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Sonata Arctica album review –The Ninth Hour

Finland’s fearless power metallers Sonata Arctica explore new realms of cheese with new album

Sonata Arctica album cover

These stalwart Finns inspire devotion and derision in equal measure, for equally sound reasons – sometimes within the same song. Since 1999 they’ve steered a dizzying course through the choppy waters of melodi-sympho-prog-power metal with an unabashed pop sensibility as well as a tendency towards saccharine cheese.

There’s a peculiar blend of boldness and blandness, Glee Club pop-rock alongside double-kick-heavy rivethead riffing, treading a path between 2012’s divisively experimental Stones Grew Her Name and 2014’s solid reversion-to-type, Pariah’s Child.

There are sugary choruses among the gothic synths and stately guitars of Life, an audacious nod to For Whom The Bell Tolls in the excellent Fairytale and shades of Celine Dion in the plonky piano and penny whistles of ballad We Are What We Are. SA mastermind Tony Kakko has a distinct, impassioned voice and vision, even if it misfires as often as it destroys.

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.