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Sonata Arctica - Clear Cold Beyond review


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Band: Sonata Arctica
Album: Clear Cold Beyond
Style: Power metal
Release date: March 2024

01. First In Line
02. California
03. Shah Mat
04. Dark Empath
05. Cure For Everything
06. A Monster Only You Can't See
07. Teardrops
08. Angel Defiled
09. The Best Things
10. Clear Cold Beyond
11. A Ballad For The Broken [bonus]
12. Toy Soldiers [Martika cover] [bonus]

Sonata Arctica promised a return to their roots, and while this return winds its way through some oddities the band has picked up along the way, they deliver. Fans of their earlier sound, rejoice. Now, let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a little teenage boy who found his way into the wide world of metal when the gates of power, then gothic and melodeath, opened and sucked him in. For him, Sonata Arctica was among the first few stepping stones on a path that would lead him to untold treasures, unexpected development, and a sense of community both within bands and on a website you are probably all very familiar with. Later on, armed with the knowledge of the unprecedented variety of sounds he went on to find beyond the Gates Ov Metal™ he would find power metal having grown stale and uninnovative (apparently, this word is not in the dictionary, but is a word as of this moment), with only a few albums remaining in his regular playing rotation (Sonata Arctica’s Reckoning Night and Unia, Kamelot’s Epica and The Black Halo being among the few).

Fast forward 20 years, and the boy, now having grown into a man (of questionable maturity), still found very little interest in power metal, having instead delved deep into other styles filled with (he would argue) more creativity and emotional impact. However, when he, now armed with the divine powers of staff membership and promo access, saw an opportunity to grab the upcoming Sonata Arctica album for reviewing, he could not resist based on having read statements from singer Tony Kakko such as this one on their previous album Talviyö (which was generally regarded as being way too soft and mellow): “For a different kind of band, it might serve a purpose, but when you are trying to be a power metal band, or people consider you a power metal band, you should try to sound like one.” He (Tony, that is, and not the unnamed protagonist of this story) also mentioned that returning to write classic power metal songs turned out to be “like riding a bike”. Of course, he (the unnamed protagonist, and probably not Tony) was sceptical, because who knows what kind of hyperbole bullshit bands will spread before a new release, and how it will match up to the actual result, but in this case, upon hearing Clear Cold Beyond he found that his hopes and anticipation had not been "Misplaced".

Sonata Arctica really sound like they’re riding a bike here. A bike that speeds forward in nearly always the highest gear, with the cyclist pedalling frantically in Silence down a highway during a Reckoning Night, occasionally making detours into more obscure, wooded areas where Stones Grow Her Name In The Ninth Hour but never overindulging, instead always racing towards the Winterheart’s Guild HQ. Our protagonist was pleasantly surprised to find out that the fast-paced, uplifting single “First In Line” was only an appetiser for more quality power metal to follow on the next song, where a blistering guitar solo caught his attention. Henkka’s keyboards have that old-school trademark chime, Pasi’s bass is thankfully always very audible, and Tony sounds like he hasn’t aged a bit. After these two Ecliptica-sounding songs, “Shah Mat” (the Persian origin of the word “checkmate”) introduced some grandiose choirs that combined the Reckoning Night sound with a symphonic vibe. “Dark Empath” continues the stalker story started with “The End Of This Chapter” (that also, as any Sonata Arctica fan worth their salt knows, comprises “Don’t Say A Word”, “Caleb”, “Juliet”, and “Till Death’s Done Us Apart”) and hit him with an unexpected Unia vibe, which just happens to be his favourite Sonata Arctica record (although Reckoning Night is a close second). On this song, Tony has written some quite sinister lyrics, allowing him to sing in with a more menacing tone, which also returns later on the album on “Angel Defiled”, which with Henkka’s highly memorable keyboard hook (not to mention solo), subtle choirs, and obnoxiously catchy “la lala lala lala la” chorus wormed its way into our protagonist’s head as the best song on Clear Cold Beyond.

Some songs, however, he found did not work as well as they should have. The middle section of the album has some meandering songwriting, and he would be remiss not to mention that there are not any instant-classic bangers like “Wolf & Raven” or “Ain’t Your Fairytale”, there are no lovable progball (progressive + oddball, duh) gems like “The Vice”, nor any grand epics like “White Pearl, Black Oceans…” or "Deathaura", and the closing title track is a snoozefest of a ballad, but most of Clear Cold Beyond is a true return to form, and the production (which was much maligned on recent releases) has again been given reins to Mikko Karmila who used to work with them in the far past, and makes the drums massive, the guitars soaring, and the sound very clear and powerful.

Our protagonist suddenly remembered what drew him to power metal to begin with all those years ago, and while he’s unlikely to dip his toes all that deep into those waters again after all these years, he found Clear Cold Beyond to be a pleasant surprise that filled him with nostalgia and the conviction that his music taste was pretty damn good even two decades ago. Some missteps in the middle and final parts of the album stops it just short of being great, but "Good Enough Is Good Enough".

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 06.03.2024 by 100% objective opinions.


Comments: 10   Visited by: 206 users
07.03.2024 - 07:24
poring dark
Great story and very entertaining review.
07.03.2024 - 19:30
Rating: 9
As a Sonata fan since Silence and one who has enjoyed all their albums (even if Talviyo was a slight step backwards), sounds to me this will be a great album and will bring the nostalgia in high gear. Keeping my expectations in check though.
07.03.2024 - 22:53
Written by Metal Spartan 78 on 07.03.2024 at 19:30

As a Sonata fan since Silence and one who has enjoyed all their albums (even if Talviyo was a slight step backwards), sounds to me this will be a great album and will bring the nostalgia in high gear. Keeping my expectations in check though.

I'm quite sure it will. It at least brought me back to my younger power metal-listening days.
08.03.2024 - 08:06
Hey that story sounds a bit familiar
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
08.03.2024 - 19:52
Rating: 9
Yep, it's official. First it was Kamelot and now it's Sonata Arctica coming out with their best albums since their early days. 8.5/10 with points taken off for ending the album with a whimper with the last 2 songs in terms of energy level. Still pretty good songs though, especially the title track. Gonna play this on repeat.
09.03.2024 - 09:37
This is my short story: After Reckoning Night, this band died for good.
First rule of making alliance with the Devil? Don't do it.
11.03.2024 - 10:30
One of the best reviews I've read in a while, thank you for sparking my interest in this album!
11.03.2024 - 15:40
Written by nefredil on 09.03.2024 at 09:37

This is my short story: After Reckoning Night, this band died for good.

Correction: after Reckoning Night, they made their best album.

Written by Enissa on 11.03.2024 at 10:30

One of the best reviews I've read in a while, thank you for sparking my interest in this album!

Thank you, I hope you'll like the album as much as the unnamed protagonist did.
20.03.2024 - 21:09
Rating: 8
I've been a fan of Sonata since 2001, 23 years have passed. I saw the band's ups and downs, I continued to be a fan and listened to the albums even during the band's lowest moments. Since Unia, the band has completely divided its fans, some of them just gave up on them. They released a few different albums over the years since Reckoning Night, some closer to the band's true sound, other´s further away. Some quite tolerable, others not so much.

The band will never release something like "Silence" or "Ecliptica" again, that is clear to me. But this "Clear Cold Beyond" seems to be their best attempt in many years to try to recover some of the true essence of their sound. It's not an album that reinvents the wheel, or something like that, but it's clearly their best work in many years, at least since "The Days of Grays". I'm completely honest, I've moved away from this type of sound (Power Metal) a lot in the last 10/15 years, but Sonata Arctica is, and will always be a special band for me, for sure.

Nice work, guys.
28.03.2024 - 19:29
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
More then a review more as lifestory. Good job.
I stand whit Ukraine and Israel. They have right to defend own citizens.

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''
I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing

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