Originally written by Gregory Bradley.
The band formerly known as Tricky Beans releases their latest album, WinterHeart’s Guild. Sonata Arctica, a Finnish power metal band, has been playing their brand of keyboard-heavy power metal since 1996. This latest release is relatively good, possibly one of their best to date. Once you get past the initial boredom of the album, the rest is more than listenable. The album starts off with two boring tracks, entitled “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited” (and trust me, it makes you feel that way), and “Gravenimage”. These two tracks sort of had me dreading what was to come on WinterHeart’s Guild, I question the band’s inclusion of these songs, especially to start off the album. “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited” is overly dramatic and annoying, and “Gravenimage” just takes too long to go anywhere, then ends up not accomplishing anything, thereby frustrating me. Luckily, the album’s saving grace comes in the form of “The Cage”, the 3rd track. The chorus is so catchy, and there exists so much melody and harmony within its clutches. It rekindled my interest in the album. The rest is actually very good stuff, very keyboard intensive. Of all the bands to use keyboards, I believe that Sonata Arctica is in the upper echelon of them all. They actually have keyboard solos, and they totally add to the experience instead of distracting from mediocre musicianship elsewhere. Of course no power metal album is complete without the characteristic ballad track, in this case it is entitled “The Misery”. The track title is actually pretty accurate, seeing as it is terribly annoying. This is power metal in its purest, most concentrated form. Not for non-purists, WinterHeart’s Guild is an extravaganza of keyboards, solos, and crystal-clean vocals. I’d recommend it for any fans of the genre, but trying to force a death metaller to listen to this is like trying to make vinegar and baking soda behave together. Don’t even bother with this one if you’re not already a power metal fan.