Sonata Arctica – Clear Cold Beyond

As a reporter, it’s important to stay objective. So what to do when your favorite band releases their new record? You stand first in line to be the one to review it, obviously!

Time really flies by, as it’s been four and a half years since Sonata Arctica released their tenth studio album “Talviyö”. Even though that record was decent, for me it was partially ruined by the bad mixing. I mentioned: “Everything seems like one big blur and nothing really stands out. One thing which I found to make the album more enjoyable, is to find the songs on youtube and play them at 1.25x speed.” 

After “Talviyö”, the Finns took a detour and scheduled an acoustic tour and album. Lead vocalist and songwriter Tony Kakko describes it: “It was a chance to slow down, reflect on what we’ve done in the past and also fulfill our long-held dream of doing an acoustic album and tour.” But after this, it was time to get back on track and return to their Power Metal roots. “We’ve felt for a while now that we needed to get heavier after a couple of unintentionally softer albums,” says Kakko. “We still love those albums, but in terms of finding cornerstone songs for a feel-good melodic metal show, the previous album didn’t have much to offer. That’s one thing we wanted to change: More speed and songs that people can and want to sing along to.”

I share this sentiment, as was obvious during the “Ecliptica revisited tour”, almost ten years ago. After playing “Ecliptica” in full, some newer songs followed. The “Ecliptica” set was powerful with lots of energy, yet when that part was done, the atmosphere just mellowed down and people responded less excited.

A lot has improved since “Talviyö”. Let’s start with my main issue, the poor mixing. Thankfully this time, Mikko Karmila was responsible for this duty. He was also responsible for older Sonata Arctica records, as well as a huge track record with powerhouses like Amorphis and Nightwish. “Clear Cold Beyond” sounds better as a whole. Drums, keys, bass, guitars, vocals and other layers blend together and shine when they have to. 

Right from the first track, it’s clear that the power metal roots are buried deeply into this record. Fast-paced drums start right away and they hardly subside during the rest of “Clear Cold Beyond”. Another thing that stands out is the positive vibe that shines throughout the eleventh album like a ray of cold Finnish sunlight. For me, the super positive lyrics, where we are a guiding light for our children don’t really hit the spot. Thankfully we also get treated to a follow up to the saga that started in Sonata Arctica’s second album, “Silence”. As a direct sequel to “Don’t Say a Word”, taken from “Unia”, “Dark Empath” will be sure to let fans of the old days rejoice.

 

Another gem is “Angel Defied” of which the start reminds me a bit of “Cinderblox” from “Stones Grow Her Name”, yet instead of the banjo, keys were used. Keys and guitars fly high on “Clear Cold Beyond”, as both of them get plenty of room to shine in solos and melodies. As I mentioned before, the whole mixture is just great and it takes me back to the good old days, but not completely yet.

Sonata Arctica is finally making their way back to the faster paced power metal genre. I’m sure this will result in more energetic shows and fans of the older work to rejoice. Not every song is a banger though, even though as always you will be humming along to most tunes. Especially songs like “Shah Mat”, “Dark Empath” and “Angel Defiled” make “Clear Cold Beyond” very enjoyable.

Rating: 8/10
Release Date: March 8th 2024
Label: Atomic Fire Records

Writer: Michael

Tracklist:

  1. First In Line
  2. California
  3. Shah Mat
  4. Dark Empath
  5. Cure For Everything
  6. A Monster Only You Can’t See
  7. Teardrops
  8. Angel Defiled
  9. The Best Things
  10. Clear Cold Beyond

 

Michael Brookhuis

Hi, my name is Michael, I'm from The Netherlands and next to writing here, I love writing about games, nature and art. My love for metal started around the age of sixteen, when the more mainstream bands like Evanescence, Within Temptation and Linkin Park were more of a thing and actually on the radio. Later on, my taste in music broadened and nowadays I listen to a lot of subgenres. From Power Metal like Sonata Arctica, symphonic like Ayreon, Doom like Draconian and more, I don’t think it would be easy to pin-point any specific sub-genre that would be my favorite. Lately my playlist consisted of Epica, Heilung, Katatonia, Dark Tranquillity, Nightwish, Kamelot and more, it all depends on my mood. But I think a lot of us feel the same way. Metal-Exposure for me is a group of same-minded individuals that through music have found a connection which makes us friends.

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