REVIEW: Sonata Arctica – Acoustic Adventures – Volume Two

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Finnish power metal icons SONATA ARCTICA are back with the second and final part of their “Acoustic Adventures” series of albums, where they re-arranged beloved songs from their back catalog into delicate and beautiful tunes that soothe the soul. As I noted in my review of “Volume One,” these kinds of “acoustic renditions are not a one-size-fits-all –type of deal” and, true enough, “Volume Two” is just as diverse and bouncy as its predecessor, while retaining all the emotion, power, and melody of the source material. “Acoustic Adventures – Volume Two” was released on September 30, 2022, via Atomic Fire Records, just in time for their Finnish/European acoustic tour.

Again, the band employed different instruments in order to create many sonic layers, but without burdening the main melody of the songs. Consequently, the merging of piano and/or acoustic guitar melodies with bass tones, faint percussions, and delicate vocals creates a fragile and warm atmosphere, as if these songs were made to be sung/listened to by a campfire. Opening up the album is “I Have a Right,” whose fantastic bass and piano lines add so much emotion to the vocals and lyrics. Up next, “Black Sheep” ramps things up more with some instrumental interplays, making it very dance-friendly, while “Half of a Marathon Man” delivers drama and theatricality, but also good vibes galore. After such a great build-up, along comes melancholy “Broken,” where Tony Kakko’s vocals take center stage, only to pave the way to the album’s first highlight, heartbreaking and sorrowful “Letters to Dana” which always tugs at the heartstrings, even more so in this format.

The middle section of the album has a great ebb and flow movement to it, as the band follows “Letters to Dana” with a rather lively rendition of “FullMoon,” which is capped off by a jaunty piano melody and spirited vocals. This, in turn, is succeeded by piano and vocals -driven “Shamandalie,” only for “San Sebastian” to raise the tempo up again with its bouncy melodies. On cue, wistful “Gravenimage” comes forth with acoustic strumming, subdued vocals, and some bass notes to accent certain parts of the song. At this point, what else can follow, if not an up-tempo track? Enter album highlight #2, “Flag in the Ground,” whose upbeat melodies are underpinned by piano and Spanish guitars, making the story that much more bittersweet. Keeping the momentum going, “My Land” feels like the logical follow-up, both musically as well as lyrically, perfecting complementing “Flag in the Ground” while beaming with confidence and cheerful piano parts.

Rounding up the album is the delicate yet beautiful “Victoria’s Secret,” where the acoustic guitar has a more predominant part to play, while Tony Kakko is almost whispering through the verses, bringing this ebb-and-flow movement of the album to a satisfying finale. It’s always nice to have these kinds of quieter moments disrupted by more energetic sections, as it not only creates contrast and dynamism in the overall soundscape of the album, but also doesn’t allow for two songs with more or less the same tempo to hinder the album’s progression. So from this point of view, the track-listing works in favor of the album’s soundscape and general design, offering peaks and valleys instead of uniformity. On the downside, this makes the album a bit predictable, but when the acoustic renditions are this good and creative, who cares, right?     

All-in-all, “Acoustic Adventures – Volume Two” provides an enjoyable listening experience and proves once again that acoustic versions of classic songs can be just as entertaining as the full-band production. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful arrangements that actually give the songs depth and texture while enhancing the melodies, because SONATA ARTICA did a wonderful job in this aspect. They could have just gone for a simpler acoustic guitar and vocals –type of experience, but instead, they went the extra mile by adding all these layers, which yielded such great results. The bottom line is that the “Acoustic Adventures” pair represent a great way to revisit some highly acclaimed power metal and enjoy it in a more delicate and atmospheric guise.     

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

  1. I Have a Right
  2. Black Sheep
  3. Half A Marathon Man
  4. Broken
  5. Letter to Dana
  6. FullMoon
  7. Shamandalie
  8. San Sebastian
  9. Gravenimage
  10. Flag in The Ground
  11. My Land
  12. Victoria’s Secret

Line-up

Tony Kakko | vocals

Elias Viljanen | guitars

Pasi Kauppinen | bass

Henrik “Henkka” Klingenberg | keyboards

Tommy Portimo | drums

Label

Atomic Fire Records

Links

Website     |     Facebook     |     Instagram     |     Twitter     |     Youtube     |     Atomic Fire Records