Wednesday, January 23rd
Band displays metal majesty at House of Blues

Musiqtone's Peter Burke reviews in person the Sonata Arctica concert at Chicago's House of Blues

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  Sonata Arctica  
Sonata Arctica- Concert Review

Band Displays Metal Majesty at House of Blues
On Thursday, January 26th, as part of their very first American tour, the Finnish power-metal band Sonata Arctica galloped into a venue of screaming fans and conjured up a spell of power metal mayhem.  After two opening acts, an army of metal maniacs (myself included) were more than ready for the headliner and chanted, “ So-Na-Ta, So-Na-Ta,” until their heavy metal heroes appeared on stage.  After which, face-melting solos, epic vocals and speedy drumming satiated the appetite of the entire assembly at the house of blues.

The first opening, “Grigori 3” (which seemed to emulate Coal Chamber), attempted to court the audience with a keytar player, a female vocalist, and some industrial stylings. However, they failed miserably, and elicited several “boos” from the audience. Although they weren’t a terrible band, most of the fans had a slightly differing taste in music, and couldn’t respect their sound. The metal militia was slightly more receptive to Iron Vein, a more Iron Maiden-like band.  The lead singer had a haircut straight from 1983, and with a voice to match. Although the guitar player produced solos which generally didn’t fit the songs, they were fast and impressive nonetheless. After several classic sounding songs, some very high falsetto notes and a few interesting solos, the horde at the House of Blues was warmed up and ready for Sonata Arctica.

With a backdrop reflecting the theme of their latest album (Reckoning Night, 2005 Nuclear Blast),the members of Sonatalit up the stage with songs from Reckoning Night, such as “Misplaced” and “BlindedNo More,” as well as older songs from their previous albums, such as “Kingdom For a Heart”and “Victoria’s Secret.” Tony Kakko (vocals) did nearly all of the talking, as he was the only member who spoke English well, though he frequently put the microphone in front of keyboard/keytar player Henrik Klingenberg, and received humorous responses in broken English.

The highlight of the evening was the vocal talent of Kakko but more importantly the solos and duals performed by guitar virtuoso Jani Liimatainen and keyboard king Henrik Klingenberg.  Both musicians crafted solos with stunning speed, precision and melodic ingenuity, not to mention they harmonized with each other and traded off solos in dualist fashion. The drive, however, came from Tommy Portimo’s vicious double-bass heavy drumming style. The band worked the crowd, telling them to pump their fists and teaching them chants.  After a 90 minute set, the band walked off stage but came back on after loud clapping and chanting brought forth an encore, which included an altruistic medley of original and cover songs.

After such a stunning performance, it begs the question: “is power metal coming back to kick emo in the proverbial ass?” The answer is yes.  Many masterful metal bands from Sweden and Finland are appearing on U.S. soil as of late, with a mission to bring back a virtuosic method of metal madness to a fallen country. When did we stop caring about wolves and dragons and battles between Orcs and men? When did we stop playing shred solos and start whining about everything? When did guitar players start becoming guitar holders? Many musicians today have pierced their entire faces and covered their arms in tattoos, forgetting that they are badges of honor. Pop-punk and emo bands completely miss the point. In attempts to market themselves and be less cheesy, they have also become less talented, leaving us with a bunch of sniveling, power-chord playing, no-talent hacks. Luckily, with the release of all of the Lord of the Rings films, a metal mindset is returning to defeat the commercial copycats who would rather cry themselves to sleep than play a killer solo!

Peter BurkePeter Burke is the co-founder and one of the staff writers of Musiqtone and the founder/chief head of Yellow Brick Records. You can reach him at peterburke@musiqtone.com.

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