Review Summary: Sonata Arctica's debut fits their genre archetype with ease and, occasionally, finesse.
Finland, it would seem, has a metal fetish. The Nordic country has hosted group births aplenty, including Children of Bodom, Nightwish, Ensiferum, Wintersun, Amorphis, Korpiklaani, Stratovarius, Kalmah, Moonsorrow and Luther knows how many others. One can only wonder where to start, what with so many options. Sonata Arctica aren't necessarily the first group to spring to mind, but they do have some stake in claim. Rather than be genre-innovators, these power metallers take a relatively traditional approach with their music. The origin of their post-Tricky Beans/Tricky Means career came with Ecliptica
, which is slated for a re-release this October. In the meantime, we have the original recording to munch on.
Barely a few minutes in, Ecliptica
showcases itself as a jack-of-all-trades; swift tempos run in tracks like "Blank File," while ballads "Replica" and "Letter to Dana" play out conversely. Easiest to take to, however, are the middle-road tracks, the ones most characteristic of Sonata Arctica's core style. Keyboards and symphonics are clearly the band's forte and, combined with Tony Kakko's nationally-telling vocals, allow them to impart a simple yet effective resonance with the listener. "My Land" is a proud example, punctuated during its enjoyable chorus with every member on discernible display. This musical personality makes Ecliptica
accessible for newcomers and just enjoyable enough for genre enthusiasts. These are also the only two parties that may become enthralled by the presented material.
As I said, Sonata Arctica run the gamut without taking creative leaps. Such is commonplace among heavy metal debuts, yet it's less so is when said albums effectively introduce their corresponding bands. Ecliptica
always has an upbeat feel, even during slower moments such as "Replica." So even when the band seem to be settling down, they're still kicking the ball at a slightly accelerated pace. This lends Ecliptica
a sense of immediacy which, as a result, almost makes it the anthesis of the term "drab affair." I use that word ("almost") since we aren't spared those cornily over-the-top moments symphonic/power metal is known for--these are mostly intros. Also worth noting is the fact the variety of tracks can make the album feel like it's losing momentum in some parts, with "Letter to Dana" being a particularly lackluster stretch. Thankfully, these low tides are few and short-lived.
is ultimately a routine affair, one that assumes the role of an acceptable and mostly competent debut album. The fact this is Finnish symphonic/power metal is enough to make it either worth the time, or barely more than a shrug, depending on your preferences. Whether this was a sign of potential and strength, or slumping and misdirection, only time would tell.