Style: Power Metal
Release Date: 6 Sep 2019
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I remember Sonata Arctica from the early 2000s, but I've never delved into them particularly deeply and I'm surely blurring them in my mind with their fellow Finns, Stratovarius. All I know about them since then is that fans have disagreed on the musical direction that they've taken over their last couple of albums. Some are all for the expansion in scope, while others are questioning their move away from power metal to more melodic rock. I don't have a dog in this fight, so I was intrigued to see if Talviyö, their tenth studio album, would work for me.
And, mostly it doesn't, to the degree that I thought about not reviewing it. I see my job here at Apocalypse Later as to enable discovery and that's just not going to happen if I tear things apart, so I'm reviewing the good stuff and passing on the bad. Every once in a while, though, someone important has something new out and a review can serve as a warning. And that's where I am right now.
This isn't awful, though the ballads do get there, but it does so little of substance that it's an album for the more dedicated fans. It's certainly not as bad as the Papa Roach album, which I'd also seen as intriguing but which underwhelmed me. However, it's at the level of The Three Tremors album and the latest Saint Vitus, which were generally disappointments with some odd moments of interest. Here, that comes mostly through an instrumental, Ismo's Got Good Reactors, which is a bouncy, rich and enticing piece of music.
Otherwise, it's in moments rather than songs. There are some inventive prog elements to both Whirlwind and Storm the Armada and there are a lot of wild and interesting things going on in Demon's Gate: it has a clever intro and gets impressively dark with the riff that shows up a couple of minutes in. But those are moments.
Some songs are decent but hardly what we might expect. The two singles that preceded the album, A Little Less Understanding and Cold really aren't power metal in the slightest, the former especially a pretty straightforward pop rock song and the latter a little heavier but still far from power metal. I quite liked A Little Less Understanding but Cold left me dry.
Others are certainly listenable but won't stay in mind as far as the end of the album, let alone a month later. Message from the Sun may be a little bit better than that but Storm the Armada and Who Failed the Most aren't. I can happily enjoy them while they're on but then they're gone and I'll forget I ever heard them.
And then there are the ballads. The Raven Still Flies with You is sugary in tone but it occasionally finds some of the epic feel we expect from a power metal band. However, the cool instrumental prog section midway through and a folky section to wrap up only serves to emphasise how lightweight the rest of it is. At least it's leagues ahead of The Last of the Lambs, which is an insipid and tedious waste of four minutes. In turn, that's leagues ahead of The Garden, which is an interminable way to wrap up an album.
It's not good when the only worthy track is the sole instrumental, there are at least two annoyingly bad ones and everything else is forgettable. This is definitely one only for the diehards. Regular readers will know that there's a lot of great music coming out of Finland. I hope that Sonata Arctica find their way back into that category.