Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Album Review; Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child

Track Listing:

1. The Wolves Die Young
2. Running Lights
3. Take One Breath
4. Cloud Factory
5. Blood
6. What Did You Do In The War, Dad?
7. Half A Marathon Man
8. X Marks The Spot
9. Love
10. Larger Than Life

Since the release of their first studio album in 1999, Sonata Arctica have taken their Power Metal sound and have tried to refine it and reshape it in different ways. Whether that's adding Symphonic elements to it, making it more melodic, vamping up or toning down the presence of guitars and keyboards from album to album. Recent albums had seen their long-time fans disappointed, but prior to 'Pariah's Child' the band stated they would be going from the recent Hard Rock style back to their original Power Metal sound, bringing attention back to the band.

At the opening moments of 'The Wolves Die Young' the sweeping, epic feel makes its presence felt well, but it's unfortunately soon that the song turns into a strange collision of Rock and lullaby. The verses are odd, a bit too peppy and sees the epic feel vanish. The chorus, on the other hand, is catchy as anything you'll hear these days, and does see the scope return. Tony Kakko's voice is obviously of an impressive range, but the melodies heard in the verses are rather too wish-wash. 'Running Lights' doesn't help much; it's very twee, like something from a poor musical. Lyrically it's cringe-worthy, and the chorus section sounds like it belongs to a different song, as if the verses and chorus were written totally separately. Very odd.

'Take One Breath' starts with another twinkly keyboard section, a muted riff resting beneath it. It's only very occasionally that the guitars take the forefront, much less any riff-oriented playing. It's more guitar leads that imitate the vocal melody. A lack of flow is a problem yet again. Three songs in, and it's very difficult to get into this album properly. 'Cloud Factory' is the closest to Metal that this album has sounded so far. primarily because the guitars are more audible, though cascading keyboard flourishes take over at a few points, and also because the song structure is much leaner due to less faffing about! There's a catching guitar solo, and then a very strange attack of eccentricity on behalf of the aforementioned vocalist.

'Blood' begins by giving off a dark vibe (dark for Sonata Arctica!) with piano and synthesizers. The vocal lines here are catchier in the verses, though there's a strange spoken word sample that comes ridiculously close to killing it. The vocal melodies are also too familiar, too the point that you might even think you've heard it on the album already. Even with that placed to one side, the song just washes over this listener with little to no effect.

'What Did You Do In The War, Dad?' starts really well, when you consider the album so far. A keyboard and guitar-led intro gives way to a verse that does come dangerously close to making you cringe, but the lyrical narrative strikes enough of a chord to save it. I still would not go as far as calling it a great song, but it's certainly a stand-out track on this album.

The most frustrating thing about 'Pariah's Child' so far is the sheer lack of memorable riffs or any kind of edge. The album comes across very pedestrian, middle-of-the-road. I can't help but wonder who this music is for. 'Half A Marathon Man' is a bit more of a Hard Rock stomper than we've heard on this album so far, but it's rather too little too late, and I've heard far better songs in this style. Not to mention the simple fact that it defies the more Power Metal leanings that the record has shown so far. So the album that struggled to flow so far veers off into a weird Glam Metal territory. There's also no need to say "It's a beautiful day" that many times in one song!

'X Marks The Spot' carries on in the same vein; cheesy weirdness all wrapped up in a song that is just poor. Next thing you know, 'Love' comes along and makes you feel anything but. It's the kind of ballad that makes you want to recoil horribly. Put it this way; if a man were to try and sing this song to a woman she would either laugh boisterously, run to the hills or perform a murder-suicide.

'Larger Than Life' is ten minutes long. If, like me, your patience has been stretched to it's limits by the rest of the album, this is a daunting thought. However, it's not as bad as I had thought it would be, considering how the rest of the album has been. There's a few moments of melodrama from the vocalist that give the impression he would rather have been on stage for an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical than in a Metal band, but there are also some parts of this song that do feel epic, there is a good flow to the song with some good dynamics. Once again though, it's just too little too late.

The lyrics in that final song urge the listener not to take life so seriously, and that's a decent message by anybody's reckoning. However; plenty of Metal fans, including Power Metal fans take the music they listen to seriously. As such, 'Pariah's Child' is an album that almost comes across as tailor-made to be forgotten. For all the praise I've heard for this album, I was curiously hoping for another great album for 2014, but the reality of it is that this album could not have been over quick enough. I'm left with a feeling of indifference by Sonata Arctica's latest offering. It is a shame that there's no love found here, but there wasn't really any lost, either.

Rating: 3/10

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