Band: Sonata Arctica
Album: Stones Grow Her Name
Genre: Symphonic Power Metal
With the release of their 4th album, Reckoning Night, Sonata Arctica continued to solidly themselves as a premier power metal act. The band could have very easily built successfully on a proven formula, but instead abruptly changed course with 2007’s Unia. Between Unia and 2009’s The Days of Grays, the band has shown that they are not afraid to try new things. However, it has lead to some mixed results. In The Days of Grays Sonata Arctica was able to make the new ideas work, whereas in Unia they largely left me scratching my head. Stones Grow Her Name lands somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
After a solid start with “Only the Broken Hearts”, the band then delivers a song titled “Shitload of Money”. Not only is that the title, but the primary line of the chorus, and the song is about as good as you’d expect knowing those two things. While the track has its moments musically, I am stumped as to how it ended up as anything other than a bonus track, let alone the second track on the album. The third track, “Losing My Insanity” has a bit of a classic Sonata Arctica chorus that is a bit repetitive, but certainly a catchier section of the album. The lead single/video of the album, “I Have a Right” is guilty of repetition as well, but still stands out as one of the albums best tracks, and in general represents one of the hits on the new album. Simple and anthemic the song centers on keyboard and piano parts with easy to follow lyrics driving the song forward and making it difficult not to sing along.
The album continues to grow with “Alone in Heaven”, a powerful power ballad that offers one of the finer lyrical ideas to ponder, namely can heaven exist as we think of it when there is the possibility someone we love is in hell? “The Day” continues to build on the strength of the previous two tracks, and features a guitar/piano intro that isn’t long, but is one of my favorite musical moments on the album. Past that there are some interesting moments that show the band hitting on a lot of cool ideas. The remaining tracks are return to some more average tracks, and while the banjo in “Cinderblox” and strong vocal performance from Tony Kakko in the short ballad “Don’t be Mean” are nice, as a whole the end of the album is good, but not great. That said it is certainly an improvement to the start of the album which features the already mentioned “Shitload of Money”, and a not much better “Somewhere Close to You”.
While not as consistent as The Days of Grays, Stones Grow Her Name is also not as consistently bad as Unia, and has at least 3 tracks that are better than anything that album has to offer. Although you’d miss some nice sections of music, it would almost be advisable to start with “I Have a Right” the first few times through the album. At this point Sonata have proven you just never know what to expect with a new album, and while they’ve saved themselves from being boxed in musically, they’ve shown it’s not always easy to thrive outside of the box.
Nick’s Rating: 7.5/10