SONATA ARCTICA – The Ninth Hour (Album Review)

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Sonata Arctica Ninth HourI have been bewitched and bedazzled by this glorious painting of the future and the past. The environmental concerns that thread together this sonic tapestry are counterbalanced by a joy for life that seriously has me wondering about my sanity!

This is not a typical rock release by a typical rock band. Sonata Arctica are seasoned European Power Metal warriors, who have long broken the shackles of this genre.  They play by their own rules and their albums, such as Reckoning Night, Stones Grow Her Name and Days Of Grays, are of top notch quality. Led by the enigmatic and highly talented Tony Kakko, this band from Finland are the best outfit of the kind in the world, in my opinion.

I had been anticipating this release for months, and it does not disappoint. The vision comes to life with “Closer To An Animal“, which is a stirring anthem for the environment. The lyrics are inspired and the song will not let me forget it – it appears at numerous times during the day in my mind and does not leave me with its glorious chorus.

Life” is catchier than the plague and has great, self-knowing lyrics with the refrain “life is better alive, it’s a dumb thing to say, but the fact won’t fade away.”  This song is as strong as anything written by the band in a decade.

Fairytale” is passed the baton and this starts quietly, building to a volcanic Power Metal peak, burning the speakers with its energy and fire.  The keyboards are great slabs of parping chaos and again the vocals by Kakko are top notch.

The crowning jewel in this collection has to be the Celtic longing of “We Are What We Are“, with its medieval pipes and soft reflection.  Again, this song builds and builds until it towers like a grand castle in a darkened valley.  “I am human, destroyer of worlds” shows the environmental concerns burning into the soul of this masterwork. The crashing power chords and passionate vocals make this a treat for anyone who has a heart in this weary world.

I enjoyed the up-tempo strut of “Till Death’s Done Us Apart“, with its hat tipping to Queen in its vocal mannerisms.

Among The Shooting Stars” paints a powerful picture of young love gone bad, while “Rise A Night” takes the listener back to early recordings, with its speed and melody.

The greatness continues with “Fly, Navigate, Communicate“, which calls on the world to communicate more effectively. This is swiftly followed by the gentle “Candle Lawns“, which unfortunately is not on the same level of quality being rather pedestrian.

The record is bookended by the amazing “White Pearl, Black Oceans, Pt II“.  This musical tour de force is the sequel to a song on 2004’s Reckoning Night. It is so good, you can almost smell the salty sea and feel the boat rock…How often does music get that evocative?

Finally, the main album closes with a coda to the first song with “On The Faultline (Closure To An Animal).”  Love it!

The band maintain their tradition of cover songs, with an interesting version of Bryan Adams‘ classic “Run To You“.  Hmmm, I think I would prefer the album not to include this, but there you go, it’s a bit of fun.

Great album – case closed!  Buy, listen and enjoy one of the best rock albums you’ll hear this year.

Buy: Ninth Hour

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