Nuclear Blast (2012)
Expectations wane when your favorite bands take stylistic chances that don’t meet with your personal tastes. For Finland’s Sonata Arctica, their first four studio albums put them on the map for their power metal framework- a combination of the tenor plus falsetto range and heartfelt melodies from singer/songwriter Tony Kakko as well as the band’s ability to mix up the speedy, headbanging offerings with some solid mid-tempo anthems and the emotional ballads that prove their high caliber knowledge of the genre. So “Unia” with its progressive and much more reflective atmosphere didn’t sit well with my hopes for the band, and “Days Of Grays” was a slight course correction measure in the right direction, although quite keyboard dominate for my power metal tastes.
“Stones Grow Her Name” as the seventh SA platter again represents another bold move by the band- who deserve the right to take risks as a veteran metal act should, especially if they want the chance to survive in this ever changing music industry. I’m sure fans will debate through social media regarding the heavier, staccato-led guitar rhythm on “Somewhere Close To You”- or the banjo and violin insanity on the upbeat folk-influenced “Cinderblox”- but somehow Tony Kakko and the gentlemen of Sonata Arctica make the divergent sounds work this time. The “Wildfire Part II and III” double shot that concludes the album contains all the firepower, epic parts and twists and turns you’ve come to expect of a confident, vibrant metal band who know that in order to stay alive you need to explore your inner thoughts and be bold in terms of vision.
Other songs that have immediate impact with me in a good way are the opening mid-tempo monster “Only The Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)” with the first riff reminiscent of Kansas’ “Fight Fire With Fire” and the stirring first video track “I Have A Right” which appears to be very fairytale in Tony’s word approach, tackling the serious subject of child development. And for those who want more of the fun-loving rock aspect a la Edguy, there’s the sarcastic “Shitload O’ Money” song to treasure.
Those who look for Sonata to continually produce up tempo material like their old days- you’ll be disappointed again in this album. Overall though “Stones Grow Her Name” is an excellent release, full of versatility and originality in terms of the diversity of thoughts and sounds on display. For me it rates right up there with “Reckoning Night”, and I can’t wait to see how these songs translate on live stages.
Rating: 5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe