disc? You won't find anything bad about this Sonata Arctica recording either.

THE VERDICT:

Given the young looking age of these guys, you'd never be able to predict the talent level they have. Like Edguy, they look like they are in their late teens, early 20s at best, and playing some fine neo-classically influenced speed metal with a twist. Hardly even enough time to learn the genre, never mind master it, and so far these guys get my vote for doing it as good as I've heard it. Again, if you're totally into that Stratovarius style, but want a bit of a twist to it, you need to check out Sonata Arctica. It's not only structured differently than you might expect from a style like this, but it's one hell of a fun disc, one that will easily have you reaching out for something to bang on to keep time. Personally, I'm pretty burned out on the speedier music - but I will be the first to admit that I'm having a total blast listening to this disc. It's not only got the speed, but it's laced with so much melody that you'll forget the music speeding by at a hundred miles an hour and you'll get lost in the soaring melodies and passion in no time. Hats off to these young guys for making a statement and taking names later. Watch out for this band if they stay together - they have a lot to offer to the music world and the attitudes portrayed in their music show that they really mean business. Highly recommended if you like this style of music.


Tracklisting:
Blank File (4:05) / My Land (4:37) / 8th Commandment (3:41) / Replica (4:55) / Kingdom For A Heart (3:51) / FullMoon (5:08) / Letter To Dana (6:00) / UnOpened (3:43) / Picturing The Past (3:36) / Destruction Preventer (7:39)

Musicians:
Tony Kakko - keyboards and vocals
Jani Liimatainen - guitars
Tommy Portimo - drums
Janne Kivilahti - bass

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

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.sonataarctica.info
Hits: 839
Language: english

  

[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]