As one of the reliable stalwarts of Finnish metal, a lot is expected of Sonata Arctica when they release a new album. There will be progression, there will be at least one heartbreaking love song and there will, of course, be plenty of cheese. If any of these elements are missing then it’s not really a Sonata Arctica album. On ‘Pariah’s Child’, they seem to have ticked all the boxes so it’s at least not going to be immediately shunned by longstanding fans.
One thing that leaps out about this album is that, while it’s not devoid of progression, it does lack much of the progressive elements featured on some of their previous albums and it is a noticeable exclusion; making the album seem far more straightforward and, to some extent, less interesting. The band seem to have shot themselves in the foot by producing some amazing examples of progressive music within their field in the past, so now it becomes expected and one of the main things they are judged on. But what it lacks in this part, it makes up in sing-a-long classics that will doubtless be a hit on tour (because, let’s face it, that’s what you’d really go to see them for…. I say at the risk of being abused by purists…). I challenge you to listen to ‘Cloud Factory’ or ‘The Wolves Die Young’ just once, my bet is that it’s almost impossible. Whether you love it or you hate it, they will manage to forcibly lodge themselves in your brain.
There are some really good Sonata-y Sonata songs on here (such as ‘Blood’ and the slightly quirky ‘X Marks the Spot’), which will remind you of who you’re listening to but there’s also some songs (such as ‘Half a Marathon Man’ and ‘Larger Than Life’) that don’t really sound like anything they’ve done before and is actually a welcome addition to the album. At least it means that the album doesn’t either just fade in your mind as just another album.
For long standing fans, you’ll be pleased to hear that there’s a love song but, unlike all the previous examples that spring to mind, it’s not an epic ballad about a man scorned. On the contrary, the simply titled ‘Love’ actually seems to suggest that it has crossed their mind that some relationships can last a long time without one or the other running off with someone else. It’s enough to restore your faith in humanity, really. It might lack the power of some of their heartbreak songs but it’s actually a really lovely little song that you could play at your wedding.
As someone who’s actually listened to this band a lot over the years (probably more than a grown woman should admit to, so I probably judge them more harshly than others might), although I do like this album there is something missing that just stops it being up there with the greats. Then again, it’s grown on me since I first listened to it so I could be retracting those words pretty soon. I think I was just disappointed on first listen that ‘Larger Than Life’ wasn’t a Backstreet Boys cover.
Review by Siân Williams
28th March 2014
1) The Wolves Die Young
2) Running Lights
3) Take One Breath
4) Cloud Factory
6) What Did You Do In The War, Dad
7) Half a Marathon Man
8) X Marks the Spot
10) Larger than Life
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"One thing that leaps out about this album is that, while it’s not devoid of progression, it does lack much of the progressive elements featured on some of their previous albums..."