SONATA ARCTICA has changed significantly since 1999’s Ecliptica, where over the past decade alone their musical direction remains unpredictable. Whether they have gathered new fans along the way, held their veteran fans throughout their career or lost a bunch, one thing is sure: the creative energy has not dissipated from these Finnish Metallers, and that is no different with their latest effort The Ninth Hour, out October 7 via Nuclear Blast Records. We have seen it with 2007’s Unia where a few fans questioned the band’s future altogether. Since then they have pushed the boundaries of creative expression, where the music appears to be a bit more experimental than their original Power Metal force. Those that are willing to listen to creative expression, you might want to give this one a spin.
The album opens up with “Closer to An Animal” and it features an immense amount of synthesizers, bass, and a guitar riff that lures you into the main melody. It’s a fun, catchy beginning as the pace fluctuates towards a slow, emotive part which seems to be a common theme to this album. Moving towards complete optimism, “Life” happily comes in with a speedier interlude. The song is as though one is looking for hope as you should, “Let the music go.” There are quite a bit of melodic moments as there are more dramatic melodies instead of coarse interludes. The album significantly shifts with “Fairytale” as it kicks off with an enchanting hook. It’s another cheerful tune as it explains the positivities that life can bring and moves into an enjoyable chorus.
“We Are What We Are” is more of a depressing song with the addition of soft acoustics. It has a lengthy and somber introduction with no vocals until after 90 seconds in when you hear the words, “I am the human destroyer.” Depression continues with “Till Death’s Done Us Apart” as the style reminds me more of a Rock Opera. There are a few big screams to showcase the agony of heartache after a break up as it moves around the variety of emotions one feels after the new reality of a failed love. Whispering is heard in the next track “Among the Shooting Stars” as it erupts to an anthem-esque tune. It moves in melodic storytelling as it is a fantasy tale which sounds a bit as though it came from a hopeless romantic dreamer.
“Rise A Night” returns the faster melody as it includes an engaging guitar solo that cuts in during the instrumental break. It is one of the faster tracks on the album, if not the heaviest thus far. Speed does not last long as “Fly, Navigate, Communicate” slows down with its mystified introduction. As the song progresses, there is a bit of escalation, yet the song moves in a direction as though one is giving themselves a self-analysis that includes massive breakdowns. There is a loud scream towards the end as though one is shouting to regain self-confidence. “Candle Lawns” is my favorite song off of the album, but you should have tissues when hearing it. It begins with a soft piano medley as the lyrics reflect on childhood friendship and how the memories won’t fade away.
As the album nears its close, “White Pearl, Black Oceans Part II” comes on. The longest track, it continues in the Rock Opera style, as the story continues to progress with soft hymns and dramatic escalations with a few lengthy guitar solos. The disc closes just as it began with “On The Faultline (Closure To An Animal).” It moves in a soft tone, another reflective tune where the optimism from the beginning is no longer there as the album ends. I can’t tell you to listen to it or not, as many could be disappointed but after a few listens the story and creativity will grow on you. There is an incredible amount of emotions on here that would make you think about your own life. It’s a new creative direction for SONATA ARCTICA which is why I enjoyed it.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Life”, “We Are What We Are”, “Candle Lawns”