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Sunday, March 9, 2014

CD-Review: Sonata Arctica - "Pariah's Child"

Beside the German band Freedom Call another Power Metal group wants to go a step back to their roots this year. Sonata Arctica are one of those bands that changed their musical style very much over the years. Starting as a traditional Power Metal band they quickly became a Progressive Metal band and the latest output "Stones Grow Her Name" felt more like a very melodic Hard Rock record. "Pariah's Child" was announced as the big revelation for die-hard-fans. Is this true?

I've to say I was very satisfied with the muscial direction of "Stones Grow Her Name". It was my # 1 album of the year in 2012. With this one I discovered Sonata Arctica and of course I listened to the older records later, but none of them (except "Silence") could impress me so much like "Stones".

To get straight to the point: don't expect too much from "Pariah's Child" when it comes to the "back to the roots"-topic. Yes, some songs are played a bit faster now and you'll find these typical keyboard sounds from the first three records here and there, but that's it. I'd say "Pariah's Child" is the logical development of "Stones Grow Her Name". That means most songs are catchy as hell and offer many progressive and symphonic passages at the same time. You won't find too much double-bass and speed on this record. This is not even necessary, because what defines Sonata Arctica today are the amazing arrangements. There is no other band out there which is able to give me so many different feelings and impressions while listening to an album. Each song has its very special moments and a different vibe that transports countless moods. It's just pure joy to listen to those stunning arrangements. This is what makes Sonata Arctica so special nowadays and that's why I don't give a shit about discussions if this is Power Metal or not.

"Pariah's Child" is packed with tons of creative ideas. Let me give you some examples: the two singles "The Wolfs Die Young" and "Cloud Factory" are two straight-ahead rockers with amazing harmonies. Same goes to "Running Lights" wich features a chorus to die for. Then you have "Take One Breath" and "Blood", which shows Sonata Arctica from their more progressive side. That means here you haven't a real red-line in those songs (like vers-chorus-vers-chorus). They live from their mood and great atmosphere. Speaking about the latter - an absolutely killer track is "What Did You Do in The War, Dad?". Those melodies, especially when the band just hums, are so haunting. Goosebumps are guaranteed. This one features also some great lyrics to think about. Perfect!
The following four songs couldn't be more different from each other. "Half A Marathon Man" is a pure pounding Hard Rock tune, while "X Marks The Spot" is the moste experimental track on this album. Here you have lots of speaking parts within the song, which sounds a bit strange for the first moments, but the chorus is pure earcandy again. "Love" is the typical romantic ballad with great guitar-work.

For most of the time Sonata Arctica create a good balance between progressivity and catchiness. Sadly the longest track of this CD has some little problems here: "Larger Than Life"  feels like a big theatrical Performance. This is very atmospheric, but Sonata Arctica lose themselves in their progressive elements here. This is a track, which easily could have been on "Unia" or "Days Of Grace". It isn't a bad song, but you need to have a bit patience with that one, because it's simply not so accessible like the other songs. Give it a few listens and you get used to it.

Speaking about the band performance it's all very tight and professional. It's the unmistakable Sonata sound and mastermind Tony Kakko can shine on each track with his unique and flexible voice. The production is also very enjoyable - very clear and polished but still with enough edges in the right moments.

Finally I just can say that "Pariah's Child" gets better and better with each listen. That was the same with "Stones Grow Her Name" and that's why I'm very sure this terriffic piece of music will occupy me for a very long time. Don't think so much in subgenres here and just enjoy atmospheric Melodic Metal which is played and presented very well. To me it's another masterpiece from this magnificent band and I think you won't find much more creativity this year on any other record. Buy it!



01. The Wolves Die Young *
02. Running Lights *
03. Take One Breath
04. Cloud Factory *
05. Blood *
06. What Did You Do In The War, Dad? *
07. Half A Marathon Man
08. X Marks The Spot
09. Love
10. Larger Than Life

* best tracks

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