Tribute albums are a tricky beast to analyse at the best of times, with the question of ‘why even bother’ commissioning a collection of cover versions in thrall to one artist rearing its head all too often. After all, if a band sticks rigidly to the original formula it can result in an exercise in monotony and if they veer too far from the source they risk devaluing the original; a tricky balancing act to master.
Ouergh Records took on this unenviable task last year when launching a tribute to power metal heroes Sonata Arctica and they bravely assembled a diverse mix of artists to try and do justice to Sonata’s sweeping splendour. Primarily drawing from Sonata Arctica’s early works, a broad range of songs were chosen reflecting the sheer dynamism of melodic metal delivered by these Finnish favourites over the years.
Sonata Arctica’s operatic grandeur lends itself to female vocalists and Stream Of Passion deliver “I Have A Right” with, strangely enough, more grit than the original. Admittedly, Sonata’s melodic power metal is not meant to be delivered in an overly macho way but there’s an added heft and heaviness that really works here. Furthermore, Dyscordia’s added death growls scattered among the more faithful riffing of Sonata’s original “My Land” adds a hefty dose of brutality. As a contrast, Xandria’s “Don’t Say A Word” is suitably operatic, over the top and charged with more theatrical decadence than thought humanly impossible while Swedish heroes Coldspell offer an acoustic rendition of the ever-popular “Letter To Dana” resulting in a simply beautiful rendition of an already powerful song.
Ironically, it’s the bonus tracks that leave the greatest impression; Abandoned Stars faithful adaptation of “San Sebastien”, Disposable’s fun and frantic thrash re-working of “8th Commandment” and Xeno’s hardcore-flecked stomp through the classic “Wildfire” offering truly twisted amalgamations of Sonata’s original songs.
At it’s core, this tribute represents the very best of what these power metal giants have to offer, a worthwhile enterprise delivering a surprising array of results. Time well spent then. 7/10