|Review: Sonata Arctica - Talviyö|
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2019
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: September 3, 2019
Reviewed by: MetalMike
With an output that is about as regular as a fan could want (a new album every two years, on average) Sonata Arctica has released album number 10, Talviyö, 20 years after their debut back in 1999. Their early albums were notable for their consistent sound but, since Unia in 2007, front man and main songwriter Tony Kakko has been changing up the formula with mixed results. Unia divided the fanbase along very sharp and definitive lines while Pariah's Child, from 2014, was regarded as something close to a return to form and essentially a love letter to long-time fans. Where does Talviyö fit in? That was the question in my mind when I hit play for the first time.
The album starts with three very strong cuts; "Message from the Sun", "Whirlwind" and "Cold". Not double-kick barnburners but still upbeat numbers that move right along while Kakko unleashes some of his catchiest vocal lines. Things turn quieter on "The Last of the Lambs" and the middle of the album is a different animal, more introspective and darker and we also get a distinctive "prog rock" vibe courtesy of the keyboards (notable on "Storm the Armada" and especially the Yes/King Crimson/ELP/Genesis flourish in the middle of "The Raven Still Flies with You"). The album's highlight comes via "A Little Less Understanding", a hugely catchy tune with major chord changes and the hookiest chorus Kakko has written in a decade. Gone is the youthful exuberance of the early albums and as much as fans would like that to come back, it isn't going to, so we all need to move on. That said, Talviyö sounds great but the production is a little too sterile and the guitars have had a lot of their grit and energy toned down far too much.
Overall, I like Talviyö quite a bit, mainly because the good songs are really good and those that aren't so great are still passable. I'm scoring this below Pariah's Child (4/5) because it isn't quite on that level and while I'm giving it the same score I gave to The Ninth Hour, in hindsight I'd lower that one to 3.5/5 because Talviyö is stronger. If you're still waiting for something akin to the first four albums, your quest continues because you're only getting hints with Talviyö. If you've accepted Sonata Arctica's current direction, it is one of the better albums they've put out over the latter part of their career.
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Interview with keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg and bassist Pasi Kauppinen on September 9, 2014 (Interviewed by MetalMike)
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