Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sonata Arctica - Live at the Islington Academy

Would you believe I have managed to avoid seeing the Finnish masters of melodic metal in all my gig going days. Not that I haven't had chances but I've sort of fallen out of love with the band over the years. I loved their first two albums religiously and have liked many songs here and there since but they've never fully been able to capture the magic of those first two albums by my reckoning.

Any how not to see them live again would be churlish on my part and so I nabbed a ticket for this gig and the support bands Freedom Call and Twilight Force swayed me further still in to thinking this would be a cool night. Good job too as the gig ended up selling out completely. Must be close to 800 or so punters in the end. I managed to get fairly close to the stage on one side but unfortunately standing behind a tall guy didn't help things one iota when it came to capturing decent photos or videos.

Twilight Force were up first and I must admit I was looking forward to seeing these guys the most. Their album is super cheesy but I'm up for that kinda OTT power metal mayhem any day of the week. The band took to the stage in full medieval garb with the two guitarists even going with the Ninja style face cover and even Elvish fake horns! If you're gonna do cheese you might as well do it proper justice and Twilight Force do that and then some. Good job they've got the songs to back it up as well. They had a crystal clear mix as well but the bass was a little loud for my taste at the expense of the guitars and was making my rib cage rattle.

The vocal mix was one of the best I have ever heard at a gig. The lead singer's voice rang loud and clear and his highs were perfectly delivered. They only played 30 minutes including a new song but their album is only a little bit longer in any case so they basically played everything they've got. I was surprised how many of the audience seemed to know their songs and they got an amazing reception from the early packed crowd. The "Twilight Force!!" chants soon started up in between songs and with their final song the band left to huge cheers. These guys are going places in the world of power metal let me tell ya!

Next up were Freedom Call who are celebrating 666 weeks since the release of the Eternity album. I think you're clutching at straws a bit when you've come up with such a milestone but heck they're here to play and have fun so who am I to complain. They played most of the songs from that album but no new songs that I recall. Considering I reckon their latest album is their best ever that's a bit of a shame. Still they always get a good response do the FC lads and this time was no exception. They played with smiles and left to cheers though I'm thinking the crowd was definitely here for the main act Sonata Arctica.

Now I know Tony Kakko's mob are very popular indeed but I was a little surprised how popular they really are these days. They're not releasing their best material yet their fan base is huge and this gig was easily sold out and they could have probably sold out a venue twice as big is my bold guess. This is billed as Ecliptica over Europe tour or some such name, as basically it's a 15 year celebration of the release of their debut and still best album in my humble opinion. They would of course be playing the album in it's entirety over the course of a 90 minute set with a two song build up and a longer encore with newer songs.

The band had easily the best sound of the night with everything balanced perfectly and Tony's vocals wonderfully balanced right at the centre of the mix where they should be I must admit I wasn't expecting his live vocals to be that good but he really surpassed himself and sounded superb all night, never missing a note. Plenty of in between song banter as well and possibly too much sometimes lol. The whole of the Ecliptica album was played from start to finish and sounded perfect to be honest and pretty much exactly like the album. They got a huge response from the crowd with literally almost every one singing the lyrics back at Tony. There's almost some sort of adulation within the power metal community for this band and they are much loved it seems. I knew they were a well loved band but this was more than that with the amount of love being poured from the crowd to the band. I loved Blank File and My Land, Destruction Preventer later was great. Letter to Dana got the biggest sing along of the night as did my favourite song Replica.

The set ended with some newer songs and the great Don't Say a Word from a couple of albums back. The huge and tightly packed crowd loved every minute and left well happy. I am glad I've finally broken my Sonata-less gig count although I'd probably not go and see them again unless they were part of a really cool bill or something.

Can-Can Jaakolla
White Pearl, Black Oceans...
X Marks the Spot
Blank File
My Land
8th Commandment
Kingdom for a Heart
Letter to Dana
Picturing the Past
Destruction Preventer
The Wolves Die Young
Don't Say a Word
(with Vodka outro)

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