Artist: Sonata Arctica
Venue: Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Opener: Powerglove, Mutiny Within, Forever’s Edge
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Now that March Metal Madness had ended it was time for April to take hold of the flame and continue the process of delivering resounding Metal shows for the ardent fans. Given the time of year that we were in, I could honestly say that there was no better way to prepare oneself for tax time than by hitting a kick ass Metal show and thank the musical powers that be – Sonata Arctica was back in town to do this properly. One didn’t need a financial analysis to know that this would be money well spent and the ultimate way to enjoy a Monday night. Sonata Arctica would return to the headlining stage and bring with them Mutiny Within as direct support while Powerglove and one area local opener would get the whole thing started off. Here is how the night went down if you somehow missed this grand display of Metal powers.
Forever’s Edge: In New York City the night would be started off by local opener’s Forever’s Edge and they were a traditional Power Metal band whose name I will admit to being new to my ears. The same applies for their sound and since it would be the first time up I could not safely make a great analysis. I did recognize two of the bands players as being members of Empyreon, and that was with drummer Godla and keyboardist Khalilov. Musically they sounded okay, but it did not “sell me” beyond that and I felt that the fill in guys had a better project under their own belt at the end of the day. It’s good if you like traditional Power Metal, but while I am a fan of that sound myself, I want the bands who are delivering this genre to really pull out all the stops. I snared a copy of their CD which will be examined sometime in the future so I cannot say more than “good luck guys” and “keep the Metal fires burning”. The downside that was observed during their set was that the band was performing in almost complete darkness. That surely had to suck and now it was time for Powerglove so set your excitement meter on high.
Powerglove: I caught the guys in Powerglove when they were direct support for the mighty Hammerfall last month and I had to say that I really got a kick out of what they do. If you somehow missed out on them, please know that they play what they have coined as “Video Game Meta” and I guess it’s safe to say that if you don’t get the joke than you will really be miserable during their set no matter how exciting the guys manage to keep it. What they do is transfer the music we heard again and again on all the classic video games and they “Metalize” it. I give them credit for the cleverness involved to be honest with you and while they do it they are dressed as barbarians. Ok, perhaps that part is a little cheesy because we don’t need a mini-Manowar, but I will say that for a new band they sure know how to keep the fans entertained with their material. They have interesting props on the stage that give a “gamer” feel to the proceedings and at one point their singer will toss out inflatable swords to the crowd and the audience dives for these things with reckless abandon. They have a release out called “Metal Kombat For The Mortal Man” and it’s a lot of fun. There are also some cool video game inspired shirts that were a hit this evening. I see big things for the guys in this band and believe that they inject a necessary good time vibe into the Power Metal scene. Mutiny Within was up next.
Mutiny Within: I was able to catch the guys in Mutiny Within when they were on the bill as opener for Kreator and Exodus earlier in the year and they were pretty solid at what they were doing. That night they played six tunes from the soon to be released debut album on Roadrunner Records and tonight the audience would get nine of the albums total eleven. The thing that they did not get would be sufficient light to properly enjoy the group and this was now the third band with absolutely limited visibility on the stage. I’m not one to bitch and moan but the kids paid some decent money to see the bands and if the only idea was to listen to them then they could have very simply stayed home and listened on their stereos. The band is young and has a style that one person talking to me likened to that of Trivium but with a keyboard player added to the roster. That’s either a good or bad thing depending on your views about Trivium and since I think they are ok as a band then I will take it as a positive. They were musically tight this evening but I was not able to keep as much interest in them visually based on the manner in which we just saw Powerglove do their show. Good sound, needs work on the window dressing I guess one could say to be even more impressive. For the most part it seemed that a good amount of the audience was rallying behind them s were tight and some parts of the crowd was digging what they put out there. Any who appeared disinterested in what was happening now was likely only getting mentally prepped for Sonata Arctica and now at long last the Finnish Boys were back in town.
Sonata Arctica: The Finnish Melodic Power Metal juggernaut we call Sonata Arctica were here not too long ago as the opener for Dragonforce and that was an appearance that had many people scratching their heads since they felt that the band no longer needed to serve as an opener. I tend to agree with this view and unless the headliner is a bona fide superpower of note (like an Iron Maiden or Priest) then I shall stand with them on this. Lucky for all the fans they would return to us quickly and be supporting their latest Nuclear Blast Records effort entitled “The Days Of Grays”. Musically this release is the logical successor to the sound we found them delivering on “Unia” but let me warn the fans that pine for their older sound as this new one finds them moving forward a little more and not looking back on the old days. There are many common themes to the new release as with their last recording, and tonight the band would be lending some serious time to this album in the live sense. They would open up with one of the discs faster tracks “Flag In The Ground” and it did serve as a good set starter based on its very lively nature. Sonata was indeed back in New York City and clearly very happy to be here once again.
After managing to be present for most of the bands regional visits, I can definitely attest to how much fun they have performing on our stages and while they will always say how they appreciate every town that they hit, there is always something very special about the level of fun that they get to have in NYC. The smiles that the band displays from the second they hit the stage is very noticeable and the crowd response is something special to witness and this in turn energizes singer Tony Kakko all the more for the tasks he undertakes on Metal’s behalf. Two new songs began our adventure tonight and then it was a visit to “Paid In Full” from “Unia” which is a very powerful track and one of my favorites from that recording. They followed this with an odd choice from “TDOG” by doing what I felt was far too slow a number for this early in the night with “As If The World Wasn’t Ending”. That was three down from the new release already and high time for the band to scroll back in time to the “Ecliptica” album to give us “Fullmoon”, but sadly that would be the only inclusion from this release and no “Letter To Dana” would be written by the guys this evening. She must be mad about all this lack of communication at this point. Two more new tunes would follow this one before they delivered us something from “Winterheart’s Guild” with “Broken” and while this is a solid tune, I would have preferred they gave us either “Victoria’s Secret” or “Abandoned, Pleased, Brainwash”. Of course the latter reference is really a throttling opening kind of track but they would have put this crowd over the moon had they done it. They did give us “The Cage” from the album of course and that one always goes over well and then it would be another tune from “Unia” and one from “Reckoning Night”. In the end they would touch upon almost everything with the exception of “Successor” and “Silence”. Maybe one day we shall find Sonata touring and revisiting only those three early albums like Queensryche did once but then again perhaps not. Through it all this evening we found a very lively Tony who was running all about and it appears that no longer new guitarist Elias Viljanen has truly found himself a great place for his talents. The crowd cheered him on something fierce and seems to have found him to their liking. Of course Henka was the animated sort but that is expected and during the show would switch back and forth from his keyboard rig to the keytar which allowed him to also participate in the action on the stage a little easier.
They would close out the night with the always fun “Vodka” and this traditionally gets the crowd singing even if many of them are not of legal age to even drink the stuff. The final song of the night would be the instrumental from the new album and from here the band would once again take their leave of us – as expected this drew a collective sigh from the audience. In the end this was a very interesting show but with seven tunes from the new album and two from the one prior to it, there was not a whole lot of room for the older stuff which many of the bands loyalists are starting to pine for. If you are only expecting them to play these old songs then you might be disappointed by them at this stage of the game and that would be a shame for you since the band is always entertaining and to me sound better than ever in concert. I mused how it would be interesting to find the band touring with a legacy set, as this has become somewhat commonplace recently and who knows what the future holds for Sonata Arctica. They seem to be on a mission to keep their music interesting and involved and are moving away from the “easy” labeling and instead causing you to give a little more thought as to what they are doing for the genre. Thanks guys for keeping us attentive. This was indeed a great start to the week for me because not only would Sonata Arctica deliver an excellent set but it would also prepare us for the Finnish Metal Tour that was landing in our city on Thursday. Stay tuned for details on that one.
Mutiny Within Set List:
2. Falling Forever
6. The End
7. Year Of Affliction
Sonata Set List:
1. Flag In The Ground
2. The Last Amazing Grays
3. Paid in Full
4. As If The World Wasn’t Ending
9. The Dead Skin
11. The Cage
12. In Black and White
13. Don’t Say A Word
14. Vodka (Hava Nagila)
15. Everything Fades To Gray
When a band like Sonata Arctica comes to town it’s not only a good time for the Metal faithful but it is also a time of catching up and having some laughs with the guys based on our becoming one of their friends in media in this region. The headliner marquee on the Gramercy Theatre could not be avoided in terms of shots and I am thinking that they have never played here before. They have done B.B. King Blues Club, The Fillmore NY and The Nokia Theatre but to my knowledge this would be a first. Next stop Madison Square Garden eh boys?
Between sets we slipped backstage to catch up with the guys and see how their day off in New York City went the day before. It was the Easter Holiday for many, but for the boys in Sonata Arctica it was a good time to explore the city and enjoy some of its sites. Here’s a shot of singer Tony Kakko and myself from early in the show night, it was great to find him in good form and raring to go for the NYC fans once again.
The rough day of tourism apparently found keyboard wizard Henka needing a battery recharge and he stuck to doing his joking from a comfortable position on the dressing room couch. Yes that is a bottle of water. Poor Henka, we’ve all been there before haven’t we?
Here’s our Finnish man-at arms Sammy, who we met up with officially at the Nightwish show a couple of years ago. Actually this was the “Not Nightwish Show” since it was the one when Anette was ill and went home and instead Sonata Arctica headlined the gig while the Nightwish folks hung out and tried to enjoy some of their visit. Yes we know you want to read about that show so please click HERE to do so.
I’m not sure what he was pointing at for me to focus on but it was likely my misplaced beverage. The chatter was at an all time high before the band went on and I kept losing them when it became Finnish and lucky me I had such translators. Of course we snapped poor Elias Viljanen as he got prepared to change into his stage clothes but he didn’t seem to care. These Metal guitarists are not the shyest lot in the bunch.
The brief rest on the couch eventually did its wonders on Mr. Henka and he was soon up and around and back in his super cool cowboy hat.
Now that he was up we opted for the candid moment before the Metal was delivered to the masses. Here’s Sam, Henka and I. As you see Samuel is brandishing one of those deadly giant Budweiser’s that the Gramercy Theatre sells. Approach these with caution my friends.
The guys were getting the final stuff together and the set lists were being placed on stage along with the waters, beers and whatever else they required to bring you the best show possible, and here is the whole lot of them only minutes before the rousing gig.
After a rallying cry we did a photo together and I got up into photo pit position to try and bring you all the exciting moments to help you relive this night again and again. Truly there is nothing like a solid Metal show to get that blood pumping.
And now without any further adieu it was ——————– SHOWTIME.
As you can see the NYC fans were raring to go and who could blame them with the level of energy that Sonata Arctica brings to the stage.
We thank Sonata Arctica for coming to NYC for another visit as this was a great present for the PiercingMetal.com anniversary. The site actually hit five years the day before this gig and we had been documenting their live and recorded adventures since we launched so they are one of the bands that we feel kinship with. Editorial thoughts about the site anniversary can be enjoyed HERE.