Releasedate: 21-01-2022 Label: Atomic Fire Records
Sonata Arctica started a tour in 2019, in which the entire setlist was comprised of acoustic versions of their songs that spanned across their discography from “Ecliptica” released in 1999 all the way to “The Ninth Hour” released in 2016.
After this tour, Sonata Arctica probably realized that their fans appreciated how playing acoustic versions of their classics rekindled the spirit of many of these older songs. In some instances, changing drastically the original emotion conveyed in a particular song, the tour went very well for Sonata Arctica so it’s no wonder that they decided to make an album with some of these same acoustic versions from their Acoustic Adventures tour in addition to some new ones. In fact, the only songs they kept for this first volume from their original Acoustic Adventures 2019 setlist were “On The Faultline”, “Wolf & Raven”, “Tallulah” and “The Wolves Die Young”. Apart from various new additions, Sonata Arctica were able to add a banjo friendly version of “A little bit less understanding” from their latest album “Talviyö” released in 2019.
The album starts with “The rest of the sun belongs to me” which originally is a fast paced classic power metal bonus track from their 2003 album “Winterheart’s Guild”, specifically only available on the Japanese release. Tony Kakko (singer) down tunes and sings this song closer to his natural range, leaving the high notes for some special moments, which is something they have been doing since “Unia” released in 2007. This gives these older songs a more modern and fresh Sonata approach. It’s worth noting that the Spanish guitar solo stood out, and it serves as a premise to what’s coming ahead.
They continue with “For The Sake Of Revenge” from their 2007 album “Unia” which starts with an acoustic guitar and piano intro as opposed to a drum and distorted bass solo intro from the original version. The song maintains the same emotion even though it slows down the tempo. Even though the bass shines towards the end of the song the low rumbling frequency from the original verses is missed.
“A Little Less Understanding” from their latest release introduces a chuckle worthy banjo and a very nice sounding Hammond organ solo, giving you an impression that Sonata are just having fun with this format. I dare to say that they don’t really take themselves too seriously, hopefully it’s intentional. The Hammond organ sounds continue with “Alone In Heaven” from their 2012 release “Stone Grows Her Name”. This version almost sounds like it was intended to be recorded this way, it keeps the rock edge by adding drums which helps the album expand on the dynamic range.
In comes “Tallulah”, their go-to power ballad. There’s not much to say here, this song is probably what started it all way back in the year 2001 which is when they released “Silence”, ever since you listened to the “long-haired drummer of the band… dancing with my beauty queen” lyrics you could only wish for an even mellower and acoustic version of this song, so here you go.
“Don’t Say A Word” from the 2004 release “Reckoning Night” was an interesting listen, mostly due to the fact that this song is originally a faster paced number from the later power metal days with many tempo variations throughout the song, I appreciated how the acoustic percussion arrangements used for this recording kept the tempo as it was originally conceived yet within the acoustic format. It’s worth mentioning that “Reckoning Night” was an album where Tony was getting creative with backup vocals and songwriting; it had a “Queen” type edge to it, and this song was a great example of the great songwriting Sonata were capable of and this acoustic version revisits that but with a fresh twist.
“As if the world wasn’t ending” from their 2009 release “The Days Of Grays” has a lovely blues Hammond solo intersection, it’s worth listening to it just for this alone.
“Paid in Full” was the first single from the 2007 album “Unia” which translates to “Dreams” from Finnish, which, by many fans, is seen as the turning point for the band where they slowed down the tempo and started to change their power metal sound. This acoustic version goes into folk rock territory, removing the electric guitars and adding piano as the prominent instrument that drives the harmony forward, the overall feeling of the song is still left unchanged just with a different flavor.
“Tonight I Dance Alone” from the 2012 release “Stones Grow Her Name” remains quite faithful to the original version. It replaces the electric guitar chords for piano, and it softens the overall vocal temperament. Tony sounds like he has matured his vocal capabilities a lot and therefore improved his delivery on this track, this slight adaptation is definitely the superior version of this song.
“The Wolves Die Young” has to be one of the most interesting tracks on the whole album just based on the fact that Tommy Portimo (percussion) managed to keep the double kick beat (which is usually connected to heavy metal drumming) on this acoustic version. It’s very odd, yet satisfying to listen to.
“Wolf & Raven” from arguably their most popular album “Silence” (2001), is by far the most different sounding track on this album. The original concept included a fast tempo particular to their early days and high pitched operatic style vocals. On the acoustic version, even though it remains fast, the signature guitar shreddy licks are now led by the keys, which, I am sure, most conservative metal listeners would frown upon.
The album closes with “On The Faultline” from the their “The Ninth Hour” Album (2016). This is an easy song to digest if you are familiar with the original version which was quite mellow already to start with. One thing to notice is that it’s stripped from all the effects which built the atmosphere on the original track, making it a more intimate sounding ender.
All in all, this first volume of “Acoustic Adventures” is a very entertaining listen for both new and old Sonata Arctica fans, for experienced ears, these stripped down acoustic versions of their songs might help appreciate with a new light the underlying special hot sauce which is the melodic nature of their music acted out by Tony’s indistinguishable voice. For new fans, it’s an opportunity to get to know some of their classics in an easy to listen to and fun format. I would recommend in some cases to get to know the original versions first though.
- Tony Kakko – vocals
- Elias Viljanen – guitars
- Pasi Kauppinen – bass
- Henrik “Henkka” Klingenberg – keyboards
- Tommy Portimo – drums
- The Rest of the Sun Belongs to Me
- For The Sake of Revenge
- A Little Less Understanding
- Alone in Heaven
- Don’t Say a Word
- As If the World Wasn’t Ending
- Paid in Full
- Tonight I Dance Alone
- The Wolves Die Young
- Wolf & Raven
- On The Faultline