I've been enjoying Sonata Arctica ever since I've heard their music back in 2003. The band added their own spin to the Power Metal genre that felt much more in line with traditional Finnish folk music than anything that I've previously experienced. The raw energy of the performances and the strong melodic hooks really made them stand out compared with the completion.
Sonata Arctica managed to maintain their momentum for the course of four albums, peaking with 2004 release "Reckoning Night", but it was clear from interviews given by the front man Tony Kakko that he was not content with maintaining the same style all throughout his career. The long wait and ultimate disappointment of "Unia", in 2007, showed the band moving away from their Power Metal formula. This was quite a disappointment for me but I continued to hope for Sonata Arctica to return to their roots.
The release of "The Days Of Grays" showed the band going into progressive metal territory and even though it was a solid attempt at a change, I was still not too impressed by the album. "Stones Grow Her Name", from 2012, did spark some hope due to the inclusion of "Wildfire II" and "Wildfire III" on the track-list but I lost interest after hearing the two singles "I Have A Right" and "Shitload Of Money". Eventually I've listened to the album and was dissatisfied with what I've heard.
The release of "Pariah's Child", in 2014, went by completely unnoticed by me. It was only when the band released a re-recorded version of their debut album, "Ecliptica" that I finally decided to include it to my Spotify playlist. My initial reaction to the material was a mixed one since I didn't really enjoy the album's first single and opening track "The Wolves Die Young" but found some of the mid-section tracks like "Take One Breath" and "Blood" to be much more impressive.
After a few more spins, it finally dawned on me that I was really beginning to enjoy the new material. Despite the fact that the album loses momentum with horrible narration on "X Marks The Spot", the disposable ballad "Love" and the disappointing opus "Larger Than Life", the good parts are almost on par with anything from the band's first four releases.
The song streak, that begins with "Running Lights" and ends with "Half A Marathon Man" (six tracks in total), is one of the most enjoyable Power Metal streaks that I've heard since "Empire Of The Undead" by Gamma Ray. The standout tracks are the album's second single "Cloud Factory", which brings back the classic Sonata Arctica melodies, and the emotional "What Did You Do In The War, Dad?".
"Pariah's Child" is good record that I'll probably continue listening to while skipping some of the filler tracks. If this is an indication of the future that Sonata Arctica intends to pursue then I'm definitely all ears.
***** star songs: Cloud Factory (4:17)
**** star songs: Running Lights (4:26) Take One Breath (4:19) Blood (5:54) What Did You Do In The War, Dad? (5:13) Half A Marathon Man (5:43)
*** star songs: The Wolves Die Young (4:11) X Marks The Spot (5:20) Larger Than Life (9:57)
** star songs: Love (3:50)