I found out relatively recently that I like power metal music. After having listened to Dragonforce for about a year I was looking around for other similar groups, and I came upon Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica, among others. Well heck, let me just give a brief rundown of some of the bands that I tried out in the span of a few months as I learned more about the genre.
With the guy who wrote like 90% of their material gone, I had some trepidation about this album, as it was the last one I bought and I already loved the earlier stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'm not like some critic that had been following them forever, but I wondered if it would be a totally different sound, you know? Well, this album had me hooked at the first song, and the thing as a whole is one of my favorites.
The first album I heard from Sonata Arctica was Reckoning Night which is still my favorite. This work is a musical tour de force (you may sigh because of the cliche, but it's true) with amazing harmonies and melodies that drive forward throughout. The use of quieter spots such as “Reckoning Day, Reckoning Night” punctuate and give much-needed pause between immense displays of songsmanship.
Initially the style of this album really put me off. It was too dark, too chaotic, for my tastes. It's a far cry from what I was really used to hearing at the time, clean cut stuff like DragonForce and Sonata Arctica, and really quite far from their latest album. But as I gave it a few more listens I really came to appreciate the sort of raw power in songs like “Banish from Sanctuary” and “Fast to Madness.” It's not terribly polished, like their later work has become, but it carries a lot of strength.
This is a really amazing album; musically it continues the evolution of a thicker and more complex sound which overlays guitar and overtracks lead vocals to create a powerful surge of interwoven harmonies.
I liked Kai Hansen's vocals in Helloween, so I thought I'd get a few Gamma Ray albums to see what he did there. It's a mixed bag: in my first few albums, No World Order was great, and Majestic was good too, but Land of the Free II and To the Metal! were not as impressive. So I eventually decided to have a listen to the other studio albums they did after Kai took over lead vocals.
There are some good tunes on this album, like “Into the Storm” and “Leaving Hell.” It's really unfortunate though that the mix on this album is, in my opinion, absolutely horrible. There are a lot of low frequencies, and the high range has really been neglected. The result feels very muddy, there's a huge difference between listening to this album and DragonForce's Sonic Firestorm which is comparatively very bright. Not only is there an aesthetic difference, but there's a difference in listenability too: I find it hard to listen to this album in the car, because the road and traffic covers up a lot of the music, there's no high range to really punch through the environmental noise. Maybe sort of a dark and dirty mix is what they were going for, I can only assume, but I think the album really suffers for it.