Sonata Arctica – September 6, 2014 – The Palladium, Worcester, MA

Wednesday, 10th September 2014

Last time Finland power metal veterans Sonata Arctica hit New England, it was the start of a cold winter in 2012, and they would have Arsis as their openers. Fast forward to today, and unbeknownst to everyone in New England, we are experiencing a tropical humidity in September that normally occurs in late July or early August. Those familiar with The Palladium’s interior old theater walls know, a lot of bodies in tight quarters means it was going to be very sticky inside. Especially considering earlier in the afternoon through their Facebook page, Sonata Arctica announced it was a sold out show.

Choosing to play upstairs meant about 400 or so patrons would get in (including a fortunate soul who sans ticket would secure one minutes prior to the show, driving all the way from Baltimore, MD because he would miss the date in his area to attend ProgPower in Atlanta). Another scalper offered a $35 ticket for $65 50 feet away from the doors. As you got to 10 feet from security frisking you, the price jumped to $85. You got love capitalism even in heavy metal. The dark clouds loomed outside just before we were let in, and sure enough 10 minutes later, rain poured from the sky down on us souls who couldn’t seek shelter, as we all love feeling like drowned rats before baking inside.

I digress. The first band Chronologist hit the stage at 7:10pm, an instrumental outfit that would perform for 20 minutes. They were adept at a modern form of semi-progressive math/metal, as elements of Dream Theater and Periphery came to my mind. Xandria from Germany commanded the stage next. Given the fact that this was their first extensive US tour (they have played a few festivals like 70000 Tons of Metal and ProgPower), they went over quite well. Symphonic metal with operatic female vocals, they stuck to a lot of material off their new album Sacrificium and Neverworld’s End – standouts including “Nightfall”, “Valentine” and “Forevermore”. The guitars could have been a touch higher in the mix, but the crowd didn’t seem to notice much, clapping and chanting at all the right melodic, musical places.

Delain would go next, and I know a lot of people have been gaining an interest in this Dutch symphonic metal band thanks to numerous tours through the past few years in North America. With 4 albums to choose from, they were able to go through a decent amount of the catalog in their 45 minute time slot. Charlotte Wessels is the perfect front woman, encouraging audience participation at all times. “Stardust” and “Not Enough” got great response, while crowd favorite “We Are the Others” ended a fine set, and proof that this sub-genre of metal is expanding here, as Delain are on the cusp of gaining their own headlining sojourn across our great land.

This would be my first time seeing Sonata Arctica live. For some reason schedules never worked out for me to be able to take them in live, between work and family obligations. Their 90 minute set would serve a double purpose: to promote the new album Pariah’s Child and also serve as a celebration of the 15th anniversary for the quintet as a band. Tony Kakko has all the right moves, swaying to the beats, making emotional gestures and facial expressions to accent certain words, and has a stellar voice to wrap it all together.

Highlights? Hmm… the speedy “Kingdom for a Heart”, moving “Full Moon”, passionate “San Sebastian (Revisited)”, the tender “I Have a Right”, and closer “Don’t Say a Word” for starters. Tony would take the time to preface “Cloud Factory” with the inspiration behind the song… all the lovely paper mills and other industrial businesses that create horrible smells in their small town area of Finland. And of course the preacher aspect of “X Marks the Spot” was another tension breaking moment of the night, the audience participating in a back and forth call and response game with Tony that corresponded to that section of the song. Where else will you see quick lightning neo-classical runs where keyboardist/key-tarist Henrik Klingenberg and guitarist Elias Viljanen participate in back and forth as well as unison action to a major delight of the crowd, often sung at the same time by members of the audience?

By 11:40pm, Sonata Arctica conquered the Palladium masses – surprisingly agile and alert given the rising heat and exhaustion from within. Next time let’s hope they can put together as killer a bill and push this to the downstairs portion of the theater.

Sonata Arctica official website
Delain official website
Xandria official website