Sonata Arctica
Unia


3.5
great

Review

by Shattered_Future USER (50 Reviews)
May 27th, 2007 | 36 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Unia brings Sonata Arctica further away from their power metal roots and closer to a dark, melodic sound.

Stylistic changes can work for some bands, and can ruin others. Katatonia makes music now that is vastly different from their earlier sound, and much better to boot. On the other side, we have Celtic Frost, a thrash metal band that made a horrible mistake with their album Cold Lake, generally regarded as one of the worst things ever to happen to metal. The double edged sword swings widely, my friends.

Sonata Arctica were one of the frontrunners of the Finnish power metal scene. Possessing a style similar to that of the well respected band Stratovarius (except Sonata Arctica actually knows how to write music), they took the world by storm 8 years ago with their fast, furious, and of course cheesy brand of power metal complete with finger flying solos and high pitched vocals.

2004 saw the band doing something different with their sound. While Reckoning Night still possessed quite a bit of their trademark power metal sound, it was a considerably darker outing than anything the band had previously released. The music was heavier, tempos were slower, and the lyrics were downright disturbing in places. Nevertheless, the album merited great success and was hailed as one of the bands best.

With the release of Unia, Sonata Arctica have done away with the power metal label completely. While there are still trace elements of it to be found, Unia is just too slow and dark to be considered power metal anymore. In fact, Sonata Arctica are ploughing through musical fields that are shared only with Evergrey. The music could be termed like Evergrey’s label of “dark melodic metal”. However, Evergrey chose to orient themselves more with the progressive side of metal, while Sonata Arctica still have more power metal in their sound.

Even though the band has been trying to tone down the cheese level a little bit, it’s still hard for them to break out of it. Whereas Evergrey have truly made themselves completely dark without having anything that could be considered cheesy, Sonata Arctica still write music that, intentional or not, retains a bit of cheese. Though much less so than on their earlier albums, the choir parts that are employed are completely over the top and overdramatic, and some melodies that are used still have cheese, in that 70s synth pop way. Thankfully, those are kept to a minimum.

However, Unia is a bold new outing for the band. The 7 strings are used to their full potential, and the music is DARK. Much darker than anything that was on Reckoning Night. Tracks like It Won’t Fade don’t even sound like trademark Sonata Arctica anymore. With its heavy Bb chugging power chords and melancholic vocal lines, a new facet of Sonata Arctica’s sound is revealed.

A few things that have to be mentioned: The amount of synth work on this album is freaking RIDICULOUS. Synth layering often appears in groups of four, and there are no fewer than 2 synth lines throughout a vast majority of the album. Henrik’s job in the band was more understated in their earlier albums; here, on the other hand, he is put front and center, often carrying many of the melody lines. Paid In Full showcases just how much he means to the band, with beautiful piano lines that weave in and out of music, taking control and fading when needed. On My Dream’s But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare, synth strings are pressed into action and add tremendously to the feel of the music.

Also, Marko (the bassist) has many more interesting lines as well. He tended to just play root notes on their earlier albums like a good power metal bassist, and he wasn’t all that easy to hear. Not that it mattered much, with boring basslines. On here, sporting a new beefed up bass tone, Marko plays many more fills and has a greater presence in the music.

And yet, I still didn’t come away with the feeling of satisfaction the other albums provided me. One of the reasons Reckoning Night was such a great album was because the group seemlessly blended traditional power metal with something completely original, and brought out the best of both worlds. In putting the emphasis completely on the dark side of the music, it brings out the shortcomings of the band.

The biggest thing that diminished my love for the album, though, was the feeling that the band wasn’t TOGETHER. I had the privelage of seeing them live, and they possessed a feeling of togetherness that was unparalleled. It shined through on their earlier albums as well; you could tell the band really knew what they were doing. Tracks on Unia sound disjointed at parts, and oftentimes I came away with a sense of many good riffs in a song ruined by bad pacing or some seriously lame synth breaks. It Won’t Fade is a prime example of this. The song starts off strong (after the boring synth part), creates some of the best riffs on the album, and then goes into something that sounds like it was ripped straight out of F-Zero for SNES. We’re listening to METAL, people, not racing 16 bit spaceships around a track.

The ballads are seriously out of whack too. Reckoning Night contained Shamandalie, probably the band’s best ballad, and one of the best in the power metal scene, and earlier albums contained terrific ballads well (Draw Me, Tallulah, Replica). Here, the ballads range from mediocre to flat out terrible. For The Sake Of Revenge and Good Enough Is Good Enough are both decent. Nothing special in the least, but they sound alright. However, the other ballad, Under Your Tree, just does not work. Even after listening through multiple times and finding appreciation in tracks that I didn’t before (the album does need a lot of grow time. You need to spin it a lot, probably 10 times, as the other review said, to truly appreciate some of the stuff going on), it just didn’t click.

All told, however, Unia still contains some absolutely terrific tracks. Hell, I’d say My Dream’s But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare is worth the cost of the album alone. Haunting piano lines, dark heavy guitar riffs, and some of the best synth work to ever appear in a metal band all make an appearance in this one to create one of the best songs of Sonata Arctica’s career. The Harvest is the only track that shows where they started from, and it is appreciated after 8 more midpaced songs. Great neoclassical riffs and double pedal work contribute to this one.

Paid In Full, the album’s single, appears to be Blinded No More part 2. And seeing as how Blinded No More was one of the better tracks from Reckoning Night, that’s not a bad thing at all. Other highlights include It Won’t Fade (even with the bad F-Zero break in the middle, the riffs in this one are monsterous), Caleb, with its awesome piano work and cheesy choirs, and In Black And White, the album’s opener and the first indication that something changed. From the get-go, we are treated to an entirely different band with multiple vocal lines and ridiculously heavy guitar work.

I have high hopes for Sonata Arctica’s next album. While this one showed promise, there were still a few too many hiccups that usually do occur between albums that transition between styles. True, there are some bad tracks on here, but 99.5% of albums do have bad tracks on them. And the good more than makes up for the bad.

Recommended Tracks:
Paid In Full
It Won’t Fade
My Dream’s But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare
The Harvest




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Comments:Add a Comment 
MeowMeow
May 27th 2007


662 Comments


I must say that moving away from power metal roots must be a good thing for me, seeing as how I like very little power metal.

I'll read the rest of the review when I get back from work.

Tyler
Emeritus
May 27th 2007


7926 Comments


These guys are infinitely better live.

Bfhurricane
May 28th 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I see what you mean by Paid in Full being Blinded No More Pt. 2, but I dont like either of those songs. I really don't know what I think about this album, I need to give it a few more spins. Some of these I had to ask myself "what did I just listen to?" after finishing the song...

antihippy
May 28th 2007


696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i seem to be really obsessed with paid in full......

Altmer
May 28th 2007


5652 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I love this album, but I hate good enough is good enough.

Shattered_Future
May 29th 2007


1540 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This one is harder to listen to, but some of the payoffs are ultimately more rewarding than listening to their earlier stuff. In this one, you get a sense of something that's epic and awesome, and their earlier stuff is just fun and awesome. Both have positives and negatives.

LoUd3
June 4th 2007


37 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Caleb is one of the best tracks they've ever done!

Bfhurricane
June 4th 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hmm... out of nowhere I came to really, really like this. I dig The Vice, The Harvest, and Caleb.

Geedrummer
June 6th 2007


607 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i recon this is their second best album after reckoning night

Bfhurricane
June 6th 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No way. Ecliptica wrecks this

Brain Dead
June 12th 2007


1150 Comments


I really like your reviewing style Shattered Future. You have immersed yourself so fully in the power metal genre that you have as objective a view as anyone could be expected to have when reviewing power metal. Great job.

DaniHel
June 23rd 2007


3 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Since the early days of Sonata, they have never liked the fact that they were considered Powermetal. Don´t get me wrong, i love powermetal, its my favorite genre in metal. Though for Sonata, this album was a smack in the face of people who judged them as powermetal. This is album is very good, in theyre other albums you could hear the sometimes odd moods they create but this album sounds like they brought em all into one.

I really like where Sonata Arctica is going, very well produced and great songs. Theres more to metal than upbeat drums and speedy riffs. They balanced theire style with other elements they like in music.
4/5

Bfhurricane
June 23rd 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I didnt like this at first, and Im not sure if I like where theyre going. For me, nothing will beat Ecliptica and Reckoning Night, both amazing albums imo. I prefer the power metal version of them, but I realized that I really really like the style of this album

Fort23
June 23rd 2007


2475 Comments


Artica's early stuff was extremely lame, but this stuff is definetly better.This Message Edited On 06.23.07This Message Edited On 06.23.07

Bfhurricane
June 23rd 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you clearly dont like power metal at all then

Bfhurricane
July 1st 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Alright, I've been listening to this frequently and Ive seriously come to love the ballads. Under Your Tree has been stuck in my head all day, Im beginning to really like that song.

Fort23
July 1st 2007


2475 Comments


Its alright just not in large amounts.

CityOfEvil
July 27th 2007


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really like the album. It's the first Sonata Arctica album I listen to and it is excellent.

Bfhurricane
July 27th 2007


6197 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

COE - I strongly recommend getting their albums Ecliptica and Reckoning Night if you like this. Theyre my two other favorite by SA and theyre must-haves in my opinion.

CityOfEvil
July 27th 2007


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks I'll listen to both of them.



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