Sonata Arctica/Borealis @ The Music Hall, London ON, Oct 15, 2009

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Review and photos by Adam Wills

Sonata Arctica’s last visit to London, ON came almost two years ago, as the Finns were greeted with one of the worst snow storms of the year. They had problems getting to the venue, the turnout suffered – a generally poor experience with everyone involved (except for the few that were there – I was not one of them, staying safely at home for the evening). When I started the drive up, I saw my first snow flakes of the season, and immediately thought “Not again….”

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However, the snow quickly disappeared, and I entered a fairly packed venue (The Music Hall – my first time attending), and was immediately surprised by the enthusiasm of the crowd. As local openers Battlesoul took the stage, the crowd pushed forward, with the attention and delight that is usually reserved for the headliners. The four piece celtic folk metal band powered through a great set, consisting of the usual folk metal that seems to be popping up everywhere nowadays, and the home crowd couldn’t seem to get enough.

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When I asked about Borealis, having never heard them before, I was told that they were one of the few local Ontario bands that actually lived up to a lot of the hype that they received. Within minutes, I couldn’t argue at all. Coming from the school of progressive power metal a la Masterplan, and led by masterful guitar player/vocalist Matt Marinelli, Borealis put on a headline worthy performance. Having recently signed with a booking management company to help take the next step, the band has all the tools needed to succeed – great talent, songwriting, and most importantly, the ability to put on a great live performance. Look out for these guys, and check them out if you get a chance.

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Having recently played a shortened set in Toronto under Dragonforce, Sonata Arctica returned to play an exclusive headlining show – the only one on their current North American tour. With their recent release of The Days of Grays, new songs were the main focus of the evening. TDoG continues in the direction that Unia started – gone are the galloping riffs, and the sing-along choruses, but if anyone was expecting those, they’ve been out of touch with the band for awhile now.

Starting off with cuts from the new era of the band, opener “Paid in Full”, new single “Flag in the Ground”, “Caleb” and “The Last Amazing Grays”, the band then pulled one of their early gems from the classic Ecliptica album – always the crowd favourite “Full Moon”. As frontman Tony Kakko looked to pull a quick one on the crowd in beginning the song with lyrics from Bonnie Tyler’s “Turn Around” (as he did in the Toronto show), the crowd beat him to the punch, and began the original lyrics, leaving Kakko no choice but to chuckle and continue the song as is.

Another selection from TDoG, the ballad-esque “As If The World Wasn’t Ending” followed, filled with Kakko’s signature emotional vocals, then immediately changed pace into the blistering “8th Commandment”, another crowd favourite, and one of my personal picks, “Last Drop Falls.” The epic “White Pearl, Black Oceans”, “Juliet”, and usual closer “The Cage” filled out the rest of the set.

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Sonata fans have become accustomed to the usual encore antics – this time Kakko turned the audience into a drum machine, and eventually churned out a few bars of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” before breaking into Unia’s “In Black and White”, and “Don’t Say a Word”.

Although Sonata’s style has shifted considerably over the years, their live performance still remains as strong as ever. A great turnout, probably reaching upwards of 300, the crowd in London was one of the most enthusiastic audiences I have seen in ages. Between the solid openers, a great headliner and a passionate crowd, this was a Sonata show to remember for a lot more than the weather.

More photos from this show to be presented next week.

All photos are the copyright of both Adam Wills and Hellbound.ca. Please do not use without the written consent of both parties.

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.