Silence (Century Media)
by Scott Hefflon
Dear Lord Almighty, this smokes! People in the know have been gushing about these Fins since Ecliptica, which somehow never got released in North America. Sonata Arctica have every cliché of power metal and classic-style heavy metal down pat (and the glam ballad, “The End of This Chapter,” coulda been written in “those days,” but someone probably woulda trimmed its epic seven minutes down a bit and lopped off some of the passages that, in this case, are what save it), yet with meticulous songcraft and phenomenal musicianship, they soar mightily above all others.
Silence opens with a Michael Douglas-sounding narrator (I’ve never been able to shake the memory of the Granny in Nutty Professor saying his voice gets yer wet; yeck!) providing some “explanation,” but quickly gathers steam and barrels through “Weballergy” and “False New Travels Fast,” dropping jaws and bulging eyes in their passing. Drumming so immediate, it’s like it’s in the room with you (and having the sense to stutter and side-step as well as thunder like the sky is falling), and so many side-winding vocals and guitar fills, the effect is much like a Star Wars (or Pearl Harbor) dogfight: Things fly at you so often and so fast, you “see” them by impression more than actually focusing on any one thing for long. Add keyboards that’re matched only by Children of Bodom and Stratovarious (the guy who doubled Yngwie note-for-note on the keys) for their ability to solo with the sky-shredding guitarists as well as offer that ominous “Ooooh” behind everything. Sure, there’s some mall-struttin’ mid-tempo as well as some respectful lighter-waving in “Last Drop Falls” and “Tallulah” (actually, I kinda like the latter cuz it’s cheese – just imagine singing the title – but it makes me say “Well, as long as ya gotta do it, at least ya did it that way”), but that and the odd tendency to throw in those jerky puppeteer-yanking-the-strings breaks up the “monotony” of the ever-pummeling, looping, spirally, everything-stacked-to-the-heavens-ness of the rest of this eye-popper. Words can’t accurately describe how these guy’ll floor you, so pray there’s an mp3 on the new Lollipop mp3 CD, or that you can find a streaming audio sample somewhere to hand you your ass in a sling.
(2323 W. El Segundo Blvd. Hawthorne, CA 90250)