Sonata Arctica – Reckoning Night
Reckoning Night is probably Sonata Arctica’s magnum opus; having no weak songs and some rather diverse styles, this album is extremely strong. Even though Unia is my personal favorite, when looking at this from an objective stand point this is probably the band’s finest work. The style is much the same as Winterheart’s Guild, with a lot of progressive influence that is prevalent in songs like “Blinded No More” and “The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Real Puppet”. At the same time, the album is very balanced with faster pieces, mid tempo tracks, and slower songs. The progressive side of this album is one that should be examined closely, because Sonata Arctica truly begins to move further in that direction, beginning right here.
The highlights include “Misplaced”, “Ain’t Your Fairytale”, “Don’t Say A Word”, “Wildfire”, and of course, “White Pearl Black Ocean”. “Misplaced” is a highlight, but also interestingly a downside to this album. My problem is that it just sounds too much like it was created to be a live song and it’s just not as good in the studio. That hole in the very beginning is the root of this problem; in For The Sake Of Revenge (live album), it was a perfect place for Tony to yell and get the crowd riled up, but in the studio version that just annoys me. I actually just flat out refuse to listen to the studio version when I could listen to the live version, though it is a good song at any rate.
“Ain’t Your Fairytale” is the obligatory wolf song that Sonata Arctica loves putting on their albums. It’s a solid song with a good chorus and some great guitar work. “Don’t Say A Word” is an awesome song with a sneaky chorus that isn’t immediately catchy [Editor’s note: Really?], but once you figure out what he’s saying you’ll probably have it stuck in your head for a while. It’s also part of an ongoing story about an obsessive stalker that SA has had going on. The other parts can be found in Silence (“The End Of This Chapter”) and Unia (“Caleb”), making for an interesting cross-album story that I really enjoy. “Wildfire is an intriguing and very heavy song that starts yet another cross-album story (the rest of which can be found in “Wildfire ll & lll” on Stones Grow Her Name). It was also the heaviest song they had written up until “Somewhere Close To You”.
Last but not least, “White Pearl Black Ocean” is the closest thing to an epic that the band has attempted since Silence (“The Power Of One”, which was not very good), and it’s a complete winner. This song is an exemplary bit of songwriting and lyric writing that adds spice to the drawn-out and intriguing structure of the song. In some ways, it actually reminds me of Blind Guardian’s “And Then There Was Silence”. I love the chorus of this song and it does something different that Sonata Arctica is well known for: changing the chorus multiple times throughout the piece to keep things interesting. The best part in this song (or in their whole discography) comes at 6:56 where Tony goes up high and separates from the back up vocals to sing “black oceans beneath come and swallow me” up high. I just absolutely love that part, and I sometimes skip through the song to it.
The overall style of this album is actually very diverse which I really like. it’s got so many different styles and feels to it, but the atmosphere of the album stays somewhat the same; it feels very ethereal and dark (for Sonata Arctica), almost like it’s meant to sound like it’s being performed at sea. I think that is where it’s true strength over SA’s other albums lies, it doesn’t overuse ballads and the ones in this are very good (though there’s only one true ballad); it’s the most consistent they’ve written that’s for sure. I would definitely characterize this as progressive/power metal and both parts are equally good. All in all, this is a really good album with tiny flaws, (I seriously only took off .25 for Reckoning Day Reckoning Night, because it could and should be a lot more interesting and as it is does not need to be three minutes long). The progressive side of this definitely starts to prepare the listener for the aggressive bombast of a jewel that is Unia.
Ian’s rating: 4.75 out of 5.0