Sonata Arctica / Freedom Call / Twilight Force

O2 Academy Islington, London on Fri 1st May 2015

Tonight's Sonata Arctica London show is no regular event. The Finnish power metallers will be performing their debut album 'Ecliptica' live in its entirety on this tour, celebrating 15 years since it was written. Unsurprisingly the Islington Academy is sold out in advance, this being the sole UK date and as the doors grant admission, there is a lengthy queue of power metallers outside the venue.

The opening band is Sweden's Twilight Force a power metal faction that released their debut album 'Tales of Ancient Prophecies' last year to critical acclaim. Opening with 'Forest of Destiny' and bedecked in fantasy-inspired outfits, the five-piece unleashes truly heroic symphonic power metal musical caricatures in the vein of Rhapsody. Very quickly, the audience is won over by the Swedes and the tongue-in-cheek take on power metal suits the live atmosphere sublimely. The talent of guitarist Felipe cannot be understated as his fingers dance along the fretboard with ease, crafting solos that seize the audience's attention, and the impressive Joacim Cains-like vocal stylings of Christian Hedgren can shatter glass. Although not musically reinventing the wheel, Twilight Force's enthusiasm and humorous, almost Monty Python-esque attitude to the style makes for an entertaining appetiser.

Also enjoying the opportunity to celebrate an (unusual) album anniversary are German power metallers Freedom Callwith their third album 'Eternity' reaching the age of 666 weeks. When they initiate their set with new song '666 Weeks Beyond Eternity', the Germans are mired in poor sound with the bass dominating the other instruments although the sound improves as the show passes. Their power metal is particularly up lifting and atmospheric with frontman Chris Bay's vocals soaring about the instruments, however there are some instances during the show where Bay's vocals are quieter than some less impressive backing vocals. All of the songs aside from the opening track originate from the 'Eternity' album, with fans enjoying the optimistic sounds of 'Flying High', 'Metal Invasion' and 'Warriors'. Bay's stage banter is intentionally humours and he has no problem getting the audience to follow his requests to shout out when necessary. Closing with 'Land of Light', these power metallers leave the stage to a well-deserved hail of applause.

Headliners Sonata Arctica waste no time launching into 'White Pearl, Black Oceans' from 2004's 'Reckoning Night' with none of the sound issues that plagued Freedom Call. This gives way to new song 'X Marks the Spot' from last year's 'Pariah's Child' release but the audience truly launch into a fury of headbanging and singing when the 'Ecliptica' songs are lined up, played in order beginning with 'Blank File'. The energy of these older songs combine consistent double bass drumming with vocalist Tony Kakko's idiosyncratic voice, icy keyboards and memorable guitar solos. Having re-recorded this debut last year with a few tweaks on it, songs such as 'My Land' are performed with some alterations although still retain the general sound of the song. Hearing the rarer numbers such as 'Unopened' and 'Picturing the Past' alongside the fans' beloved '8th Commandment' and the Finn's most popular song 'Full Moon' in addition to beautiful ballads 'Replica' and 'Letter to Dana' is an overwhelming treat for the long term Sonata Arctica fans and moves a portion of the audience to mosh. All eyes are on Kakko for his emotive stage performance as he vicariously feels the energy that permeates each of the tracks.

The lengthy 'Destruction Preventer' sees Sonata Arctica leave the stage but of course, there is an encore waiting in the wings. The band returns for the catchy 'Mary-Lou', wrapping up the 'Ecliptica' celebrations perfectly. Another 'Pariah's Child' track 'The Wolves Die Young' is served up to the crowd before set staple 'Don't Say a Word' finalises the evening with the Sonata Arctica patented 'Vodka' outro tagged on to the end featuring the audience singing along. This nostalgic hour and a half was an absolute treat for anyone enthusiastic about their power metal and those who were unfortunate enough not to snatch a ticket should be rightfully kicking themselves. Power metal does not frequent the UK often and when it does, rarely is it as entertaining as tonight. Fingers crossed the band celebrates their second album 'Silence' in the same manner when the anniversary arrives.

article by: Elena Francis

published: 05/05/2015 13:55

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