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3.91 | 23 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2003


1. Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited (5:37)
2. Gravenimage (6:58)
3. The Cage (4:37)
4. Silver Tongue (3:58)
5. The Misery (5:08)
6. Victoria's Secret (4:43)
7. Champagne Bath (3:57)
8. Broken (5:18)
9. The Ruins Of My Life (5:14)
10. Draw Me (9:26)

Total Time: 55:00


- Tony Kakko / vocals and keyboards
- Jani Liimatainen / guitars
- Marko Paasikoski / bass
- Tommy Portimo / drums

Guest musicians:
- Henrik Klingenberg / keyboards (12 - bonus track)
- Jens Johansson / keyboards (3, 4, 6, and 7)

About this release

Release date: March 17, 2003
Label: Spinefarm Records

Japanese & Korean bonus track:
11. The Rest Of The Sun Belongs To Me (4:22)

South American bonus track:
12. Fade To Black (Metallica cover) (5:43)

Thanks to progshine for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Time Signature
The cage...

Genre: Euro power metal

There are no major stylistic changes on the "Winter Heart's Guild" in comparison with the debut album "Ecliptica" and the sophomore album "Silence" - so fans of the two previous albums can safely invest in this one.

On this, their third album, the band deliver their standard type power metal with a rapid thundering double bass drums, epic and extremely catchy choruses, and a couple of emotional ballads every now and them. Some might argue that this is a formula that gets tired very fast, while others might argue that - well, if it ain't broken, why fix it?

It would be untrue to claim that no development is to be traced on this album in comparison with the previous two ones. I think for example that the synths are progressively allowed to be more and more dominant, and synths are much more prominent on this album than on its predecessors. It also seems as though Sonata Arctica strive even more after an epic sound on this album than on both "Ecliptica" and "Silence", but it may just be a result of the use of dominant keyboards here. There are still some neoclassical elements to be heard - as in the introduction to 'Champagne Bath' (which also contains a cool exchange of keyboard and guitar solos) - but the on the whole the neoclassicisms on "Winter Heart's Guild" are less prominent than on the two predecessors. Also, Tony Kakko's singing style seems less intense and more relaxed on this album.

Sonata Arctica still make use of their greatest asset on this album - namely the catchy choruses, and the ones in 'The Cage', 'Silver Tongue', 'Victoria's Secret', 'Champagne Bath' and 'The Ruins of My Life' are some of the best of their kind.

If you've heard "Ecliptica" and "Silence", I think you would also "Winter Heart's Guild", but you might find that is has less of an impact on you than the other two albums do.
Straight up power metal with double bass drums thundering above everything else has never ever been my thing, but from the moment I happened to hear this album years and years ago I've had a strange thing for it. I had seen the band live before, in 2003, and while I already loved Tony Kakko's voice the music otherwise gave me nothing at all.

The opening track on the surface is just what I didn't like about this band, but suddenly the melodies are infectious and catchy, the drumming fits in, and the listener is given room to breathe midway through. The band's palette seems much wider than on previous releases that I had heard, the second track Gravenimage being a great little epic with drama and just the right pompousness, and a big portion of the album being taken up by ballads and rockier, more mid-paced songs. The Cage is another double bass powerhouse with a great Jens Johansson synth solo kicking it off, but it doesn't really reach the standard set by the opening track, which is the case with the other speedier tracks Victoria's Secret and Ruins of My Life.

With the beautiful numbers The Misery and Draw Me, the heavier Broken and the rocking Silver Tongue balancing the full on power attack, which is given a nice quirky twist on Champagne Bath, the album is a delightingly varied mix of different styles, the great melodies coming through all the way. But while Tony Kakko's voice is the thing I most of all like about Sonata Arctica, on this album it's also the biggest flaw, with the very Finnish pronouncing in certain parts being quite hard on the ears. Perhaps I'm the only one having this problem.

I think this is the only album in my collection that falls under the subgenre, but with such positive reaction to it, who knows if I'll end up broadening my view of the style. Up to this point every time I've felt the urge to have some, I've known that I have just the right album to do the trick.

Members reviews

I've explored the band's three early albums in a reversed order due to my late gained appreciation for their music. It's not difficult to see the band that brought us "Reckoning Night" while listening to "Winterheart's Guild", the fast-paced songs are punchy and feature strong melodies while the slower material is easily some of the cheesiest ballads that you'll probably hear on any record. I guess that the biggest difference this time around comes from a guest spot by the Swedish power metal keyboardist Jens Johansson who not only added new instrumental prowess to the otherwise pretty stale song formats that Sonata Arctica had dug themselves into at this point of their career, but also pretty much single-handedly makes compositions like "The Cage" and "Silver Tongue" into the awesome experiences that they are.

One would assume that the departure of the keyboardist Mikko Härkin would have hurt the band a lot since most of their material is very keyboard-driven. The absence of an actual keyboard player is surprisingly not too noticeable since Tony Kakko does a decent job of playing on the less demanding songs while letting Jens Johansson handle the tougher, fast-paced, solos. It's actually these demanding solos that make this album one of the band's most memorable with tracks like "The Cage" and "Victoria's Secret" making up for otherwise a pretty predictable song blueprints. If you're a fan of Power Metal then chances are you're already well familiar with "Winterheart's Guild" since all of the first four Sonata Arctica albums feature solid songwriting and enough excitement in them to make fans of the genre rejoice. To me, this is easily the most significant album that the band have done right after "Reckoning Night" (or before, if you want to follow the chronological order).

***** star songs: The Cage (4:37)

**** star songs: Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited (5:37) Gravenimage (6:58) Silver Tongue (3:58) The Misery (5:08) Victoria's Secret (4:43) Champagne Bath (3:57) Broken (5:18) The Ruins Of My Life (5:14)

*** star songs: Draw Me (9:26)
The cold wind sings...,

This is my favorite Sonata Arctica album. I realized this after listening to it for about a week. There are some strings that go with this statement, however. I do think that the songs I like the most from this album are better than their older songs. But at the same time, this album is not all killer from start to finish. There are a couple of songs that seem to fall out of the chain of normally top-quality work from Tony, Jani and the boys. Since everyone's listening tastes are different, it won't do much good to list mine here - suffice to say: unless you're the type of person who likes everything all the time, you will like some songs on here more than others. Fortunately Winterheart's Guild spreads its stylistic variations around enough to satisfy fans of everything from heart-rending ballads to charging speed metal to more unusual, middle-of-the-road territory.

The thing that sets this band apart is their approach; their approach to power metal has always been different from other bands, but it has not evolved much in and of itself. That said, if you liked Ecliptica, you'll like this - they don't sound so frantic and the tempos are a little more under control, but the same penchant for melody and technical flair are here. Lyrically, Tony just keeps getting better and better. Jani was already shredding it up like crazy from Ecliptica, and there isn't much improvement here from there; he's just as good as he always has been.

Bottom line: Winterheart's Guild is not as consistent as Ecliptica, but its high points are no less than stellar.

Ratings only

  • 666sharon666
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