Sonata Arctica was doing a headlining appearance in NYC and the exciting night found the talents of Firewind, Unexpect and The Agonist joining them on the stage of New York’s B.B. King Blues Club. Supporting all of the talented musicians performing tonight in both words and images was paramount for me as a journalist so we did just that. If you want to learn more just scroll past the logo below.
Artist: Sonata Arctica
Venue: B. B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Firewind, Agonist, Unexpect
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Fans of the Finnish Melodic Progressive Rock sensation Sonata Arctica would have their prayers answered as the band once again made their trek to the USA for some much appreciated touring. While this appearance in NYC would be their third actual visit it was only the bands second headlining appearance but like the previous two shows would be held at the ever popular B.B. King Blues Club & Grill. As was also the case with the other visits the band would be supporting a brand new release and this time around it would be a new studio recording entitled “Unia”. It’s an album that finds the band exploring ever deeper into the realms of Progressive Hard Rock as opposed to the Metal they were most commonly associated with and it’s also available on Nuclear Blast Records their label of the past three years. The band is always an energetic and lively one in concert but to make this all the more special they would be joined by Firewind from Greece as well as both The Agonist and Unexpect from Canada. Having heard each of these bands albums before and judging by the crowd who had already gathered in time for the first band you just knew this was going to be another awesome night of Metal and one that offered the fans a wide variety of genre aspects.
Unexpect: Talk about a déjà-vu but I swear that I just reviewed an appearance of the band Unexpect, and oh yes it was when they appeared as an opener on the tour that found the Dutch juggernaut Epica returning to the USA. The best thing about seeing Unexpect perform again is very simply the chance to see Unexpect perform again. They are never boring in concert and as it stands I have seen most of their US visits and as result had the chance to see them on many different stages. The stage for them at B.B. King’s seemed a bit tight tonight but that was mainly because all the equipment from the other bands playing was in place. Despite this the band once again showed that they are never afraid to pull out all the stops during their set. The downside was that it would again be a short gig for a band that starts out by confusing you, catches your attention and then has you loving what they are up to during their first song. I think a lot of the audience here tonight has seen Unexpect before since I recognized some from Epica, but since this was a larger crowd than that last show there was the chance for a fair amount of them to be converted to the musical mania that is Unexpect. My hope for this band is a longer set sometime soon and perhaps some sort of live DVD release. They were well-met by the crowd tonight and they sure deserve it so I was happy to see this occur. If there is any chance that you don’t know about this band yet then I suggest you start clicking around their website to see what they are all about. If you like intelligent and creative chaos turned into your Metal music then Unexpect is quite the band for you. The Agonist was coming up next and the transition of bands was quite quick so the audience didn’t get a chance to rest too much before the next attack began.
The Agonist: Hey wait a minute, the déjà vu continued for me as The Agonist hit the stage because these guys were appearing on that same Epica show that I just mentioned. This would only be my second time seeing this band perform and I liked the chance to see them hit a different stage setting. Their brand of Melodic Metalcore is different from the likes of their peers in the genre and this is not only based on the lovely Alissa White-Gluz and the way she mixes melody and fire in her vocals but in the manner of the musical structure and intensity. I was glad to find this band different from the other new popular Metalcore group In This Moment, as their differences allow for each to be enjoyed without the listener feeling as though they have been listening to more of the same group. Gluz is a great front person and gets right in the face of the fans in attendance while the band rocks behind her. We’ve mentioned that their guitarist Danny Marino has blood in the famous Frank Marino and lucky for us shows that he is no slouch on the guitar in terms of overall technique and heavy metal delivery. The drumming is solid as is the bass work and for this kind of band they come off as quite satisfying live. It’s hard to actually find any differences in their set from the last time since I did not see the lists of either show, yet I did recognize that a lot of the same tunes were performed. This is to be expected given the group only has one album available. The CD is on Century Media Records and called “Only Once Imagined”, so please check it out when you have time. Tonight the band would go over in a mixed fashion with some of the audience loving them while others were hoping they would finish quickly but observation led me to believe that the naysayers were very simply more excited about the soon to come onstage Firewind. A band that was finally making their appearance in the USA. I once again enjoyed The Agonist and like how they are doing things on their side of the genre.
Firewind: Based on the feeling of electricity that was hitting the room just before this band took the stage I was convinced that even though this was a Sonata Arctica show that much of the audience was here for them as well. Led by Greek guitarist Gus G., the band would be in support of their latest album “Allegiance” and it’s the kind of album that all Power Metal fans would go crazy over. It’s loaded with technical guitars and fluid solos that make for an appealing slab of traditional Metal and when you add in the rock solid drumming of Mark Cross and melodic vocals of Apollo Papathanasio you have a real aural treat. Sadly this tour found Apollo unavailable, so in his place was lead singer for Metallium, Mr. Henning Basse. I’ve heard Henning before and find him a really good singer, but I was amazed that their original guy could not find himself free for their first real US tour. During their set, which was much longer than the preceding bands, all eyes seems trained on Gus G. who was not only showing how adept he was at the instrument but also in how visual he likes to be during a performance. I hadn’t much exposure to them prior to their most recent album and this show but can truly say that they offer up a tasty batch of tunes and all are catchy and merit the audience offer up their participation as they are played. The clear thing that I took from seeing Firewind as an opener here tonight was that their next visit should be nothing less than a headlining one. Given their reception from the audience I can’t imagine anything otherwise. Now it was time for Sonata Arctica.
Sonata Arctica: As we have seen over the span of their last few albums Sonata Arctica is no longer truly a Power Metal band and instead have been making strides to be a lot more Progressive and Melodic when it comes to their song composition. This is a smart move with the amount of Power Metal bands being at an all time high for it allows the band to morph and change and keep it interesting not only for their fans but for themselves as well. Such is the style that we found on their new album ‘Unia” and the set tonight would start off with two numbers from it. It was a gamble doing new material right away in the performance but no one in the audience seemed to mind. As usual lead singer Tony Kakko was singing his heart out and shaking the hands of the fans who could reach him over the photo barrier. While it might not surprise anyone to know that Tony was his normally energetic self, but having had the chance to speak with him prior to the show I had discovered that the singer was coming down with a bug of some sort and as result was really looking forward to resting after they had done their best for the New York City crowd. Based on the number of the people in the audience tonight you could tell that many of them had been fans for some time as even with the new stuff there were singing voices that at times were almost as loud as the guys on the stage.
I’ve enjoyed watching the band progress into new musical realms since it keeps them as one of the bands that you never know what they are going to come out with next. If they stick to traditional Power Metal riffs and choruses and do it over and over again there is a risk that they will be indistinguishable from other groups of this type over time and could simply lose peoples interest. Instead they change the game by doing tracks like “Under Your Tree”, a song I was sad that they did not play as it’s a pleasant ballad and shows they easily master this aspect. The new stuff was working very well in the live sense and most especially the tune “Caleb” and this is also one of the best tracks from the album anyway. It brings a very Queen like chorus to life and the guys handle it like pros. My hope is that they will walk this musical road a little more going forward as it’s quite interesting to hear them do this kind of chorus. Another interesting aspect of the bands performance tonight was the fact that keyboardist Henrik would not remain behind the standing keyboard rig to the side of the stage for too long and instead would use his portable one which allowed him to be a little bit more involved in the action that was happening.
The appearance did not come without some surprises as it was during this show that the fans in attendance would find that that one major change had happened with the role of guitar player, as long time member Jani Liimatainen was gone and according to press also no longer a part of the group. He had been replaced by Elias Viljanen and while Jani had some fans in the crowd they were not giving Elias a hard time as the musician was really doing his best and by the end of the show had seemed to win them all over. He is a good player and should be the perfect compliment to the group going forward in terms of playing so welcome aboard Elias. Jani’s last recordings with the band can also be heard of “Unia” and we wish him the best in whatever he does going forward. The rest of the set mixed up a number of the bands albums and was a bit different from that of previous visits. Sonata Arctica is not afraid to pull some surprises out of their hats for their audience and despite some favorites not making the final cut the crowd was still quite pleased.
This was a great gig for all of the bands involved and once again a show that proved why Sonata Arctica remains a favorite in the genre. I was happy to see all of the opening acts performing to a good crowd who for the most part accepted their music with open arms and more importantly, open minds. After this gig Sonata would head to Georgia for the ProgPower USA Tour where they would headline one of the nights of the festival. Make sure to check out the band on recording and in concert when you can as it’s a continually satisfying experience.
Full Unexpect Photo Gallery: https://piercingmetal.com/unexpect-live-photos-b-b-king-blues-club-9302007/
Full The Agonist Photo Gallery: https://piercingmetal.com/the-agonist-live-photos-b-b-king-blues-club-9302007/
Full Firewind Photo Gallery: https://piercingmetal.com/firewind-live-photos-b-b-king-blues-club-9302007/
Full Sonata Arctica Photo Gallery: https://piercingmetal.com/sonata-arctica-live-photos-b-b-king-blues-club-9302007/
Firewind Set List:
4. I Am The Anger
5. Destination Forever
6. Fire & the Fury
7. Till The End Of Time
8. Falling 2 Pisses
Sonata Arctica Set List:
1. Black & White
2. Paid In Full
7. Full Moon
9. Black Sheep
10. It Won’t Fade
11. Craven Image
12. San Sebastian
13. My Land
14. Don’t Say A Word
15. The Cage
Here’s a shot taken pre-show in the backstage area of keyboardist Henka and singer Tony Kakko. I always love when these guys are in town and they seem to love being here equally.