|Review: Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night|
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2004
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: April 27, 2009
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
So after Winterheart's Guild, we got this, Reckoning Night, a much more complete sounding and epic album. This was a really heavy and dark release for these guys at the time, this band that everyone mostly associated with happy sunshine and long, elaborate rainbow bridges and fluffy care-bears. Sonata Arctica these days are a much more progressive and strange beast, but this was really the catalyst for their jumping off into that particular abyss, so let's dive in!
Reckoning Night starts off with a barrage of defiant Power Metal ass-kickers that I bet most bands wish they could replicate: "Misplaced," "Blinded No More" and "Ain't Your Fairytale." The opener is a fast, catchy number with a huge, hooky chorus and a Hammond organ sound to back it up with style and class. It's got a darker, chugging sort of tempo that adds an extra bite to the music that the band didn't have in the past. "Blinded No More" is heavy and mid-paced, and it also has a huge, hooky chorus, this time with even darker and angrier lyrics than before. "Fairytale" is a classic Sonata Arctica romp with a faster tempo, and it resembles the band's older sound more than most stuff on here does. And did I mention it has a fantastic chorus? The band's chorus-writing skills were fucking excellent here, and I will never shy off admitting that. These choruses all rule, meticulously constructed and layered to the point of perfection, and, if I might say, better than any Blind Guardian chorus off any of their recent albums.
Pretty much all of these songs have strong choruses, without exception. Like "Don't Say a Word"? One of the most complex and layered and intricate songs the band ever wrote; a tumultuous Power Metal waterfall of riff and melody alike. "My Selene" is nice, with a very catchy and easy to listen to melody that just skips along like a rock over water. "Wildfire" is heavy, fast and angry, and on the other side of the spectrum we have "Shamandalie," which is a sweet and somber little ballad without much grandeur at all.
The unmentioned songs, though, get a bit strange. "The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet" is a moody, calculated and searing song that is perhaps the most indicative of what they would go on to do with "Unia," with its obscure and surprisingly un-catchy structure. "White Pearls, Black Oceans" is a mammoth epic with wintery, frigid melodies that sort of hang there, as if they are a part of a watery mist over a clearing as people walk by with Christmas gifts in their hands, snow crushed under their boots. The vocals are just superlative, and I actually think this is one of Tony Kakko's best performances - heartfelt, warm and just well done all around. The lyrics are also cool, telling some sort of demented twist on the Titanic tale, or something of the sort. Yet another tragic love story from the masters of it. And that goes double for the entire album.
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