One of Finland’s great classic metal bands, SONATA ARCTICA, have their tenth studio album coming out on September 6th, 2019. As big fans, we’re always up for some SONATA ARCTICA, though the material since 2009’s “Days of Greys” has been a bit hit-or-miss. However, we remained tentatively optimistic, because if nothing else, there have still been a few gems on each album regardless.
The first track is called “Message from the Sun,” which claimed to be back to the aggression of “Reckoning Night,” though that is largely untrue. It is one of the faster songs for sure, but it doesn’t have any real aggression in it, nor much of a hook to sing to. During “Whirlwind,” Kakko‘s vocals feel sadly one-note with little emotion, while alternatively, “Cold” features some really weird nasal vocals that sound almost goofy (or even a bit like Disney’s Goofy) and the 3/4 timing feels a bit basic – in fact, Tommy Portimo‘s drumming throughout the whole album is pretty sluggish.
“Storm the Armada” starts with a guitar line and has some fun, upbeat moments, particularly in the keyboards, but slumps in the vocal section where it feels again very flat. The first ballad is “The Last of the Lambs,” another addition to the Caleb saga, which has ambient appeal when starting but has no real dynamic change at any point and just repeats itself until the ending fade-out.
“Who Failed the Most” has a more notable, if still a bit simple and repetitive melody and chorus; it’s one of the better tracks but it lacks a bit of speed and oomph to take it from okay to good. “Ismo’s Got Good Reactors” is another one of the better songs as an instrumental with some of the most fun to be found on the album, staying lively and just a little weird, but still fails to stick with you once it’s over.
By this point, it becomes hard to even find anything to say about the songs, positive or even negative, because they’re frankly not even notable enough to hate. “Demon’s Cage” is a follow-up to “Fairytale” from “Ninth Hour,” with a more political message and some heavier, chuggier parts, while “A Little Less Understanding” has a nice message about how people overindulge their children and don’t teach them to behave properly, leading to said children not really being prepared for the real world. Sadly, the music again doesn’t do much to reinforce the message, the drums are boring, and yet this is still one of the catchiest songs on the album.
Talviyö ends with two somewhat longer songs, “The Raven Still Flies with You” and “The Garden.” The former is simple and sweet with some bass groove early on but progresses quite casually and doesn’t really go anywhere. The drum breakdown is fun but doesn’t fit and then the piano part feels too loud and doesn’t really blend in with what’s going on otherwise. The time changes are sudden and jolting, but about halfway through the piano gets nice. The chorus is okay but the build-up to it is awkward, and the last full minute of the song feels kind of unnecessary. “The Garden” is very slow, with simple piano and acoustic guitar. It seems to be a song written for a significant other, since the lyrics include “you gave me a beautiful child.” It’s a sweet idea but the song itself is just a bit boring and overly long, though at least it does build up a bit as it progresses.
It seems as though the answer to who failed the most is SONATA AR… no, sorry, I can’t make that joke because writing this review genuinely bummed me out. Unfortunately, the truth is that, while there are some fun bits interspersed throughout the songs, nothing on “Talviyö” really left any sort of lasting impression. The music lacks the life and inspiration that made it great back in the day. Where is the exciting energy of “Don’t Say a Word” and “Paid in Full”? Where are the stories and drama of “Flag in the Ground” or “Juliet”? Where is the cheesy fun of “Fullmoon” and “Kingdom for a Heart”? Where is the beauty and poetry of “Shamandalie” or “White Pearl, Black Oceans?”
There are still a few new things that they tried out, but they seem to either not really work, or they’re not well integrated into the music, making some songs choppy or awkward. Alas, “Talviyö” ends up being a bit of a forgettable slump of an album. Bands inevitably change over time and while it’s understandable, it’s not always for the best. If you’ve loved every album, or at least you’ve enjoyed the last three, you’ll likely still enjoy “Talviyö,” though if you think they haven’t been as good in recent years… well, there’s always EVERFROST.
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Message from the Sun
- Storm the Armada
- The Last of the Lambs
- Who Failed the Most
- Ismo’s Got Good Reactors
- Demon’s Cage
- A Little Less Understanding
- The Raven Still Flies With You
- The Garden
Tony Kakko – vocals
Elias Viljanen – guitars
Pasi Kauppinen – bass
Henrik Klingenberg – keyboards
Tommy Portimo – drums
Nuclear Blast Records