Album Review: Sonata Arctica – Acoustic Adventures – Volume One

Album Review: Sonata Arctica - Acoustic Adventures - Volume One
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings

For fans of the Finns, then this album has been some time coming. With ten albums under their belt, numerous tours over a career that has spanned over two decades, it’s fair to say that the band whose sound is trademarked by melodic power metal anthems have earned the right to experiment and create what they want. The band premiered an acoustic set in 2016 and now we get the first of two volumes of acoustic renditions from their catalogue, all given a unique onceover. The result, even for this reviewer, who is by no means a big fan of the band, is a classy record comprising 12 tracks which sees the Finns not only drop the electric guitars but also bring in some interesting arrangements.

I’ve only seen Sonata Arctica live once when they played in Cardiff with support from Triosphere and Striker on an evening of immense enjoyment and quality. Due diligence meant working through the original version before playing the revised edition. It proved a valuable exercise, for as well As refreshing my memory, it also reminded me that this is a band who stand at the top of the melodic metal table with their crafted compositions.

The first offering is ‘For the Sake of Revenge’, originally featured in 2007’s ‘Unia’. A gentle opening sees vocalist Tony Kakko duet with guitarist Elias Viljanen in a gentle and heartfelt version which benefits from some subtle string work. Things get more interesting with ‘A Little Less Understanding’, which interestingly sees the use of banjo and mellotron which really brings the track to life in a dynamic and original way. It’s a track that fits comfortably into the reworking, the mellotron giving a beautifully melodic and seventies feel.

Album Review: Sonata Arctica – “Acoustic Adventures – Volume One

The mellotron is used to perfect effect on ‘Alone in Heaven’, which is a cracking reworking of the version we heard on on ‘Stones Grow Her Name’. I disliked the ballad ‘Talluah’, one of two tracks from 2001’s ‘Silence’, but the revised song is stripped down to allow Henrik “Henkka” Klingenberg to show his formidable talent on the piano which at least makes it palatable. ‘Don’t Say A Word’ is a belting rocker in its original form, one of the heaviest tracks the band have created, with a real power metal pace and feel. Sonata Arctica have managed to maintain that pace with a real up-tempo version, the piano and high-speed percussion working in harmony with Kakko’s superb performance. It’s a work that demonstrates the freedom and ingenuity that the band has used to approach the whole album and you can’t help but tap feet as the song soars. A similar upbeat feel is introduced on ‘The Wolves Die Young’, although this is one I’ve struggled with a bit; a bit too lounge room style for me but full marks for Henkka’s fabulous musicianship again.

Another rapid-fire blaster, the explosive ‘Wolf & Raven’, the second from 2001’s ‘Silence’ is given a total makeover. Now, the original is a machine-gunning speed metal track, which has an almost ridiculously fast pace and some guitar hero widdling. The acoustic version is hilarious, almost the soundtrack to a 1920’s black & white movie, and as Henkka acknowledged, “'Wolf & Raven' was quite the thing to play on acoustic piano.” Somehow this gets over the line with reputation intact and indeed, enhanced. Concluding the release with a mellow and comfortably relaxed ‘The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me’, which features some magnificent flamenco guitar work, Sonata Arctica prove that their musical talent extends far and wide.

This is an album that will thrill their hardcore fans, and hopefully grab the attention of those who enjoy listening to stripped back but cleverly constructed music. There’s plenty to explore as the songs weave their magic. Why not take a chance and give this album a go? It might be the most chilled hour of the year!

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