Review Summary: Sonata Arctica dumbed their sound down way too much.
Power metal is not exactly the most appreciated subgenre in metal. Actually, it seems quite the opposite. Few, if any, bands ever receive the kind of near-universal acceptance that bands such as Opeth, Primordial, Moonsorrow, and Sigh receive (even if some do not deserve it). Power metal, more often than not, is received as a "guilty pleasure," it seems. Then comes Sonata Arctica and... well, gives complete justification to that response. Truly, they've always had a poppy, fluffy feel to them from which even a lot of standard power metal fans turn away. Yet, even so, their sound just has a certain magic that makes many like me fall in love with it. This is mostly led by Tony Kakko's excellent vocals; indeed, he's among the best vocalists in power metal (which is saying a lot, since power metal's trademark is excellent vocals).
However, when Unia
came, it seems everybody and their cats decided to turn in complete revolt. I'm still trying to figure out why, considering it incorporated a lot of progressive tendencies, and that's something almost everyone approves of. It is for that reason I am pointing this out: if you didn't like Unia
, you will not like Stones Grow Her Name
. Almost everything about it reminds of Unia
. There is but one key difference... this album eschews much of the progressive tendencies established in Unia
and perfectly evolved in The Days of Grays
(which is their magnum opus, in my opinion), and instead opts for a sound even more poppy yet. One look at the tracklist, seeing titles such as "***load of Money" and "Don't Be Mean," and you'll see that they are influenced by a more mainstream culture. I'd like to say this right now: I really have no clue what drug Tony was on when he decided this was a good idea, but I want him in ***ing rehab before it's time to start writing the eighth album.
That said, the sound is so similar to Unia
that this seems far more like a natural progression from it than The Days of Grays
does. I'll even go out on a limb here and say that none of the songs are bad. This album actually is more cohesive with a much better flow than Unia
had, though there are no real standout tracks like the first four of Unia
were for me.
Of course, the Sonata Arctica traits are still here, with ballads (namely "Don't Be Mean"), fluffy anthems ("Only the Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)" and "I Have a Right"), and groovier, heavier tracks ("Losing My Insanity" being the best). They even threw me for a loop with Cinderblox, where there's a constant rhythm played on a banjo (yes, a banjo), and Tony occasionally puts a country accent to use. It's almost like he was sitting around thinking of a transitional song that will attract country music fans, then came up with this. Yet, despite every part of me wanting to hate it, everything about it works... and it may even be a highlight of the album. The progressive tendencies of the past two albums have not been completely abandoned, as well, with the biggest example also being the biggest highlight of the album: the two Wildfire tracks. Complete with non-linear songwriting and unexpected rhythm changes, these two easily could've been (and probably should've been) on Unia
I don't know if I've made it clear yet, but this album is in the same damn style as Unia
. I have seen this album described as Unia
+ Reckoning Night
; I can kind of see that, in that the majority songs sound like Unia
, but feature dumbed down progressive qualities that are only semi-used like Reckoning Night
. This results in lesser quality material for Sonata Arctica. While I still consider this a good album with some great moments (I do really like the Wildfire tracks), it is one that needs a lot of growing space to even be acceptable. My initial reaction to this was, "What the actual *** am I listening to?"
Yeah, I really wish they would've evolved off the symphonic and, most importantly, sophisticated sound of The Days of Grays