Sonata Arctica – Pariah’s Child
Release Date: March 28, 2014
In the power metal community, it is hard to escape conversation about iconic Finnish giants, Sonata Arctica. Love them or hate them, their well-praised earlier releases such as 2003’s Winterheart’s Guild and 2004’s Reckoning Night seem to be unanswerable works of genius. The later albums however, caused more of a stir throughout fans as the band attempted some new styles. Perhaps most infamously, Sonata Arctica released Stones Grow Her Name in 2012. Although it was well-known that the band was looking toward new grounds musically, the fans were seemingly shocked at the new music and its lack of that expected “Sonata Arctica Sound”. Being one of the first of their kind to take on the more melodic, triplet driven power metal style still utilized today, 1999’s debut Ecliptica, really nailed down the path of their musical journey. Accordingly, fans began to expect and crave this sound from the band, all led by Tony Kakko‘s iconic and easily recognizable vocal style. After a few left turns the band has returned to the original path, only a few steps ahead of their past, with 2014’s release of Pariah’s Child.
As the teaser videos hit YouTube in January, fans not only heard from members of the band about their excitement to release such a fun and entertaining album, they also heard a few seconds of the first track and first single, “The Wolves Die Young” giving a glimpse of the return to the old sound. Needless to say, the rest of the song lives up to the excitement and expectations that the few seconds of that chorus led us to believe. As the album begins, if it wasn’t obvious enough already, the return to the band’s common feature of wolven folklore is palpable. While the tempo is slower than some would expect, this song is full of beautiful keyboard lines that take more of the spotlight than the rhythmic guitars. The bass work, especially with the feature in the beginning, is prominent and well-mixed, which is far too rare in most power metal of today. As Sonata Arctica is famous for catchy and epic choruses, this song absolutely delivers, being one of the more classic and expected songs on this very promising album.
The keyboards noticeably take more of a leading role on the record thanks to songs like “Take One Breath” which begins with a dream-like melody that abruptly wakes up with palm-muted guitar. The melody continues throughout the song as it seamlessly pairs with dancing lead guitar and drum lines. This song is rich in layered vocals and synth touches that bring back the trance-like state of the introduction. Though it seemed as if it could have been a lost Unia track, it’s truly a unique song, and proved to be quite addicting. Similarly, “Cloud Factory” despite it’s strange and intriguing title, features more of those dancing keyboard lines but the chorus is really vocal driven in a style true to this band. It begins with a light-hearted tone, and answers with some folk-like “lai lai lai” chanting in the middle. Towards the end, in its great transition into the next track, an eerie feeling falls over the music as “Blood” begins with the album’s first trip away from that positive, jaunty vibe.
While the rest of the album is equally as enjoyable, featuring a great little ballad aptly named “Love”, the true shining gem of Pariah’s Child is the near ten minute track that brings the album to its close, “Larger Than Life”. Sonata Arctica isn’t really known for pure theatrics that have brought other bands like say, Rhapsody of Fire to their fame, but when they do dive into that territory, they create some of their most impressive work. Of course in the metal world the song lengths alone are not awe-inspiring, but the sheer emotion and power-driven through these songs makes Sonata Arctica the tried and true one-of-a-kind band that they’ve become. Not to disappoint, “Larger Than Life” is entirely gripping and entertaining, in both the lyrical content and musical drama brought to the table. The song moves from character driven craziness to orchestral arrangements and ethereal vocals that send chills down the spine. Carrying the message always put forth by the band, “Don’t take life so seriously,” the surprising perfection of the songwriting is bone chilling, proving that Sonata Arctica is still having fun with their music, but naturally still creating astonishing works of art.
Pariah’s Child is absolutely worth checking out, for any of you fans that gave up on the band because their latest album didn’t sound like Silence or Ecliptica. While it’s not a sequel to any previous album, as I believe most fans would want to hear, it is a brand new stepping stone next to the path that they laid throughout their musical career. This album is just as powerful and moving as Winterheart’s Guild while all the while being something fans have never heard before. To sum all of this up, it’s a perfect mix of new and exciting music, with that classic Sonata Arctica vibe, that will please both new and old fans alike.