Sonata Arctica
Pariah's Child


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jom STAFF
March 26th, 2014 | 93 replies | 14,920 views


Release Date: 04/01/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: No hook, no sinker, no line: a surprisingly catchy and delightfully quirky album.

While it's true that dichotomous thinking can be limiting, a reasonable heuristic when examining power metal is to look at the genre on a continuum. For example, on a scale of DragonForce or Magica to Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, you could slide Sonata Arctica anywhere along the spectrum depending on the record you select. Ecliptica might hover closer to Helloween on this imaginary power metal spectrum than it would HammerFall, whereas The Days of Grays and Stones Grow Her Name are less Stratovarius and more Skylark. In other words, these Finns are a polarizing outfit: they oscillate to-and-fro between the continuum's two halves across their discography and never quite fall at an exact midpoint on the distribution.

With Pariah's Child, Sonata Arctica recorded and produced the album as a band with little outside interference or direction, a first since 2004's Reckoning Night. Armed with a new bassist (Pasi Kauppinen, who also helped mix the record), the quintet has teased through various album trailers and press interviews that Pariah's Child is a return to their metal roots after the head-scratcher that was Stones Grow Her Name. Experimenting and branching out from the triplet-heavy power metal archetype was certainly their right, but it yielded potentially unintended consequences: a mismanagement of expectations being most significant. Children of Bodom fans experienced similar dissonance with Blooddrunk, I'm sure, but what can listeners expect from Sonata Arctica's eighth studio album? Was frontman Tony Kakko blowing smoke, or is Pariah's Child truly a return to form as he has alleged? Where does this record fall on the imaginary power metal continuum?

In short: Pariah's Child is a pleasant surprise. Overall, it is not a particularly speedy record, but the songwriting is expertly crafted, allowing the transitions between sections to sound beautifully organic. The clean and clear guitars, harmonized and uplifting vocals, resplendent keyboards, and thoroughly melodic hooks that can border on overly saccharine sweet (as Sonata Arctica are wont to do at times throughout their history) are all here to wonderful effect, and yes, the expected power metal cheese is similarly present in full force. Also of note is the return of the wolf motif - the band's "totem animal", which appears on at least one song on all their albums save for the much-maligned Stones - examples include "Fullmoon" and "Ain't Your Fairytale" - a harbinger signaling that the band would be revisiting its power metal origins and integrating it into their contemporary sound.

Album opener "The Wolves Die Young" is the most discernible embodiment of the reinvigorated Sonata Arctica sound. While one of Pariah's Child's faster songs and sporting a more traditional songwriting structure, the chorus is sublimely majestic, and Kakko's trademark fluctuating vocals are splendidly varied between the verses and choruses. Kauppinen's bass is also pushed higher in the mix - his brief triplet-run preceding the opening verse is so simple but effective - and Henrik Klingenberg's keyboards adroitly supplement the vocals and guitars while simultaneously adding an intricate layer of atmosphere. Drummer Tommy Portimo excels on Jörg Michael/Lou Reed tribute "Running Lights" and album highlight "'X' Marks the Spot", but does an admirable job at maintaining Pariah's Child's pulse, even in its slower passages, and guitarist Elias Viljanen has some catchy leads in "The Wolves Die Young", "Cloud Factory", and the rollicking "Half a Marathon Man".

Although some songs tend to blur into one another ("Love" is harmless, but has an air of 'heard-it-before' and the first half of "Take One Breath" fails to captivate in a substantial way, although the latter half is fabulously Scandi-Shakespearean), Pariah's Child has several songs that are immediately identifiable due to their unique composition or songwriting flair. Songs like "Blood" and "What Did You Do in the War, Dad?" are darker, more somber, and consequently cut against the grain compared to other songs, but Kakko's storytelling in "What Did You Do in the War, Dad?" is hauntingly emotive, chronicling a conversation between father and son ("What did you do in the war, Dad? / (Tell me!) / Why can't you smile when the children sing?" . . . "War isn't me / I am the war / Don't you force me to live the nightmare again / Please don't beg me") over eerie, not-very-power-metal-like keyboards.

With those exceptions in mind, the record is delightfully quirky, although there is a curious amount of outright goofiness that might not be effective to new or casual listeners. For example, the band's oddball humor is prominently displayed in "'X' Marks the Spot" - the opening narration is undeniably cheesy, yet impressively alluring, and the bridge's entertaining preacher call-and-answer section with the choir is equal parts comical and eccentric. On other albums, these ideas would be definite flops, but Sonata Arctica accomplish it in a seemingly carefree way. The same can be said about the whimsical "Cloud Factory", whose opening chorus lines of "There is a factory clouds are made in / They make 'em big and blue" will confuse seasoned meteorologists and impressionable young children everywhere, while "There's no hook, no sinker, no line, and you will never leave the cloud factory" is a bit nutty. The circus-like atmosphere returns with Kakko's jester-like, "Hey! Isn't it fun at the end of the day when everyone looks like me, swallowing pints of stale apathy!" is entrancingly idiosyncratic.

Again, the lyrics can be somewhat hackneyed and won't answer any existential questions about the universe you may have, but what I take away most from the record is how much fun it sounds like the band had during recording. Live, songs like "Cloud Factory" and "'X' Marks the Spot" will be surefire setlist staples, and the 10-minute Queen-meets-Therion closer "Larger Than Life" is an ambitious undertaking - sounding like it could belong in a Tim Burton film - and is largely successful despite a lull or two. I can visualize several of these songs translating seamlessly in concert, but more importantly, Pariah's Child is easily Sonata Arctica's best album in over a decade (even if it's an obvious assertion, it needs to go on record!). The songwriting is much improved, cleverly constructed, and doesn't rely on gimmicks to be successful, thanks to Kauppinen's engineering. Further, the wolf motif brings a sense of comfort and normalcy back to the band's music, and the melodies and harmonies have incredible staying power long after listening, and the charismatic Tony Kakko sounds better than ever with his distinct range. This is definitely not an album to introduce listeners to power metal; however, it is strongly encouraged listening to reorient listeners back to Sonata Arctica and prove that rumors of the band's demise were indeed greatly exaggerated.

I know where I'd rank this album on my imaginary power metal continuum, anyway. It's a beautiful day.

Jom recommends:

"'X' Marks the Spot"
"Cloud Factory"
"What Did You Do in the War, Dad?"
"Larger Than Life"




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user ratings (86)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
DoctorVelvet (3.5)
The material ranges from horrible to legendary....


Comments:Add a Comment 
ProjectFreak
March 26th 2014



1284 Comments


Winterheart's Guild was my jam for a while. Time to bring these guys back to my guilty pleasure rotation. Solid work, Jom.

Stryfe14
March 26th 2014



53 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really enjoying this album! What Did You Do in the War, Dad? is so hauntingly chilling, and Larger Than Life has some great "crazy Tony" lyrics, which he previously really only showcased during live shows.

Love sounds like a song that was written for The Days of Grey, but didn't make it into the release. Maybe because the lyrics are actually positive?

The only thing I wish was that there was a Caleb song on the album. I don't feel like we've reached the end of that chapter after Juliet on The Days of Grey, and those songs are always top notch.

I feel about the same way as I did with Bodom's return with Halo of Blood really. Nuclear Blast is on a hot streak as of late.

DoctorVelvet
March 26th 2014



112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

There are 2 or 3 tracks that I could take or leave, but the rest of the album is really incredibly solid. I still think the two
singles are the strongest on the album, but knowing how I started off not liking those, I'm sure the rest of the album will
grow.

Great release.

Edit: Also great review. The only suggestion I have is to cut back on the wordiness. Oh, and I also feel like you went on a
bit long about how the band planned to return to roots on the album. I think that bit made this review unnecessarily long.

Edit 2: What the FUCK is with my post's formatting?

Tyrael
March 26th 2014



20713 Comments


Woah I need this

SomethingSimilar
March 26th 2014



55 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

YEEEESS.

I'm very happy to see this album has lived up to its build-up - used to fanboy over these guys so hard, excited about hearing this one!

Excellent review too, definitely captured your feelings perfectly.

ShitsofRain
March 26th 2014



5506 Comments


oh nice a jom review but unfortunately not my kind of music

Digging: Ben Sims - Fabric 73

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2014



2633 Comments


>> Oh, and I also feel like you went on a bit long about how the band planned to return to roots on the album. I think that bit made this review unnecessarily long.

Just injecting personal opinion to set the table. My perception is that people will be interested by virtue of their earlier works, and a central point I refer back to often is answering whether or not the 'return to form' claim is substantiated.

As far as 'wordiness' and 'unnecessarily long' go - welcome to everything I write here! I do appreciate where you're coming from, though.

>> Love sounds like a song that was written for The Days of Grey, but didn't make it into the release. Maybe because the lyrics are actually positive? The only thing I wish was that there was a Caleb song on the album. I don't feel like we've reached the end of that chapter after Juliet on The Days of Grey, and those songs are always top notch.

I noticed these items, too (I'm glad someone else has!), but I opted to not touch on it because it wasn't as important to me as the wolf motif. "Love" is a good song, definitely positive, but not as interesting as some of the other tracks (maybe because it's the shortest song?).

>> Nuclear Blast is on a hot streak as of late.

They had a reputation for neutering some bands that they had signed, but my sense lately is that they've been allowing bands to be a bit more autonomous, which is great to see for listeners and bands alike. Hi, Victory/Wind-Up!

VermTheImpaler
March 26th 2014



1360 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review sound promising, not sure if this is going to be at the same level of their older works

Whispered4tw
March 26th 2014



593 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album seems to take influences from all their previous works (power metal/progressive/orchestral/goofy hardrock). Really enjoying it, especially that second half of Take One Breath really does sound fabulous.

One little correction: That guy who does the 'preach' sections is a guy who is a friend of the band, not Tony Kakko himself.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2014



2633 Comments


Ha, thank you. That might explain why the dude sounds so different! Kakko can be such a vocal
chameleon at times, which is part of his charm.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
March 26th 2014



19381 Comments


Wasn't expecting this to be a Jom review when I clicked on it. Excellent write-up man! Wish I could write half this good

Digging: Musk Ox - Woodfall

DoctorVelvet
March 26th 2014



112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good to see you raised the rating from a 3.8. After I went to bed it occurred to me that it read more like a 4.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2014



8317 Comments


I'd like to like this. Gonna take your word for it and give it a go. I haven't looked into this band's back-catalog too much, which I guess is just bad execution on my part, since I really like Unia, only slightly like Days of Grays, and don't like Stones at all - aka, seems the earlier, the better for me haha. Are their older albums more like Unia, or not?

Stryfe14
March 26th 2014



53 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The albums Ecliptica, Wintersheart Guild, and Silence are all great. Reckoning Night is awesome too, which was the album before Unia. I would put Pariah's Child inbetween those two.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2014



2633 Comments


>> I'd like to like this. Gonna take your word for it and give it a go. I haven't looked into this
band's back-catalog too much, which I guess is just bad execution on my part, since I really like
Unia, only slightly like Days of Grays, and don't like Stones at all - aka, seems the earlier, the
better for me haha. Are their older albums more like Unia, or not?

What Stryfe told you is a good call. Ecliptica is the typical starting point, but you can't
really go wrong by picking one of their first four to start. This record should be grouped with that
sequence than their more recent works. Their older albums are somewhat like Unia, but with a
much greater power metal focus - to me, some parts of Unia served as a harbinger to their
hard rock/less power metal tendencies, which aren't as memorable. People who like Stones are
certainly in the minority - it was an experiment that went awry, it seems, ha.

CaptainDooRight
March 26th 2014



28297 Comments


I'm tempted to listen to this for some reason.

Digging: IQ - The Road of Bones

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2014



2633 Comments


Give the Soundcloud track a go. If you like it, you'll like the record. You'll know in the opening minute/ninety seconds if it's worth pursuing.

Poet
March 26th 2014



5920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Dangit Jom, I was wanting to be the first person to review this. I've been waiting for Sonata Arctica to return to this stuff since Unia basically and it rules.

CaptainDooRight
March 26th 2014



28297 Comments


Jom - I kinda liked it bro. The chorus was solid and production was good too. I'm iffy on how far the album could take me though. I might check a few more tracks. Nice avi btw.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
March 26th 2014



2633 Comments


>> Dangit Jom, I was wanting to be the first person to review this

Oh, good, you're still here! Hello!

>> I'm iffy on how far the album could take me though. I might check a few more tracks.

Understandable, cheers. Here's the lyric video to "Cloud Factory":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RO5FPHFI6sI



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