Review Summary: Sonata Arctica kickstart their music and take full command.
There's something to be said about those albums that catch you off-guard, the ones that suddenly seize your attention and enamor your ears. I certainly didn't expect to be enthralled by Silence
, not after its unbecoming predecessor. Though far from offensive, Ecliptica
accomplished little more than what could be expected from a debut album, especially given the territory. Yet Sonata Arctica managed to make me feel like a total fool in my lack of suspicion; Silence
proves itself a steadfast solidification of the Finnish band's take on symphonic-infused power metal.
Nik Van-Eckmann, who'd return for Reckoning Night
, introduces the album with a few spoken words. In a matter of seconds, this eerie opening suggests what kind of force Silence
will become. Imperative to this realization is the upheaved production; Ecliptica
's grating, high-pitch notes have been refined to allow a far glossier and entrancing sound to arise. The entire band take full advantage of their resources and explore the power metal terrain with a sense of familiarity and growing wisdom. No one in the band is out to steal the spotlight, since Silence
is a truly collective effort; Mikko Harkin and Tony Kakko make a deadly combo on keyboards, reinforced by ever-enthusiastic guitar and drum work from Jani Liimatainen and Tommy Portimo, respectively. Equally rewarding is when the band decide to collaborate vocally, showcased on damn-near every chorus. Not only does Kakko actually sing throughout all of the songs, but the rest of the group frequently back him up. It's this unity of vocal and instrumental work that makes Silence
a quintessential example of symphonic/power metal.
Consistency is another area Silence
rises not just above its predecessor, but its brethren as well. Some songs are obviously better than others, yet the only reason one might call certain tracks drab is because the highlights shine so brightly. After feeling like an imitation of Ecliptica
for a couple full tracks, "The End of This Chapter" begins with another Nik Van-Eckmann passage before an arresting series of keyboard notes ensnare the listener. The ensuing song is a powerful, affecting experience, be it individually or amidst surrounding tracks. And we're treated to this in the first third of the runtime. Yes, Silence
is a meatier affair than its predecessor--by about ten minutes. If you're wondering where the extra time went, look to the final track, "The Power of One," which eats up over eleven minutes. It's one of the album's more conventional moments, vividly evoking the similarities between Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. Some will hold the album at fault for this, others will merely shrug it aside.
Two years is all it took for Sonata Arctica to show just how far a band could go with two albums. No one ever proclaimed Ecliptica
as a classic, but after being graced by Silence
's elegance, it's easier to pick up on the signs. Where one felt like a jumbling of tracks, the other manifests itself as a power metal powerhouse. Innovation barely exists as a spice to the meat that is Silence
, but the end result is simply too scrumptious to discredit.