Monday, November 1, 2010

Beer and Metal - Part 1

If you know me, you know I'm at my happiest when beer and metal meet for a glorious, almost religious experience.  My good friend (and best man at my wedding) Paul and I regularly meet up at my apartment for copious beverages and hymns to battle and steel.  The only requirement for this is that both the beer, and the metal must be up to our high standards.  Frankly, my standards for beer varies very wildly depending on the situation.  When worshiping at the altar of manliness and masculinity that metal is, however, only beer of quality shall do.


Anyways, it's a lazy Sunday here, my wife is out delivering freshly baked treats to friends and family, and I'm at home alone, watching my team eat a black and orange striped penis (to be fair, it's a close game), so I figured I would do a twofer today.  A beer review, and a metal review.  The album to be reviewed today was requested by my loving wife, and I will happily oblige.

 Dundee India Pale Ale & Sonata Arctica - Silence (2001)

So, let's start with the brew, shall we.  This is Dundee's IPA, which I recieved from their winter craft pack.  Weighing in at 6.3% abv, it's a pretty drinkable entry into the IPA world.  Honestly, rather par for the course as far as this style goes.  Sadly, I've been subjected to a few IPAs lately that just crush this one, namely Great Divide's Titan IPA and Flying Dog's entry as well.  Still, one of the most important factors in a beer for me is deliciousness for the dollars spent.  Dundee's craft pack is right around 25 bucks, which heavily undercuts the heftier price points of the other two.  So, if you are in a jam for an IPA but don't want to break your bank, you could certainly do worse.  I would say that the drinkability of this beer is it's greatest strength.  So many IPAs are just so juiced these days that once you have a few you are stumbling to bed.  This one is bold, but still reasonably sessionable.  Decent.  


Also, as a quick reviews note, I will judge metal albums on a scale of 10, and beer on a scale of 5.  Why you ask?  Well, because I feel more comfortable judging the intricacies of an album than I do a beer.  That's really all there is to it.  Beer is much more of a "I either like it or don't" kind of thing for me than music, which I tend to be a bit more critical of. 

So how about onto the metal then?  Sonata Arctica's Silence was the first album I ever purchased by the band.  I believe I actually bought it right around release, I know it was during either my junior or senior year of highs school.  I had actually heard them a year or so before thanks to some guy in an AOL chat room that was pimping the band.  He told me to check out "Blank File" from their previous album Ecliptica.  I downloaded it and was absolutely amazed.  This was still in my "holy god, i can't believe this kind of music exists" stage, so I was floored.  Never got a chance to own an album by them until I saw Silence at Media Play a year or so later. 

I actually purchased Silence along with Children of Bodom's Hatebreeder.  Initially, CoB was the more popular band in my circle of friends.  Back then, CoB were pretty fresh, and frankly they just seemed "cooler" to all the 16 year olds out there.  They sang about death and destruction, they screamed, and they were in general more aggressive.  Now, fast forward 10 years and CoB are a complete joke band, now playing some sort of death/party/chuggachugga hybrid while Sonata are still releasing shimmering, glorious melodic metal.  Not only that, the once godlike Hatebreeder gets demolished by no less than 4 Sonata albums.  Why exactly am I comparing the two?  Maybe to show that good songwriting and hooks will always prevail over some folks' childish tendencies to judge their music based on superficial things such as "aggressiveness".

I'm pretty sure most metalheads that listen to Sonata Arctica aren't in denial about the kind of music they play.  They play a super melodic, melodramatic style of metal, complete with soaring vocals and blazing synth leads and hooks.  Double-kick drums blast at the speed of light at almost all times, except when they decide to go all Journey on your ass and play one of their (usually) very well crafted ballads.  I love this band, and you should too.  Tony Kakko's voice is completely stellar and impossible to duplicate.  Hard to find a more emotive singer.

To the album!
1.  ... Of Silence:  The obligatory intro track.  Just a wee piano melody with an old dude talking over it.  It's an intro track, but thanks to the piano melody, it does a decent enough job of conveying the icy mood that the album will establish.

2.  Weballergy:  Pronounced "Web Allergy", much to my surprise.  Anyways, as I've stated before, I love a nice barn-burner to start off an album.  This song is absolutely fantastic and made a great second impression on me after Blank File blew my face off.  Wonderful melodic hooks, and blazing speed.  Can't ask for more.

3.  False News Travels Fast:  What begins with a short key intro blasts into another high speed cruiser.  Not quite the double-kick assault  as what comes before it, but it still fits it in for well over 50% of the song.  Love it.  I'd say this song is even better than Weballergy though, as the chorus is just absurdly memorable and shines like a blade in the darkness, cutting down foes of melodic glory across the land of metaldom.

4.  The End of this Chapter:  SA be goin' Journey on everyone, hide your mom, hide your kids.  Sort of like a very epic, heavy Journey song.  Clean pianos all over the place, some reasonable mid paced asskickery in the middle to keep things interesting.  

5.  Black Sheep:  Somewhere between a fast and mid-paced tune is this one.  Guitars and keys fly all over this one, accompanied by harmony vocals  that twist and swirl at every turn.  Short, and sweet.

6.  Land of the Free:  From slow to fast.  A cliche of sorts in the world of metal, but SA manage to make it work very, very nicely.  In case you haven't noticed, this album seems to have nothing but great songs.  Ain't that great?  :)  Fretboard burning solos and... uh, keyboard burning solos precede one of the more interesting bridges in the album, complete with gang vocal chanting!  Great stuff.  

7.  Last Drop Falls:  Grab your lady friend (or man friend) and head out to the dance floor for the obligatory slow waltz.  A well done slow number, with great performances from the whole band.  Granted, it won't kick you in the balls like the more upbeat songs on here, but it can be nice to take a break from the headbanging for a few minutes... I suppose.

8.  San Sebastian:  I hope you enjoyed your break, now commence headbanging.  Right up there with Weballergy in terms of speed, but leagues ahead in terms of melody and hookiness, this is a favorite among Sonata's fanbase.  This is actually a re-recording of the same song from their previous EP, and it sounds MUCH better on here.  A classic.

9.  Sing in Silence:  Mid paced rocker, and what can I say, just more melodic goodness to be had.  This band is just so outrageously good at writing hooks and memorable lines that it scares me.  SCARES ME.

10.  Revontulet:  Short instrumental piece, and a rather progressive romp at that.  Odd time signatures and wild riffs abound.  Definitely the one time on the album that the band lets loose and just goes completely ape-shit in terms of songwriting.  Definitely meant to be a fun little diversion as we wind down towards the end of the album.

11.  Talulah:   Yet another ballad.  I generally wouldn't stand for this many slower songs on an album, but SA do a decent enough job on this one, too.  I would probably say this is the weakest one on the album, if for no reason that it's a bit too long.  Still, I don't reach for the skip button when it rears it's somewhat sappy head.

12.  Wolf and Raven:  Probably the fastest, and most blistering song on the album.  And what is this?  Tony seems to sound urgent, almost pissed off during this one.  It suits him nicely, frankly.  Just an overall sense of urgency jumps out from the speakers as this one blasts.  Definitely a Stratovarius-like number, but better than Strato ever managed to pull off.  Another classic.

13.  The Power of One:  The epic of the album, clocking in at over 11 minutes.  Tons of time changes, twists and turns, which vary from slow to maddening speed.  Great, great solo work in this song in particular.  Maybe a bit long, but it's never particularly unbearable.  And that old dude from the intro is back!  A nice way to end this one.

So what we have here is one of the reasons I consider power metal to be my bread and butter.  It's so gloriously melodic, with enough speed and hooks to keep you reaching for it even when other bands quickly overstay their welcome.  Metal that isn't afraid to be unashamedly boistrous, and even a little romantic (as silly as that sounds).  It's also a spectacular gateway album for non-metalheads.  The hookiness and melodic nature of this band leads it to appeal to folks with open minds.  


1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for reviewing one of my favorite albums :) You're so good at writing! You write as though I'm actually having a convo with you :) Makes me happy!