"Pariah's Child", was a neat little record that had its moments, but there was certainly something that filled my heart with hope for this album. The band has delivered some mixed results in later years, so deep down, I knew that everything could happen, but still, cheerful as ever, I pushed play and let "The Ninth Hour" wash over me.
So what is the first wave that hits me? A nostalgic sense of the late 80's/early 90's in form of "Close To An Animal". There is something about that twinkling Klingenberg keyboard that just oozes of nostalgia, something my parents would put on in my younger years. That has always been a thing with the band, they can create some great music, but also some odd things that makes it really cheesy and awkward. While it works nicely here, it goes the wrong way on the following song, "Life", an uplifting song where the lyrics are full fondue like. "Life is better alive"? No shit Sherlock! Life would be pretty shitty if you were dead, did you also find out that water is wet?
The cheesiness aside, the start to the album is very uplifting, making me happy and maybe also a little high. It feels wrong to go "La la la", but at the same time, so right. "Fairytale" continues on that track, a corny song that is just what the name suggests, a fairytale, but the music is nice, some cool power metal techniques are used, making it worth while. Sonata Arctica truly knows how to take out your corny side.
But eventually, the cheese just becomes too much, and while all of the music in "The Ninth Hour" is more or less on the bright side, it just gets too much for me. Remember that I said that the latest Twilight Force album "Heroes of Mighty Magic" was like Disney metal? Well, this could also be counted as that, but I would rather describe it as story metal, something the Grimm brothers or Hans Christian Andersen would create if they were around today. It just works so well in that type of environment, especially the song "Till Death's Done Us Apart" that literally is a fairytale.
While the album does have a lot of the same themes throughout, it is not a true concept album, which I initially thought when listening to it. I am actually kind of bummed out that this is not a true concept album, because even if I think that I would not have enjoyed it, it still would have been cool to see the band attempt it. It really felt like they had a well thought out and grand idea here, but it was just a small one.
The overall quality is not spectacular, but it is good enough. Most songs are just not sticking to me, but I do give in to some of them after some listens, making "The Ninth Hour" an album that holds up quite well over time. The music is an expected continuation of what we were offered with in "Pariah's Child", more old school Sonata Arctica, and less of the progressive version (it is still there, just in a small dose). Songs like "Fly, Navigate, Communicate" and "Rise A Night" could have easily be in "Reckoning Night" with their rough edge attitude.
The band does their parts in a good way, as always. Tony Kakko knows how to bring out the right emotions from his vocals, the riffs may not be memorable, but Viljanen makes them fit nicely in the songs, and Kauppinen and Portimo handles the rhythmic sections with great honor. Just a swell performance overall, just what you would expects from these veterans.
In the end, I am kind of torn apart. "The Ninth Hour" is certainly not a bad album, it has some nice work here that shows the band's quality and experience, but at the same time, the lyrics and the whole theme is just so god damn cutesy that it is close to cringe worthy. This H.C. Andersen metal is not something I would want to listen to every day, but it might work as a good closure to the day, just laying in bed and letting your imagination run wild and free. It certainly is a nice experience, an album that stands out, but its flaws keeps it from being complete brilliance. Oh well, all is well that ends well. The end.
Songs worthy of recognition: "Fly, Navigate, Communicate", Closer To An Animal, Rise A Night
Rating: 7/10 Fairytales
More reviews of Sonata Arctica