Sonata Arctica
Winterheart's Guild


3.5
great

Review

by Kenneth E. Rathburn CONTRIBUTOR (106 Reviews)
August 23rd, 2014 | 31 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Maturation through repression.

Moving though Sonata Arctica's discography after Silence is an interesting experience. The band's sophomoric effort worked so effectively, it began to feel like a spoiling affair. In the span of just two albums, the Finnish act found an outfit of comfort and appeal. It was as if the turn of the century brought the fluke of a metal band immediately reaching their peak. Of course, anyone acquainted with Sonata Arctica's history knows this isn't necessarily the case. But at the time, listener's couldn't be blamed if they held some degree of skepticism heading into Winterheart's Guild. Truth be told, such doubts wouldn't have been completely unfounded, either.

Winterheart's Guild sees Sonata Arctica separate a bit from their grandiose side and gravitate towards a bleaker shade, evidenced most prominently on "Gravenimage." A track like this would normally escalate on either Silence or Ecliptica, but here it turns to wallowing. That's not to say the grand, cheesy qualities characteristic of Sonata Arctica and their respective genre(s) were abandoned, they were just present without drawing as much attention. One of the few outright flamboyant moments is a comical shift in "Champagne Bath," turning it from a track of promise to a moment of disconcertment. If only this bridge had been used on "The Misery" or "Broken," where the damage would've been easier to ignore. Otherwise, Winterheart's Guild offers few moments of surprise.

Curiously missing from this particular entry is a batch of pulse-pounding tracks, similar in vein to "Blank File," "Weballergy" and "Black Sheep." Remove "Champagne Bath" and the remaining material would be consistent enough to almost sound monotone. Despite Winterheart's Guild's lack of exuberance, it managed to match (even succeed) its predecessors in one area: stylistic resolve. Sonata Arctica strived for a more deliberate sound, swapping Silence's whim for method. A few moments aside, this was, at the time, the band's most composed album. Opener "Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited" paints a representative picture of the entire album, showing that the band do have some grasp of restraint. It's a double-edge sword, since more atmosphere means less excitement. There's less of that instant-satisfaction vibe Silence bathed itself in, which means Winterheart's Guild can benefit from repeat listenings. At that point it begins to feel like settling into a new home as a child; you're not so certain of the shift in territory, but in time, you become acquainted and learn to accept the change in both structure and color.

Sonata Arctica altered their approach on Winterheart's Guild just enough to be distinguishable from its predecessors, but not to the point of straying from their roots. Ecliptica made them look like a standard bouquet, while Silence allowed them to rise with sharp hues aplenty. Winterheart's Guild, by comparison, is less florally inclined. It's content with resting in the power metal garden as a slight variation from its siblings, one that will fascinate some and disinterest others.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2014


953 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

On one hand, I find this disappointing after Silence, but it's also a grower. If it weren't for the fact so much of it still feels like a slumping I might've bumped it to a 4.

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Staff Reviewer
August 23rd 2014


6203 Comments


nice review, probably not something I'd ever listen to though

pos

ChoccyPhilly
August 23rd 2014


11590 Comments


Good review, need to go over this again but The Cage and Broken are my favourites from this

Digging: Lapalux - Ruinism

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2014


953 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Really? Broken's probably one of my least favorites.

Sabrutin
August 23rd 2014


4409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, pos'd.



But man, not a mention for "The Cage"? That song is easily the best here and for me of their entire discography. This is probably my favorite SA album, the atmosphere is pretty nice and darker (it goes well with the cover artwork). I also like the japanese bonus track, "The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me".

Digging: Paradise Lost - Medusa

Xenorazr
Contributing Reviewer
August 23rd 2014


953 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I'm a fan of "The Cage" (and "Victoria's Secret") but not to the extent of other tracks.

ChoccyPhilly
August 23rd 2014


11590 Comments


The Cage is amazing and Broken sounds a bit gimmicky at first but it grows the most and it's all about Tony's vocals there

TheAJMetal
August 24th 2014


100 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Good review!

I agree with you for the most part. I believe that this has a much more consistent sound than anything on their first two albums (and Reckoning Night, for that matter). It is my favorite album by the band.

ChoccyPhilly
August 24th 2014


11590 Comments


You serious? I've always thought reckoning night and Silence were most consistent in their sound and this was all over the
place at times, like with Champagne Bath

Sabrutin
August 24th 2014


4409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gotta admit, I spun Reckoning Night again in full yesterday, but I didn't change my mind. It has good songs, but overall lacks what made me love the earlier works. The only song from it that always makes me stop what I'm doing and contemplate the music is "Wildfire", which I find pretty sick.

NineInchDreamPark
August 24th 2014


64 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Reckoning and silence are the best ones, besides tracks like white pearls, don't say a word and wildfire are jamz

ChoccyPhilly
August 24th 2014


11590 Comments


My Selene and Misplaced too

NineInchDreamPark
August 24th 2014


64 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Indeed, but the previous 3 were my fave ones

ChoccyPhilly
August 24th 2014


11590 Comments


I don't actually like wildfire too much. Top 3 from those 2 albums would probably be White Pearls, Don't say a Word and End of This Chapter

Sabrutin
August 24th 2014


4409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Wildfire, Wolf & Raven and San Sebastian would be my choices for those two albums. RN just doesn't do

it for me.

ChoccyPhilly
August 24th 2014


11590 Comments


Seriously? Damn, we have pretty different SA tastes then

Sabrutin
August 24th 2014


4409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

We can take it as a sign of the variety in their discography, I guess.

ChoccyPhilly
August 24th 2014


11590 Comments


Oh definitely. I'm looking forward to Xen's Unia review

NineInchDreamPark
August 24th 2014


64 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good point saburtin, contraty to the popular belief power metal in general and this band have certain degree of diversity

Sabrutin
August 24th 2014


4409 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They changed a lot, and even though there are some bummers I can't say to have completely disliked any

of their works yet.



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