Jori : The Finnish band Arion, not to be confused with a rather well-known Dutch prog project, made quite an impression in their own country and in Japan with their debut album. For album number two the band therefore signed a deal with the large label AFM records, which means that things could shift to a completely new and larger scale for the band. This makes ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ the album that Arion should prove themselves with to the European power metal crowds, and that is not a focus group that has to complain about scarcity on the entertainment market!
Arion makes typical power metal by the Finnish school, so bands like Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica are clear influences in the rich music of this young band. After the intro ‘End Of The Ball’ it is ‘No One Stands In My Way’ that kicks off the album and the influences of Stratovarius are undeniable here. Singer Viljami Holopainen (according to the Metal archives not related to the Nightwish keyboardist or the Amorphis guitarist) grasps the attention right away with his powerful and yet melodic voice. This fantastic song sets a high standard for the rest with its chorus just made for live singalongs and rich keyboards. Little hit ‘The Break Of Dawn’ is the only song on the album that does not do anything to me. Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd guests with Arion here, but the other way around would have been just as likely with this meagre pop song. Let’s get on with the metal on ‘The Last Sacrifice’, that opens on the grand way like a Stratovarius epic like ‘Infinity’ and is one of the most bombastic songs on the album. ‘Through Your Falling Tears’ is a piano-guitar ballad and this one showcases the versatility of Viljami’s voice. ‘Unforgivable’ is the second-shortest song after ‘The Break Of Dawn’, and at first glance it seems somewhat more stripped than most other pieces on this album. After some spins it becomes clear that the “less is more” principle is at work on this fantastic piece of music, do listen to this! ‘Punish You’ continues the album and this is the most aggressive track and has me think of the Swedish band Persuader. The title track is the longest song, and it showcases all the elements we have heard so far, melted together in a brilliant way. To close things off we have another ballad, ‘Last One Falls’, a more symphonic piece than ‘Through Your Falling Tears’ and a beautiful closer to a beautiful album.
It has been a while since I was so impressed by a new band. While listening to ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ I remember why I got totally addicted to Finnish metal so long ago. With its rather short running time of forty minutes this album is still very rich and diverse, and that is pure class. Hopefully we will hear a lot more from this band soon. Life is not beautiful? With this album in the CD player, things are really not all that gloomy!