...

For the most part, metalheads accept boring lyrics. Death metal bands write about death, black metal bands about despair, power metal bands about fantasy and so on. Bands who want to focus on the music maintain lyrical genre conventions or distort the vocals so the listener can ignore what the vocalist is saying. Some bands dress up their writing with long words, but anyone with a thesaurus can write long words. When asked in interviews, songwriters are vague and incoherent about what they were actually trying to say. “Great archaic obsoletum / A prevarication / Deceitfully contrived”, goes Meshuggah’s “Nostrum”. They were apparently trying to express that religion is like “a placebo, a drug that has no actual effect”. A placebo is not a drug and often has a positive effect, which doesn’t fit with their standpoint on religion, but a series of ten-to-fifteen-letter words cover up the messy analogy. Others will pick complicated psychological or historical concepts, but then use simplistic and jarring rhymes. Dream Theater’s “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence” covers the feelings of those afflicted by Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, Schizophrenia and a number of other conditions. That’s great, who wouldn’t cringe at four consecutive lines finished with “high”, “fly”, “sky” and “by”?

It’s unfair to expect that great musicians also be great poets, especially in metal, where the music is often more than interesting enough to make up for it. That’s fine; a lot of musicians find it easier to express themselves through music than through words, which is probably part of why they became musicians in the first place. But it’s unfortunate that more bands don’t have the confidence to at least break their genre conventions. Moderately competent verses about something important to the writer are a huge improvement on those written to be ignored.

...

...

Sonata Arctica haven’t been very musically innovative since Ecliptica, their first album, but they’ve penned interesting, well-written lyrics. More importantly, they've used power metal's sound to express a range of concepts that the genre is well-suited for, but that other bands haven't tried before.

Violence is a common theme in power metal, but it’s almost always framed as heroism. The kinds of songs that will rhyme “glorious” with “victorious”. When violence appears in other metal genres, it often has all the subtlety of a ‘Saw’ movie — mutilated limbs and piles of corpses. Like the best slasher flicks, Sonata Arctica usually take the point of view of the perpetrator as well as the victim. We’re led through his thoughts and come to understand his messed-up psychology, making the effect all the more real.

The disturbed character Caleb appears several times in their discography, most prominently in “The End of this Chapter” and “Juliet”, ending with him murdering the object of his obsessive love. “Wildfire” is from the point of view of the man who was mocked and banished by his town, before watching him burn it to the ground. The power metal background makes these scenes all the more creepy — bright chords and piano melodies express the euphoria these characters are feeling as they murder and burn their former lovers and friends.

...

“The End of This Chapter”
You have new love and
It looks good on you
I have never wished you dead, yet.

You can now have all the things I could never give to you
Look out the window "c'est moi"...

...

Sonata Arctica's fell into this jaded-but-humorous vein in a similarly jaded-but-humorous fashion: after their first album, the band were criticized for writing songs that weren’t True Metal. Vocalist Tony Kakko described some of the examples of heavy metal songs he was presented with as a, “lyrical waste bucket,” but included his version of “true metal lyrics” on the opener to their second album, “Weballergy”. Inevitably, many listeners took this song seriously, and he had to explain in several interviews that he was just playing. Subsequent examples are a little harder to identify, because he doesn’t explicitly talk about them, and it would be generous to commend all of their bad lyrics as ironic. It seems pretty clear, though, that the chorus of “Victoria’s Secret” from their third album runs in a similar vein. (Naming the song after an underwear brand was perhaps an attempt to repel serious questions about it.) More recently, “Love” from Pariah’s Child with its simpering lyrics and too-obvious title seems like a jab at pop music songwriting.

...

“Weballergy”
We only have one candle
To burn down to the handle
No matter what they say
If you live like a man, You live in tales you tell

To rage and run like a fool
You need no brain, your best tool
Stay put and as they say
Live like a man, the only way you can

...

The original punk bands came from a movement of rebellion against the establishment, and the same sentiments permeated through to metal. Many lyricists rage about the political machine, or despair about it, depending on what brand of metal they’re making. But power metal’s happy energy is an interesting place for political satire. “It’s cold and we’re all snowed in; vote yes for Global Warming!” opens “Fairytale” from last year’s The Ninth Hour. Even as he's tearing the world down, it's good to be reminded to see the funny side. “Cloud Factory” opens with a father telling his wide-eyed son about his work — making clouds for the sky. Just like his father and grandfather, every day, the same thing, over and over. The cloud factory that “…fills you with conceit, and never lets you leave.” The small-town factory is the center of the song, but it’s also reminiscent of big cities, where company employees get trapped in endlessly repeating the same eight-hour day as everyone else.

...

...

Sonata Arctica have broken new ground in power metal, a genre riddled with cliches. without changing the game musically. There may not be opportunities for bands to define thrash or death metal for the first time again, but there are opportunities, through lyrics, to redefine those genres to express new things.

—James Neve

...