(Nuclear Blast)

01. Message From The Sun
02. Whirlwind
03. Cold
04. Storm The Armada
05. The Last Of The Lambs
06. Who Failed The Most
07. Ismo's Got Good Reactors
08. Demon's Cage
09. A Little Less Understanding
10. The Raven Still Flies
11. The Garden

RATING: 8/10

Nearly 20 years on from the release of their now-revered debut album "Ecliptica", SONATA ARCTICA are a permanent fixture in power metal's upper tier, both in terms of popularity and critical acclaim. Getting jaded metal hacks to say nice things about yet another big, shiny power metal record is never an easy task, but frontman and creative dynamo Tony Kakko has made it look easy over the years. Whether producing one of the definitive 21st century power metal records in the form of 2003's "Winterheart's Guild" or rattling through a subsequent and steady stream of ambitious but effortlessly accessible albums like 2009's prog-tinged "The Days of Grays" and 2014's underrated "Pariah's Child", SONATA ARCTICA have always been a class act. In fact, it's hard to imagine the band losing momentum, even if "Talviyö" turned out to be a one-legged turkey. It's nothing of the sort, of course, this tenth full-length offering from Kemi's favorite sons: it's every bit as polished, precise and bursting with emotional peaks and extravagant depths as its predecessors, and if 2016's "The Ninth Hour" felt more consolidatory than confident, its follow-up showcases a wholesale return to wide-eyed fearlessness.

Fans of the band's more direct, anthemic material need not panic. "Talviyö" is as fervently melodic as anything SONATA ARCTICA have recorded. At times, there are so many melodies rolling over the horizon, like disarming waves of sonic warmth, that it's hard to pinpoint where choruses begin and verses end. The cumulative effect is of a wildly cinematic and multi-sensory musical journey, albeit one with shitloads of blistering solos, ultra-pompy keyboards and countless moments of elegance and subtlety: again, not something the majority of power metal bands tend to concern themselves with. Opener "Message From The Sun" is a typically effusive starting point, with one of those tooth-dislodging ensemble performances that speak of a thousand sweaty live shows, but also blessed with a sublime melodic sheen and sense of occasion that could hardly be more commanding. But it's second track "Whirlwind" that truly blows the metaphorical doors off. Six-and-a-half minutes of texturally rich prog metal, with Tony Kakko in the finest voice of his career to date, with multiple twists, turns, dynamic detours and unexpected embellishments; it feels like the coalescing of all those preposterous ideas that the Finns' explored with glee on past albums into one well-rounded but thrillingly indulgent burst of metallic euphoria. And if that sounds like frothing hyperbole, you're not wrong — "Talviyö" is the kind of power metal record that demands a hysterical response, because it's so much more substantial and absorbing than the genre tends to allow. Every one of these songs has its own identity, all seamlessly blended to make a deeply satisfying whole. SONATA ARCTICA can still peel off an instant sing-along anthem, "Cold" and "A Little Less Understanding" are the obvious candidates here, but it's the more adventurous moments, from "Storm The Armada" and its bullish, melodramatic squall to the expansive, theatrical splendor of "The Raven Still Flies", that will once again set this band apart from the rest. Oh, and those melodies. Always the melodies.


To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).