Sonata Arctica
Clear Cold Beyond

This Finnish power metal band has been around since the 90’s and I have seen their logo and ads for decades, however, I have never heard them until now, with Clear Cold Beyond which is their 14th album – holy smokes!  After listening to their back catalog in order to compare this to their prior albums, it’s clearly evident this band was on fire with their brand of power metal starting on their 1999 debut Ecliptica and the band continued this output of quality power metal for a lot of their career, however, started to reign in the power and maybe go in more of a progressive sort of blend of power metal around the mid 00’s and since then have started to crawl back to try and bring back their former glory of power metal, where there was more galloping and power metal action going on.

Suffice it to say with the sheer amount of albums Sonata Arctica has released, they have had their fair share of albums with fair to middling production qualities, as well as the music, just there, lacking the power of their earlier releases.  But when I popped in this promo, I was thoroughly impressed and this has 10 songs in 51 minutes and the physical edition contains 12 songs in an hour.

“First in Line” starts with some breathtaking atmosphere and drums before blasting along with their fast power metal equipped with multi-layered keyboards of Tony Kakko, their original vocalist is nailing all the different tones and he has well…a power metal voice, reminding me of early Scanner, out of Germany.  The chorus is exceptionally crafted and catchy and at this point, I am a fan.  Power Metal always gets me in a happy and excited mood and I am a fan of fast-moving power metal, not the slower kinds of bands.  So when I compare this album opener with past Sonata Arctica songs this definitely harkens back to their earlier releases and the guitar soloing going on is great and the varying keyboards are prominent and are all over the place.  Talk about a bombastic album opener.  So much fun.

“California” is up next and you cannot catch your breath and maybe many of you longtime fans were expecting the band to slide into a slower song, but the band said hell no and this is another fast song with the dizzying keyboards, almost played as a guitar and the guitar riffing is most excellent and catchy.  This song moves pretty fast and I can imagine circle pits all damn day.  The guitar soloing going on at the 2.10 mark is killer with the keyboards piped higher alongside those solos – pretty wild.  Again, the band seems intent on erasing or rather I should say, intent on showing their fanbase they are back to reclaim their true power metal glory.  “Shah Mat” is up next and again is a fast galloping number, a tad slower than the previous two songs, but still a fast song with a great galloping type of old-school speed.  Bombastic atmosphere and effect at the 2.10 mark with soaring aria vocals as well, so it almost sounds like this could be in a Disney movie..  The song slows down and then picks up the gallop once again.

“Cure for Everything” has varying tempo shifts, speedy, slower, and killer guitar solos and keys as the song picks up the pace alongside those excellent vocals.   The rest of the album does contain some of those progressive and slower elements, which have been more prominent on many of their prior albums, however lucky for us those moments take a back seat on this album.  Rather than closing out with a bang, like how the album opener came out the gates and did not let up, the title track ends the albums, slower, with acoustic elements and it’s a good ending overall, but ends with a more melancholic approach.

Clear Cold Beyond has a great album cover painting with the band’s epic band logo and the colors and new age type of cover with the snow-drenched mountains and frozen waterfall is quite a nice painting to look at.  Without having any prior experience with past Sonata Arctica albums, except for going back after listening to this, and checking those releases out, it’s clear as day Clear Cold Beyond captures the band’s former glory of their earlier years with really pressing on that gas pedal and creating many fast and quick paced power metal anthems without forgoing any quality, because this band has quite a lot of talent.  The production qualities are also terrific.  This is a rockin’ power metal album that will certainly please many of their older fans and maybe bring those fans back into the fold if they had given up on the band..

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
April 19th, 2024

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