@Planetmosh reviews @SonataArctica’s #Pariah’sChild released through @Nuclearblasteu and @Nuclearblastusa.
Their eight studio album ‘Pariah’s Child is due to be released in the UK tomorrow and with only a slight wolfish growl ‘The Wolves Die Young’ kicks off the album with a gentle, hopeful symphonic instrumental, that introduces an 80’s sound. I could be wrong but it reminds me of ‘Take On Me’ by Ah Ha. It doesn’t have the intensity that many first songs can have, but it is a very easy song to listen to and it’s pretty. Yes I said pretty – I’m not saying it all hearts and flowers but the melody retains that hopefully nature, giving it a fantasy edge. If I’m being completely honest hardly paid attention to the lyrics in this song, but was more than happy to just the whole effect wash over me. Normally I can take a while when reviewing to sit and get into the first song, but this one was as easy to gets to get into.
‘Running Lights’ is a whole different kettle of fish with the speeding drums and what sounds like fast cars, though it does retain that 80’s feel, which I quite like. There’s an interesting awkwardness to this song with the vocals sounding like they are being fitted in for the first time in parts and so end up sounding hesitant and against the rhythm. Overall the vocal are more alert and with the consistently fast rhythm, ‘Running Lights’ maintains a harder edge than it’s predecessor, though there is still the gentle melodies thrown in, giving it an easy progression towards the later songs.
‘Take One Breath’ has a piano and harp beginning that can only be described as skippy due to the sheer upbeat nature and child-like sound applied….it’s interesting (and I like it). Here again you get an example of clashes and combinations as very soon you’re given a harder edge and the hardest vocal effect on the album so far. The rhythms are determined and mature, and then very suddenly pull back; and become gentle with much less background melody and sound. This is a definite mixed bag
Even as I’m still thinking about the previous song, ‘Cloud Factory’ sneaks up on you and extremely quickly you feel that you’re already in the middle of it. Again there’s the hopeful keys in the background popping up every now and then to keep the them going, but very much staying in the background. This song is a bit hard to define as it just carries you along with the pace of the guitar riffs and to be honest I’m just happy to be carried along. At around 3 minutes you’re pulled out of the reverie by Tony Kakko throwing in some sudden and cheeky high notes which are another example of the light hearted sound of the album. Though the very end of the song is crackly and brings a definite change to the mood; a sinister edge if you like.
Which links nicely into ’Blood’ which begins with the sound of wolves howling and the clunky playing of keys, which sounds almost like someone playing a old out of tune abandoned piano (if you ignore the change tone to an obvious synth sound later). There is a slight sinister edge to the song, a hint really as it’s not openly dark but the introduction, lyrics and vocals each hint at this. There are also additional vocals in the form of a voice over providing and explanation of blood as if from some kind of educational video.
‘What Did You Do In The War, Dad’ is an interesting song title and provides an innocent sounding music box introduction, that leads into faster synth and drums; symbolising the two roles of father and child, which is continued in the ‘child’s’ questions and then contrasts with the ‘father’s’ answers (combined with more mature vocals). It does bring the mood down somewhat and is very sympathetically done with the innocent melodies and gentle vocals mingled with the more mature, slightly harder ‘parent’ vocals’.
I’m almost not sure what to make of ‘Half A Marathon Man’ except that here comes another curveball. Again there’s a long introduction, which with the use of pipes and simple drums is both stirring and relaxed, building up to the main section of the song that brings back the late 80’s/early 90’s sound. It’s simple and effective, as well as being a great rhythm and sound for well, running. (If you’re already preparing for the summer months, then shove it on your music player and get moving.) The rhythm and lyrics are easy to get into your head and the repetition (such as ‘it’s a beautiful day’ on long repeat) and simplicity is another example of how easy this album is to listen to and like. I’m genuinely surprised. Not that I didn’t think they could produce an album I liked, more how well the songs are crafted and in a way seemed to have been designed to get into your head, as if they have a secret map into your brain.
‘X Marks The Spot’ has a more straightforward darker lean to it, using a narrower field of notes to form a melody that pushes forward determinedly, as if riding towards something. It also delivers a spoken introduction which is both well placed and amusing. Especially when it pops up again throughout the song; turning into the sound of preaching, with organs in support. It’s a bit bizarre to be honest, but it’s certainly entertaining.
This is followed by ‘Love’ which is a bit of an odd choice to have a ballad after ‘X Marks The Spot’, but this album does that; it throws new or opposing elements at you throughout, either subtly and combined, or in open opposition as in now. They make use again of simplicity in rhythm, melody and tone. It’s simple and honest and it is what it is. Which I realise may sound very unhelpful a description, but this song doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is; a gentle, stirring ballad, and another example of the variances in this album, and though you notice these changes, you’re quickly caught up in them as they wash over you. Crafty, very crafty.
‘Larger Than Life’ brings the album to a close and it follows its predecessor beautifully, again with gentle, simple melody. Piano sounds begin and are built into something much larger through the building of stings, which are then taken back to keys (though this is later mixed with drums and guitars, but to replicate the introductions building nature not to take the fore). From the title I was expecting a giant of a song to end the album and though it has build and life, and open conflicts going on in the melody and vocals (as if fighting with himself within his own mind) and definitely builds to something much larger than how it began, I would have personally loved to have more of the retro sound back again to end as they do it so well. Having said that this song as it goes on sounds as if you’re watching a play or movie at full speed; the melodies and rhymes sound as if they are taking you through various scenes towards the end of a story.
This is such a crafted album, and I cannot tell if this was by focused design or a natural occurrence, whether each element was carefully selected to build each section of every song, specifically to connect with the listener. Or whether it is as honest as some of the songs; a mere natural occurrence where all the various elements just came together as they should. Either way as I have said before this is a very easy album to listen to and an enjoyable one. There are also so many surprises within it, both obvious ones and those you need to tune your ear to gain the full breath of variances and elements hidden within. When you think you have the measure of the songs, there’s another change, another element, and another, and another. If you select each song/element they can appear to be confused in their opposition of each other, and in parts they are, but again on listening I’m convinced these are exactly as they should be.
This album challenges you throughout, from the very first note to the very last, you’re never quite sure where you are in the ever changing landscape…and yet it is also very easy to listen to. As well as being challenging it is also the opposite in the way you’re ears are relaxed to just listen and accept as if it really does know the path into your brain. As I mentioned before, crafty, very crafty.
- The Wolves Die Young
- Running Lights
- Take One Breath
- Cloud Factory
- What Did You Do In The War, Dad
- Half A Marathon Man
- X Marks The Spot
- Larger Than Life