Finland's Altaria made a name for themselves when former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen joined them, releasing a couple of albums which heavily drew on the Sonata Arctica sound, but since Liimatainen's exit, they have tried to remove themselves from the fast double-bass-driven power metal to a more midtempo sound. The use of keyboards has significantly decreased, though it still exists to add an extra dimension to the music.
The vocals of Taage Laiho mimic that of the high-pitched power metallers', but he also makes use of his midrange. Unfortunately, some of the lyrics sung in the choruses are truly embarrassing, even by power metal standards. The oft-repeated main chorus of "Valley of Rainbows" makes it a hard listen, not only do the lyrics go nowhere, they are also hard to understand. Secondly the harmonies don't stand out much due to the less than average production. Forming member Tony Smedjebacka's drums certainly deserve a fuller and more powerful sound -- and the twin guitar harmonies of earlier albums have taken
a back seat. Also, the power ballads of the band are weaker and more derivative than ever. "Frozen Hearts" is terribly 80's pop-rock sounding save for its distorted twin guitars while the syrupy melodic opening of "The Lion" is totally hilarious given the song actually addresses the "king of the jungle". So much for interesting subject matter. The European version of the CD comes with the bonus track "The Dying Flame", which sounds like a leftover from their previous sessions with Liimatainen. Heavy with synth melodies and
a nice guitar crescendo, it is obvious Altaria owe much of their sound to this guy. Even though merely a ballad, because of its acoustic arrangement and string attachment, it has a stronger staying power. The inclusion of slightly folky vocal lines, the duel between keys and guitars, and the anthemic melodies make for a far more interesting experience than the rest of the album.
Altaria is nothing to write home about. Just another power metal band that still needs to carve their own niche in an oversaturated genre.
- Valley of Rainbows
- Abyss of Twilight
- Frozen Hearts
- The Lion
- Outlaw Blood
- Chosen One
- Acess Denied
- The Dying Flame