Release Date: 21/01/22
Record Label: Atomic Fire
For Fans Of: Helloween, Hammerfall, Frank Turner
Well, this one’s a very pleasant surprise. Acoustic albums aren’t always the most exciting; most of the time they come burdened with a glaringly obvious ‘contract obligation’ subtext and feel more like placeholders than essential purchases. It’s refreshing then to say that Acoustic Adventures Volume One isn’t like that, it’s really good.
Stripped of their power metal bombast, Sonata Arctica are a far more sombre and poetic band. Their usual headbanging is replaced by laidback introspection and it becomes clear just how skilled they are at writing songs. This record is more suited to lazily drifting down the Italian coastline than crowd-surfing in a dingy venue and it’s a quiet triumph.
It kicks off with ‘The Rest Of The Sun Belongs To Me,’ a track that originally appeared on the Japanese edition of the Winterheart’s Guild album. It lands with the delicate touch of a feather; the turbocharged anthem is transformed into a honey-sweet ballad that works remarkably well. It’s followed by the fragile beauty of ‘For The Sake Of Revenge,’ an emotive and involving song. These two make for a very strong opening and each is an interesting counterpoint to the amplified originals.
There is a slight misstep in ‘A Little Less Understanding,’ which accidentally winds up sounding like the theme to a whimsical adventure series shown on Sunday morning children’s TV, possibly involving a heroic dog. They regain their form on ‘Alone In Heaven’ though and from there, the album thrives. The influence of classical music is more obvious without the power chords thundering constantly and some of these tracks could even be considered superior to their original versions; ‘Don’t Say A Word’ for instance is beautiful and the guitar melodies take on an eerie tone that wasn’t present on the original.
Acoustic Adventures Volume One isn’t perfect of course, but it is a rarity in that it isn’t just for metalheads. The likes of ‘Tallulah’ and ‘As If The World Wasn’t Ending’ could appeal to Frank Turner fans as much as their usual audience and you could even play it at a family gathering without upsetting the in-laws. It’s only on ‘Wolf & Raven’ that you get even a hint of their metallic origins and appropriately, they sound like they’re having loads of fun playing it.
It is admittedly a bit too long, it goes on for an hour and marginally outstays its welcome. For the most part though, Acoustic Adventures Volume One is great. In fact, it’s strong enough that if Sonata Arctica decide to settle into a comfortable middle age and only play “power-cut metal” from now on, we’ll have no complaints.