Let’s get this out of the way now. Sonata Arctica’s brand of melodic metal is not for everyone. If Cannibal Corpse are Last House on the Left and Eaten Alive then these jovial Finns are the Princess Bride and Labyrinth of cinematic equivalents .
Main man Tony Kakko expresses the bands influences coming from Queen and the spirit of Freddie and the boys is evident in all of their 10 studio albums.
Melody is always at the forefront of Sonata Arctica’s pomp filled metal. This is no drinking horn cod pieced Painkiller worshipping. These guys want to romance you and send you out to save the damsel or captured prince with cutlass in hand.
The album opens with the dulcet music box stylings of Message From the Sun which soon gallops in like Artax bearing Atryeu to another adventure. (I told you I get a Neverending Story vibe from this lot). One track in and I am transported from 2019 filled with wildfires and war and taken to a land of the Northern Lights and wolves.
Talviyo translate to Winter Night and much of the album deals with wintry themes – think Snow Queen rather than Blashrykh though. Kakko’s voice is still as strong as ever and the layering of his keys and the keytar (yes keytar) of Henrik Klingenberg give everything a sense of the magnificent. It is almost impossible not to crack a grin whilst listening to these guys. The riffs are pure hard rock and stand up alongside their past efforts Winterhearts Guild and Reckoning Night.
“Cold” has a bit of a Kiss boogie feel to it. If I had a handbag I would dance around it . Some great distorted bass on there too. In the past I have found SA to have a few stand out tracks and a bit of filler on their albums and Talviyo is no different. I think this is more due to my own tolerance for melodic power metal – I need it to be super saccharine and rapturous and mid tempo numbers like Storm the Armada and ballads like Last of the Lambs – which is part of an ongoing Caleb and Juliet saga, leave me a little cold.
Who Failed the Most ups the ante again with some good chunky riffs from Elias Viljanen but it is a little disjointed. “You decide who is the Lord of the Rings, the Master of Puppets” . It is a little cut and paste as the lyrics attest. “Ismo’s got good Reactors” is an instrumental prog romp that acts as an interlude before what I believe are the two stand out tracks on the album.
“Demon’s Cage” is pure Queen . Bright piano passages set about by male choral voices and big guitars. The whole self censoring of the word “ass” is so cute and gives the track a great panto feel – this is a good thing. “The world’s in flames and the Demon smiles” Slightly poignant at the moment.
And then it has a rrived. The pinnacle of wonderous campness that is “A Little Less Understanding” . This could slot straight into he Flash Gordon soundtrack. Pounding Eurometal atop a war adorned unicorn striding across a candy floss mountain. So over the top it is skiing down the other side covered in glitter and denim!
Things drop back for The Raven Still Flies. I know, I know things can’t keep at the smawe space for ever. Still this moody broody epic starts well with a bit of a Nightwish vibe. Midway it wanders off the path with a synthesized xylophone style solo. Just no!
The Garden brings the album to a close . It’s a dreamy, gentle ballad to the beloved of one of the members. Why not? It is cute and the right side of cheesy and appears to be a fitting tribute to a possibly lost loved one.
Talviyo is exactly what I would expect from Sonata Arctica. When it comes to melodic metal with massive hooks and choruses there is none better. Give it a whirl – it will transport you to a better place for a little while.
(7/10 Matt Mason)