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Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour Review

Band: Sonata Arctica
Album:  The Ninth Hour
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
Country: Finland
Release Date: October 7, 2016

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The Ninth Hour marks Sonata Arctica’s fifth album since their monumental album, “Reckoning Night”. Since that album, the band has been in a decline musically. “Unia” was okay, “Days of Grays” was mediocre, and “Stones Grow Her Name” was just bad. They did make a comeback with the trademark wolves and sound with “Pariah’s Child” and it was their best album since the monumental “Reckoning Night”. Well the trend of improvement continue? Will the Sonata Arctica I grew to love continue that upward trend?

One thing Sonata Arctica has never been was subtle and The Ninth Hour doesn’t change that. The album cover features a city in the shape of a skull, balancing society vs. nature and It’s a theme that dominates the album. The wolves are back once again!

The album’s opener, “Closer to Life”, hits home with the conflict between society and nature. I’ve said this about their last album, but I’m saying it again. Tony Kakko is in his prime. His voice sounds stronger than ever. Like a small snowball rolling down a hill, the album continues to gain momentum with “Life”, a song that showcases Tony’s vocal range. “Fairytale” is a song that takes aim at America’s presidential election with the lyrics “It’s cool and we’re all snowed in/Vote yes for global warming!”

“What We Are What We Are” is probably the most cynical chorus Kakko has ever written: “We could save our world/But we are what we are/We should love our earth/But we are what we are/It takes care of our loved ones/But we are what we are!” The album keeps going with “Till Death’s Done Us Apart”, which is a song about love and heartbreak.

The album isn’t all gloom and doom and like I said before, the wolves are back with the song “Among the Shooting Stars”. “Rise a Night” is textbook old school Sonata Arctica, and its not a rehash of their old stuff. Rather, they have developed a sound that’s truly their own and they haven’t sounded this good since their old school days. “Fly, Nagivate, Communicate” is a song about the wonders of flight and for some reason, it reminds me of the classic 80’s movie “Flight of the Navigator”.

“Candle Lawns” is a slow tempo song about being a teenager in 1970’s America, which reminds me of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane”.

Remember when I mentioned Sonata Arctica’s best album, “Reckoning Night” earlier? Well, “The Ninth Hour” links the two albums together with “Black Pearl, White Ocean II – By the Grace of the Ocean”. It’s a song that builds on the fist song on “Reckoning Night” and is my favorite song on the entire album. The album recapitulates the opening track with the closer, “On the Faultline (Closure to an Animal)”

When I reviewed “Pariah’s Child” two years ago, I said it was Sonata Arctica’s best album since “Reckoning Night”. I’m going to say it again with “The Ninth Hour”. Tony Kakko’s singing and songwriting is incredible throughout the entire album. The album is filled with songs that are catchy, epic and bordering on excess.

Rating: 9/10

Tracklist:

1. Closer To An Animal
2. Life
3. Fairytale
4. We Are What We Are
5. Till Death’s Done Us Apart
6. Among The Shooting Stars
7. Rise A Night
8. Fly, Navigate, Communicate
9. Candle Lawns
10. White Pearl, Black Oceans Part II – “By The Grace Of The Ocean”
11. On The Faultline (Closure To An Animal)

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