Whilst I really wasn't totally blown away by Stones Grow Her Name on the flip side Pariah's Child was one of the later Sonata Arctica release that I sure did like. As a fan since their 1999 debut Sonata Arctica are one band that keep you guessing as to what's coming next since the shift in direction with release of Unia. Despite those favourable thoughts of their last album I was still apprehensive when delving into The Ninth Hour which is also their ninth album. The first comment that I will make is that you could easily dismiss this album without giving it enough time. With multiple themes The Ninth Hour is another shifting/unpredictable ride with mixed emotions and yet despite this there's still no mistaking that Sonata Arctica sound.
Although The Ninth Hour isn't without lively numbers the band incorporates more than music of the power metal kind, although there are some tracks on The Ninth Hour that certainly meet that classification. That being said I really don't mind the lighter or slower side of this group, and some of my favourite Sonata Artica tracks aren't just limited to those rapid tracks. Vocalist Tony Kakko is a key part of that attraction with such an engaging/adaptable style closely followed by the keyboard and guitar component.
"Closer To An Animal" is up first and the more time I spend listening to this song despite my initial reservations the appeal continues to grow. I really like the music but my issue is it just sounds flat at times on the vocal front which tends to put a dampener on proceedings. Thankfully I don't have any such problems with the following tracks "Life" and its uplifting chorus and the lively "Fairytale". "We Are What We Are" has the lighter side of Sonata Arctica on show and whilst it starts out peacefully the animated metal of Sonata Arctica soon appears on "Till Death's Done Us Apart". "Among The Shooting Star" is a clear standout, this moving track is the one that I keep returning to as it really is such a great song. "Rise A Night" is for fans of that classic Sonata Arctica prompt power metal, and there are other times elsewhere that I am reminded of earlier Sonata Arctica. "White Pearl, Black Oceans Part II – "By The Grace Of The Ocean" is the longest track and one that many will be eager to hear given how engaging the original song that appeared on Reckoning Night is, and although this new track doesn't rise to same heights it is still very good.
Whilst The Ninth Hour is a step up from Stones Grow Her Name it doesn't quite hit the mark enough like its predecessor Pariah's Child, but despite this there are enough positives to ensure that I'll still be listening.
1. Closer To An Animal
4. We Are What We Are
5. Till Death's Done Us Apart
6. Among The Shooting Stars
7. Rise A Night
8. Fly, Navigate, Communicate
9. Candle Lawns
10. White Pearl, Black Oceans Part II – "By The Grace Of The Ocean"
11. On The Faultline (Closure To An Animal)