Partially influenced by the classical writings of years gone by and hailing from northern Finland, which happens to be located in the Arctic Circle, Sonata Arctica exploded onto the power metal scene with 1999's Ecliptica. They followed up their successful debut with an even better received album, 2001's Silence. The future was bright for these Finnish musicians. After Songs of Silence, a live album, they entered the studio once again to record another album. Released in 2003, it was titled Winterheart's Guild. Though it was not regarded as highly as Silence, it remains an excellent release, worthy of the band's moniker.
Winterheart's Guild picks up where Silence left off. Musically, many of the themes found on their previous albums are once again present here. There are fast, powerful songs such as Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited, and The Cage; slower, heartfelt ballads such as Gravenimage and Draw Me. Not to be caged into stagnation, Sonata Arctica also combines both of these elements into one, creating songs like Victoria Secret. Like its predecessors before it, Winterheart's Guild helps dispel the myth that metal requires large amounts of aggression to be done well. Sonata Arctica's 2003 effort contains very little aggression. Now this doesn't mean that the distortion levels are nil. No, distortion is still a very much utilized gift. Rather, the heavy guitars aren't used to pound your ears into submission, but instead as an effect to enhance the music. For those who can accept this, you should enjoy the album quite a bit. I myself like this formula, as it presents a different take on metal. It doesn't have that mighty German power metal sound, nor does it employ the aggressive tactics of thrash. The classy traditional metal sound is also not prominent. But because of this, Sonata Arctica's style is likely among the most accessible styles in metal, and should garner the interest of those who count themselves as fans of metal and those who do not.
I'll say it right now. Sonata Arctica writes cheesy lyrics. But despite the cover art which depicts a group of dwarves participating in their dwarfish activities with their dwarf brethren, Sonata Arctica's lyrics are not cheesy in the same way that DragonForce's or Hammerfall's are. Instead, frontman Tony Kakko pens his lyrics with personal themes of love and life in mind. Yes, they're pretty cringe worthy, but it's Sonata Arctica. Expecting Tony Kakko to write about anything different would be like expecting Slayer to write Christian metal. But anyways, for what it is, it isn't too bad. Lyrically, my favourite song would be found in Victoria's Secret. Similarly too the music, it drips with emotion and is quite reflective of the band's attitude. Tony Kakko can portray a story exceedingly well and Victoria's Secret showcases this talent very well. Despite being almost nearly 100% cheese, I can still enjoy many of Tony's lyrics, as they are for the most part well written.
Of the four members that made up Sonata Arctica at this point in time, one of them stands above the other three. This man is Tony Kakko. For one, Tony Kakko is quite the talented singer. His melodic vocal lines help set the tone and mood of the music, whether it be though a sullen mood, or a happier one. Kakko can hit the high notes extremely well, as he shows in the opening track, Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited. To-be listeners should also note his lower range, shout-like vocals in the likes of Champagne Bath. Tony fails to disappoint throughout the entire run time. His singing also contains a thick accent which sounds pretty funny to be honest. However, his accent is not quite as obvious as it was on older songs like 8th Commandment or Peacemaker. The other area where he shows considerable talent is on the keyboards. And boy, Tony is quite the accomplished keyboardist. Arguably the most impressive musician in the band, his keyboard solos are nothing short of amazing. Fast and precise. Melodic and catchy. Kakko's playing is extremely memorable, and extremely consistent. A very large part of Sonata Arctica's music (to an extent where it's a fault, according to some), Tony maintains a constant presence in the music and never fails to impress.
To some, Sonata Arctica's Winterheart's Guild may be everything that's wrong with power metal. To others, such as myself, the album is a fabulous offering from one of Finland's top power metal bands. It's a ton of fun to listen to, whether it be because of the passionate vocals, the exciting riffs, the interesting song writing, or the impressive keyboard solos. Sonata Arctica is always a band I enjoy listening to and it looks like they have a bright future in store for them. If you're a fan of this type of music and do not own this…well what are you waiting for? Just as they did with their previous releases, Sonata Arctica proves that aggression and heaviness is not necessary to produce worthwhile metal. Get this album; it's an excellent piece of work.
Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited
Henrik didn't play keyboards on this album. Most of them were played by Kakko, and the solos were played by various other keyboardists.
You should be a staff member. Your reviews are always consistently good, and you offer plenty of information on the albums. I like this album. It's not as good as some of their other ones, but for what it is it's quite good. I love Victoria's Secret beyond life though. That's probably one of the best songs they've ever written.
That's weird, their website said he joined at the end of 2002. I guess he missed the recording session or something...Damn that means major editing.
EDIT: Which surprisingly didn't take very long at all. Enjoy.
Thanks for the kind words. This Message Edited On 10.27.06
modern power metal exactly as it should be. Raw but techical as well, full of beautiful melodies , well structured songs, a nice male voice, you can listen to it for headbangin but you can close your eyes and enjoy it as well.