|Review: Sonata Arctica - The Days of Grays|
|The Days of Grays|
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2009
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: October 26, 2009
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:The Days of Grays
Perhaps the most anticipated new album to emerge from the Power Metal scene in 2009, Finnish stalwarts Sonata Arctica have delivered another impenetrable tome of symphonic pomposity in the mould of The Days of Grays, the band's sixth full-length release, their first with new guitarist Elias Viljanen behind the axe, and their most progressive effort to date.
While many mourned the happy-go-lucky charm of the band's early, Stratovarius-esque material that died shortly before the release of 2007's dark, brooding Unia, it seems while Tony Kakko and chums have lightened things up a bit; The Days of Grays is no picnic, and certainly not the return to form many will have hoped. This is, however, the band's most intricate and complex collection of songs thus far, rousing some of the heaviest moments of the band's past, as well as some of the tenderest, into a mystic tonic of what can only be described as divine metal.
Opening with "Deathaura", the album's longest and most complicated track, the fearless Finns lead us through a cacophony of humongous choirs, sweeping symphonics, and twisting time signatures, giving birth to Kakko's gentle yet soaring tenor, breaking over the double-bass drumming like waves lapping the shore. Complete with tinkling keyboards and female vocals, there is certainly a lot to take in, and it may be the fifth or sixth listen before you can fully appreciate the skill involved in crafting a composition of this caliber. Thankfully, the band take a more familiar path with both "The Last Amazing Grays" and the fabulous "Flag In The Ground", an old-school blast of Melodic Power Metal that boasts a chorus that could have been taken straight off of Winterheart's Guild, with a middle section that welcomes back the neo-classical grandiosity of their magnum opus, 2001's Silence.
With the sublime ballad "Breathing" Kakko keeps us hooked with some sensitive lyrics and a soothing melody, but that's where it all goes south, as the second half of the album rears its ugly head and we are greeted with "Zeroes" and "The Dead Skin", two of the most modern and commercial songs the band have ever written, and, sadly, two of the worst. Things pick up in the latter half, however, with "Juliet" and "The Truth Is Out There" being the later highlights of the album, but as a whole, The Days of Grays takes a slow burning approach that seems to drag, something that I felt hampered Unia, and a factor a band who penned such Speed Metal classics as "Wolf & Raven" and "The Cage" should never have to acknowledge.
While this is certainly better – and more traditional – than its predecessor, Sonata Arctica are moving further and further away from their Power Metal roots, and despite an increase in technique and creativity, I can't help but thing they've gone too far this time. Nevertheless, The Days of Grays is still a pretty good album from one of the genre's biggest players, just not one I'll be spinning everyday.
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