Sonata Arctica—Silence (2001)

Sonata Arctica—Silence (2001)

Sonata Arctica—Silence (2001)

Details

Recorded at Tico Tico Studio during autumn 2000 and spring 2001. Mixed and mastered at Finnvox Studios in April 2001. I reviewed the 2008 remastered edition.

Website | Twitter

Band

  • Tony Kakko—Vocals and keyboards (additional)
  • Jani Liimatainen—Guitars
  • Marko Paasikoski—Bass
  • Mikko Härkin—Keyboards
  • Tommy Portimo—Drums
  • Mikko Karmila—Grand piano on tracks 4 and 11
  • Mika Niilonen—Spoken parts.

Tracks

  1. …of silence
  2. Weballergy
  3. False news travel fast
  4. The end of this chapter
  5. Black sheep
  6. Land of the free
  7. Last drop falls
  8. San Sebastian (revisited)
  9. Sing in silence
  10. Revontulet (instrumental)
  11. Tallulah
  12. Wolf & raven
  13. The power of one

Review

More of the same from Finland’s power metal quartet (now a quintet on this album). Melodic, poppy AOR-style, Helloween-flavoured power metal with power ballads aplenty and souring, widdly guitar solos.

The album opens with “…of silence” (track 1): padding keyboards and a mildly cheesy spoken vocal. “… of Stonehenge”.

“Weballergy” (track 2) is the sequel to the opening track from their debut, “Blank file”, which continues the theme of web privacy.

There are some nice mid-paced songs such as “Sing in silence” (track 9) and “Tallulah” (track 11) which really help break up the album and introduce a new dimension and depth to Sonata Arctica’s sound.

“The power of one” (track 14)—which was originally the album’s closing track, and lasts 11′ 36″—it closes with white noise, then silence, and then a few seconds before the track ends, a deep voice speaks something like “I didn’t fucking touch the mic, hold on!”

 

Conclusion

For a tricky second album, Sonata Arctica seemed to have pulled this off pretty well. In many ways it’s a solid continuation of the good work put into their debut Ecliptica (1999).

I’d be interested to hear what they are doing now.

Review score: 85%

Sonata Arctica—Ecliptica (1999)

Sonata Arctica—Ecliptica (2008)

Sonata Arctica—Ecliptica (2008)

Details

Recorded at Tico Tico Studio, by Ahti Kortelainen. Mixed by Mikko Karmila at Finnvox Studios and mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios. This is the 2008 remastered edition.

Website | Twitter

Band

  • Tony Kakko—Vocals and keyboards
  • Jani Liimatainen—Guitars
  • Janne Kivilahti—Bass
  • Tommy Portimo—Drums
  • Raisa Aine—Flute on “Letter to Dana”

Tracks

  1. Blank file
  2. My land
  3. 8th commandment
  4. Replica
  5. Kingdom for a heart
  6. Fullmoon
  7. Letter to Dana
  8. Unopened
  9. Picturing the past
  10. Destruction preventer
  11. Mary-Lou
  12. Letter to Dana (returned to sender)

Review

Sonata Arctica are a Finnish power metal band, from Kemi near the southern border with Sweden. This was their debut album; they have since released a further eight full-length albums including the 15th anniversary edition of Ecliptica in 2014.

This is very much a power metal album in the family of Helloween. It is boppy, it is poppy, it’s melodic with shredding guitar solos, and plentiful and fast chord changes, and soaring, high tenor vocals.

There is a youthful innocence and excitement about this album which gives it a certain charm.

For some reason the song “Letter to Dana” (which was apparently named after the X-Files character Dana Scully) feels like the centre-piece of the album, not least because the final track has a reworked version of the song which curiously omits the first two verses. “Dana, my darling, I’m writing to you / Cause your father passed away, it was a beautiful day / And I don’t want to bother You anymore / I used to hope you’d come back / But not anymore Dana.” It is a bittersweet tale of a lost love.

The album closes with “Mary-Lou” a strong rocker of a song, and the “returned to sender” version of “Letter to Dana”.

Conclusion

Did I mention that it reminds me of Helloween? It does. A lot. But without the silliness.

It will be interesting to see if I choose to listen to this album again. I rather like it but I don’t really listen to much Helloween these days, wheeling it out every now and then to relive wasted days in the prefect’s common room at high school!

Review score: 85%

Solgrav vs F—Kaksî Perkelettä (2006)

Solgrav / F—Kaksî Perkelettä (2006)

Solgrav / F—Kaksî Perkelettä (2006)

Details

Solgrav: All the music written by Solgrav. Material was recorded at Varjot Audio Studios from July to September 2005, except for vocals recorded in February 2006. “Kristallitaivas” was originally released in Solgrav’s first demo, Pohjoisen hämärän sarastus in 2002, and has now been re-arranged for this recording.

F: All music and lyrics written by Ilpo Heikkinen. Arrangements by Ilpo Heikkinen and Jonas Lindberg. Recorded and mixed during December 2005 by Ilpo Heikkinen.

Bands

Solgrav

  • Halla—Vocals
  • Suopeikko—Guitars, bass, Jew’s harp
  • Noitavasara—Drums, piano, accordion, additional vocals

F

  • Ilpo Heikkinen—Vocals, guitars, bass
  • Jonas Lindberg—Drums

Tracks

  1. Solgrav—Vuoksi
  2. Solgrav—Kaksi sutta
  3. Solgrav—Kristallitaivas
  4. F—Perkele
  5. F—Sokea
  6. F—Irti
  7. F—Kauhusta hautaansa kaivaa

Review

A split EP from two vastly different Finnish metal acts. Solgrav are a blackened folk / pagan metal band from Imatra; F are a brutal death metal band from Kempele.

I rather like F’s logo, although in true black metal style you can’t really read it. It’s simply a deer’s horn that looks like an inverted F. Okay, you can read it but only if you’re looking at it upside down.

Solgrav is Swedish for “sun grave”. The name seemingly comes from an old Finnish myth about a place called Auringon Hauta where the sun falls asleep. There is actually a place in Estonia called Auringon Hauta, which is a small lake that was formed by a meteor strike. And it appears that Solgrav have changed their name from Sol grave (meaning ‘sun grave’) to Auringon Hauta (meaning ‘sun grave’).

Solgrav serve up three tracks on this EP, nearly 20 minutes of music. Theirs is a fairly stereotypical Scandinavian black metal fare with a pagan lyrical twist. There is none of the traditional folk metal, Skyclad-style folk elements of fiddles and hurdy-gurdies, flutes or bagpipes in the mix; it’s straight-up black metal: a wall of distorted guitars that plods along, overlaid with growling, barking vocals.

F on the other hand is a darker and more sinister beast. “Pekele” begins with something that sounds like it is being forged in the depths. But about 90 seconds in it unleashes a relentless barage of snare before settling down to a grinding, snarling, gargling pot of boiling metal.

Theirs is a brutal form of death metal. It takes me back to some of the stuff that I listened to in the early 90s. It is relentless and industrial and primitive and downright brutal. It’s like something from a audio horror film—not a genre that I particularly enjoy, but this is rather good.

Conclusion

I discovered that this was not an EP that I could listen to quickly. I tried to race through this one in order to catch up with my review schedule but I couldn’t just listen to this as background music.

This EP demanded my attention and to be present while listening to it. I’m glad I listened to that, because my first couple of semi-absent listenings left me with the impression that this wasn’t a particularly good disc. I was wrong.

While it is not exactly groundbreaking, it is very listenable and rather enjoyable.

Review score: 75%

Apocalyptica—Worlds Collide (2007)

Apocalyptica—Worlds Collide (2007)

Apocalyptica—Worlds Collide (2007)

Details

All tracks produced by Jacob Hellner. All tracks mixed by Stefan Glaumann at Toytown Studios, Stockholm. Recorded at Big Island Sound, Stockholm. Drums recorded at Swedish Radio Studio 4 by Ulf Kruckenberg. Additional cellos recorded at SUSI Studios, Finland. Released on 17 September 2007 on Sony BMG.

www.apocalyptica.com

Band

  • Eicca Toppinen—Cello
  • Paavo Lötjönen—Cello
  • Perttu Kivilaakso—Cello
  • Mikko Sirén—Drums

Tracks

  1. Worlds collide
  2. Grace (feat. Tomoyasu Hotei)
  3. I’m not Jesus (feat. Corey Taylor from Slipknot/Stone Sour)
  4. Ion
  5. Helden (feat. Till Lindemann from Rammstein; written by Bowie/Eno)
  6. Stroke
  7. Last hope (feat. Dave Lombardo from Slayer/Fantômas)
  8. I don’t care (feat. Adam Gontier from Three Days Grace)
  9. Burn
  10. S.O.S. (Anything but love) (feat. Cristina Scabbia from Lacuna Coil)
  11. Peace

Review

Another week, another Apocalyptica album. Sadly my last Apocalyptica review, and the newest album of theirs that I own.

This is the sixth studio album from the Finnish quartet (three cellos and drummer) released in 2007, and is another solid album—a mixture of instrumental tracks and songs featuring guest vocalists, full-out rocking pieces and more laid back ‘classical’-influenced numbers.

The album opens gently with the title track “Worlds collide”, a quiet throbbing bass note with a delicate melody drawn over the top of it, that soon opens up as drums kick in. Rock meets classical, drums meets cello—worlds collide indeed.

Japanese guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei joins the band for the next track “Grace”. To be honest, I can’t hear his guitar.

Next up vocalist Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) assures us that he’s not Jesus (“I’m not Jesus”).

When your world comes crashing down
I want to be there.
If God is looking down on me!
I’m not Jesus,
Jesus wasn’t there!

You confess it all away,
But it’s only shit to me
If God is looking down on me!
I’m not Jesus,
I will not forgive!

Sadly, I strongly suspect that this is about child abuse in the church. Horribly uncomfortable lyrics throughout.

“Ion” takes on an other worldly feel partly through the use of flanger effects, and then Till Lindemann from Rammstein guests on “Helden” (Heroes). According to Google Translate the song opens with these lyrics:

You, you could swim
Like dolphins, dolphins do it
Nobody gives us a chance
But we can triumph
Always and always
And we are then heroes
For one day…

It’s funny, you don’t often associate dolphins with metal! Mind you Rammstein would probably set fire to them!

The next guest musician is drummer Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer, Grip Inc., Fantômas) who puts in a fabulous performance on “Last hope”. I could listen to his drumming all day.

“I don’t care” is a fragile song sung by Adam Gontier, formerly of Canadian alt. rock band Three Days Grace.

“Burn” is perhaps as close as you can get to all-out thrash metal on a cello; certainly the track opener. It’s a ferocious track, right from the start. I know how hard it can be to pick a guitar that fast, but how do they manage it with bows?! Astonishing.

Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia guests on penultimate track “S.O.S. (Anything but love)”. There is a warmth and depth to her voice but also a sharp clarity. A beautiful song.

The album closes with “Peace”, which like a few of their album closers has a reflective, lamentful feel.

Conclusion

Apocalyptica delivers yet another excellent album. The songwriting is clearly much stronger than Cult and they’ve brought in more guest musicians and vocalists than on Reflections and that really changes the dynamic of the album.

It’s interesting to hear how these vocalists influence the band. Till Lindemann makes them sound like Rammstein, Corey Taylor like Stone Sour, Cristina Scabbia like Lacuna Coil. And none these vocalists appear to have been involved in the writing process; I mean, Lindemann’s track was even written by David Bowie and Brian Eno.

This album didn’t quite get under my skin as much as Reflections Revised but it’s a good album none-the-less. If you like your metal played mostly on four-stringed instruments, and there are not too many all-bass metal bands around (now there’s an idea!), then definitely give this a listen.

Review score: 90%

Video

An uncomfortable video for an uncomfortable song, which reminds me a lot of Metallica’s video for “One”.

Unholy — Rapture (1998)

Unholy - Rapture (2011)

Unholy – Rapture (2011)

Details

Recorded and mixed at the Music-Bros Studios during July – August 1997. Originally released in 1998, re-released on Peaceville Records in 2011.

Track listing

  1. Into Cold Light
  2. Petrified Spirits
  3. For the Unknown One
  4. Wunderwerck
  5. After God
  6. Unzeitgeist
  7. Wretched
  8. Deluge
  9. Petrified Spirits (live bonus track)
  10. Covetous Glance (live bonus track)

Review

In 1988 the Finnish band Holy Hell changed their name to Unholy and emerged as one of the first doom metal bands from Finland. Their style was originally a fusion of death, black and doom metal; something that you can still hear in this their third (and penultimate) full-length album.

During their career, they released four albums: From the Shadows (1993), The Second Ring of Power (1994), Rapture (1998) and Gracefallen (1999) before breaking up in 2002. Word is that they are preparing a comeback this year (2012).

Album opener “Into Cold Light” took me completely by surprise. I was expecting something along the lines of Candlemass, Saint Vitus or even Cathedral. Instead I got a thumping, grooving masterpiece.

Over the course of the first minute (of 5’44”) “Into Cold Light” builds to a crescendo of thundering drums, a bouncing, grooving bass line, and keyboards and guitars that weave effortlessly in and out of the rhythm. It sounds almost industrial in spirit and is quite uncharacteristic of the whole album… but it’s brilliant.

The rest of the album showcases Unholy’s roots in black/death/doom metal which reminded me in parts of early Paradise Lost and Celtic Frost. With the keyboards a few of songs even remind me in places of German industrial band Die Krupps (particularly the intro to “Unzeitgeist”). Track four, the fifteen minute “Wunderwerek”, is particularly sorrowful and the clean guitar riff throughout I found quite hypnotic.

This is an unhurried album: it is brooding and funereal but it’s also full of surprises with the music making very unexpected twists and turns almost into other genres in places. And that’s what makes the album so good: you just can’t nail it down. Unholy are themselves. While you can hear their influences they mimic no one.

I’ve listened to the whole album about three times. It demands to be listened to in its entirety from start to finish without interruption. And it’s in that quiet attention to detail that you begin to appreciate Unholy’s quiet attention to detail. There is a discipline required to play so slowly, and a discipline also to listen to it.

Conclusion

I absolutely loved the opening track. I can see it making its way onto a compilation of my favourite tracks of this project, or even my all time various tracks ever. The rest of the album takes a left turn into completely different waters but represents the death/doom metal genre very well. I’d definitely play this album again out of choice. A welcome addition to my record collection.

Review score: 85%

Bonus

I found Into Cold Light on YouTube.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV7zLeWZdxA]