Sonata Arctica - Winterhearts Guild
Avalon
Melodic Speed Metal
11 songs (55'00)
Release year: 2003
Sonata Arctica
Reviewed by Ben
Album of the month

After two long years since Silence Sonata Arctica presents us with Winterhearts Guild. Being one of my favorite bands I was eager to hear the new album and when I got it I held my breath as I put it in my stereo. I was worried at first because I had heard alot of people say that this wasn't anywhere near as good as their other releases and I thought "Sonata Arctica put out a bad album? That can't be true." And thank god it wasn't. Before I get to the music I'll comment briefly on the packaging. The Japanese version is in a nice slipcase with a killer bonus track and inside is a "trading card" of one of the members of the band. I got Marko and its already on the wall. Anyways lets get on with the music.

The first song out of the album is the lengthy titled Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwashed, Exploited. It is a speedy number akin to Weballergy but it also sounds alot darker, the atmosphere seems different this time around, its changed to a dark but not brooding type of sound that is a little surprising but in no way negative. Abandoned...Exploited is a good track but not the best, that is to come later. Gravenimage is next and this is remarkably similar to The End of this Chapter. It has a beautiful keys intro that reminds me of the theme from the movie Braveheart. Tony sings some emotion rich verses and then after a few lines in, the song breaks into a faster tempo and continues throughout. Tony really sounds like he is singing from deep within on Gravenimage and gives a tremendous performance. Track three is The Cage one of the best songs to grace Winterhearts Guild. It is fast, it is melodic and it has a chorus that is completely and irrevocably infectious. Take a part of San Sebastian and mix it with the catchiness (if San Sebastian wasn't catchy enough) of Unopened and you'll get a good idea of what type of song this is. Silver Tounge is next and it is a bit more midtempo but still contains a horrendously memorable sing song chorus. A full on ballad follows with The Misery, and it is quite well done, another excellent Sonata ballad. I found it to be more similar to Last Drop Falls than say a completely soft ballad like Tallulah.

Victoria's Secret the lead single off the album comes roaring and picks the pace up and is another speedy Sonata song. At around the three minute mark comes a really cool keyboard solo that is the highlight of this particular track. Some oddness is in Champagne Bath a neoclassical type of tune with some experimentation with the keys. No I dont mean they went techno on us, but during one of the verses theres a xylaphone effect with some shouting over it. A good song and the experimentation worked in this case. Another midtempo "heavy" ballad is next, Broken. This song reminds me alot of Sing in Silence but with more guitars in it. The chorus is very different for Sonata but again it works in their favor. The delivery is a melodic rhythmic type thing that they haven't done before. The Japanese fans get another godly bonus track with The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me. I'm not complaining because I own the Jap version but the European fans are gonna be pissed. Why? Because this is one of the best tracks on here. It is the fastest song on the album and has a neoclassical solo section that is very Wolf and Raven like. Another speedy song,The Ruins of My Life is next and although it is still very much enjoyable it pales next to The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me. Finally, ,the album closes with Draw Me a slow ballad. I thought this was rather odd since on both Ecliptica and Silence the final songs were the longest on the albums and were fast uplifting songs. Draw Me is very depressing almost, and this is augmented by the keys greatly. I was captivated by the emotionally intense song and when it was over I just sat there staring at my stereo in silence for several seconds.

Winterhearts Guild is a different album for Sonata Arctica. Dont be scared by that statement though there is still the awesome fast songs and the beautiful ballads but this time around there seems to be a bit of darkness surrounding the songs. Some fans might be put off by this change but I welcomed it and thouroghly enjoyed Winterhearts Guild. Despite what critics might say this is a killer album, worthy of your time and worthy of your money. I give it an album of the month and I bet you ten bucks it'll be in my stereo for much longer than that.

Killing Songs :
Gravenimage, The Cage, Victoria's Secret, Broken, and The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me
Ben quoted 94 / 100
Jay quoted 85 / 100
Chris quoted 90 / 100
Aleksie quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Sonata Arctica that we have reviewed:
Sonata Arctica - The Ninth Hour reviewed by Jared and quoted 70 / 100
Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child reviewed by Joel and quoted 85 / 100
Sonata Arctica - Stones Grow Her Name reviewed by Cory and quoted 71 / 100
Sonata Arctica - The Days Of Grays reviewed by Elias and quoted 95 / 100
Sonata Arctica - Unia reviewed by Chris and quoted 55 / 100
To see all 15 reviews click here
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