Sonata Arctica – Clear Cold Beyond (Atomic Fire Records)

Wednesday, 6th March 2024
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Fresh off a two-part series where they reinterpreted electric versions of their songs into stripped-down renditions for the Acoustic Adventures Volume 1 and 2 releases in 2022, Sonata Arctica appears ready to approach this new studio album Clear Cold Beyond on strong footing. A palate cleanse often ignites those creative juices, where you remember what inspired you back in those early days of a band, while also applying the experience and technological advances in the modern world to execute the best product at the time. For main songwriter and vocalist Tony Kakko, that means a mixture well-excepted uplifting power metal anthems as well as some mid-tempo or cultural offshoots that contain entertaining melodies, syncopation musical moments, and songs to treasure.

From the first thunderous guitar/keyboard duel that descends into “First in Line” right into the follow-up “California”, it’s quite apparent that these gentlemen can still deliver ultra-catchy musical components as well as upper register vocal melodies pulsating with positive energy aligned to the Ecliptica through Reckoning Night period of the group. Scandinavian cultural / atmospheric accents come to the forefront through “A Monster Only You Can’t See”, allowing Tony’s expressive range to shine, as well as some interesting folk-like musical progressions, the guitar work of Elias Viljanen taking on a bit of Viking/Thin Lizzy-esque textures especially when he garners the spotlight hook-wise. The quintet also excel in reflective ballad pieces – “The Best Things” probably one of their best in quite some time, Henrik Klingenberg setting the stage through his piano, keyboard, and orchestration angles along with Tony to give this arrangement an alluring power rock meets classical feel. Also returning is Mikko Karmila on the mixing board – last working with the band back in 2012 on Stones Grow Her Name, the man knows how to bring the essential aspects of Sonata’s sound to the forefront with reverence and charm.

Best songs for Clear Cold Beyond change daily – the children’s choirs take “Shah Mat” to majestic splendor around the theatrical, cinematic power territory, well the title track finale leaves teardrops across the board, Kakko using all facets of his impressive vocal range, the music shifting into alternate swirls of light to darkness. A great return after the less than satisfying Talviyö, Sonata Arctica understands that at this point of their long-standing career, it’s a balancing act between stretching into new territory yet giving the ardent followers what they most desire from you as a group.

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