Sonata Arctica can scare the hell out of you with their uncommonly deep musical talent and their uncomfortably creepy subject matter. Boasting an average age of 22 years, these five Finns defy their youth by creating more dynamic, mature and melodic power metal than musicians twice their age. I can't imagine how these guys will sound after four or five albums. If that's not a scary enough prospect, listen to "The End of This Chapter," which begins with a phone conversation between a terrified young woman and some fiend who sounds like Hannibal Lecter. A lone piano serves as a backdrop to the heavily accented voice of singer Tony Kakko until a death metal growl kicks the disturbing song about coveted love into a heavy groove punctuated with an irresistible build-up and catchy harmonies.
More complex than Sonata Arctica's full-length 2000 debut, Ecliptica, Silence probes all sorts of progressive-metal terrain. Machine-gun drums and dancing keyboards swirl amid introspective passages, spoken-word sections and rousing "hey-heys." Fans of the band's Successor EP should note that Silence also contains "San Sebastian (revisited)," presented in dramatically faster fashion.
Whereas Ecliptica was immediately accessible, even to casual prog-metal fans, Silence takes several spins to firmly grasp the extent of its beauty. But once it sinks in, there will be little argument that Sonata Arctica is among Europe's top metal bands - power or otherwise - and I daresay their music deserves a slot on any metal aficionado's CD shelves.