Saturday, September 20, 2014

Metal for Mom & Dad - Sonata Arctica & Guests Sept 21

If you should find yourself looking for something to do tomorrow night, you could always sneak downtown after supper with the missus and I for some cocktails and egregiously loud music.

One of my favourite power metal bands, Finland's Sonata Arctica, are playing The Starlite Room, which is a bit unfortunate, since it is an 18+ show and the household's second-biggest fan is Fenya.  I'm far too button-down to risk trying to sneak her in, but hopefully I can at least get her a t-shirt.

Metal has turned out to be a pretty comprehensive genre; in fact, with the possible exception of 'jazz', I have a hard time thinking of a musical style as diverse or as fractured as the motley parade that falls under the metal banner.  Which is a good thing, because even though it's a big pie, there's a lot of toppings I am not interested in.

Being a fan of melody and harmony from way back, I just don't have a lot of interest in the emotive growling and screaming from a lot of the major players in modern metal.  I don't know whether it is just the cyclical trends of musical tastes, but if you order a heavy metal pizza, someone like me has to be prepared to pick off a lot of death-growl anchovies.  Or maybe it's the other way around, and my enjoyment of of keyboards and clear, powerful vocals makes me the anchovy lover?  Either way, the pie is big enough that we can all come away happy.

Power metal also employs some symphonic and cinematic flourishes in its music that I appreciate, and Sonata Arctica takes full advantage of this.  In fact, the video for The Wolves Die Young, the lead off single from their latest album Pariah's Child, looks like a direct-to-video knock off of Game of Thrones, and the lyrical content does nothing to dissuade this.

I'll level with you though; in a perfect world I would have gone to see SA two years ago, when they toured in support of The Days of Grays, my favourite of their albums.  It's always the way isn't it?

Still, lead singer and cheif songwriter Tony Kakko still brings a tremendous voice, resonant and powerful, as well as a variety of song styles that remind me of nothing so much as latter day Queen with slightly thrashier guitars.  They can even rock out a decent power ballad:

Now, opening acts for these types of shows can be a real mixed bag, but I've been astonishingly lucky at least once before, and I am optimistic about tomorrow's openers as well.

Delain is a symphonic metal outfit from Holland with a female lead singer, which can be a great juxtaposition with the right people in the right places.  They toook their name from a kingdom in the Stephen King fantasy story, "The Eyes of the Dragon."  The video for their track Stardust is powerful but easy to listen to, and has some very decent visuals to boot.

The other unknown is Xandria, another symphonic metal group with a female vocalist, this time from Germany.  They seem to have all the elements I like; drama vocals, keyboards, percussive guitars, but they are currently working with their fifth lead singer, so maybe they are better to listen to than play with?  Who knows.

Power metal is sometimes derided by the wider heavy-music community as 'happy metal', which strikes me as a little odd.  Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for every emotion in music, especially anger, but hey, who doesn't want to be happy once in a while?

Anyhow, if you are so inclined, the show is at the Starlite Room, doors open at 7:00.  I apologize in advance for telling everyone to speak up when they talk to me on Monday!

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