Sonata Arctica

Stones Grow Her Name

01. Only The Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)
02. Shitload Of Money
03. Losing My Insanity
04. Somewhere Close To You
05. I Have A Right
06. Alone In Heaven
07. The Day
08. Cinderblox
09. Don’t Be Mean
10. Wildfire, Part: II – One With The Mountain
11. Wildfire, Part: III – Wildfire Town, Population: 0

[05/28/12]
[Nuclear Blast]

It is fairly common practice for a band to go either one of two ways in their career after a certain point; continue to write music that is similar to their past efforts in a more refined and honed way, or to shed their skin of the old practices and pick up a new sound, and neither of these are a bad decision when implemented correctly. With the past two albums, and now with Stones Grow Her Name, Sonata Arctica have opted for the latter. Having grown tired of their power metal ways the decision was made a few years ago to delve into a more progressive sound, and despite a rocky transition with their album Unia, Sonata reached their peak with a blend of progressive and power metal on their 2009 album The Days of Grays, which featured some of the most inspired music of the band’s career. Now with their latest release the band continues down their path away from their roots, and well, the results are less than desirable.

Sonata Arctica are following one of the more recent trends in power metal which is to incorporate a more hard rock tone and nature to the presentation of their music. Instead of writing songs about dragons and mysticism the majority of this album is about various different relationships or women, a lyrical staple 80’s hair metal bands, and unfortunately, that is what the band’s sound tends to resign to at certain points on this album, oddly enough. Stones is a very awkward album, with a lot of weird and unnecessary things going on within itself. It is a mixed bag of the progressive flavor that littered their past two efforts, some of the staple power metal sound that made up their early efforts, and in a seeming attempt to make their music more accessible or catchy, a heavy dose of the aforementioned hard-rock sounds. From a financial point, that didn’t seem to be that bad of an idea, as Stones was the highest selling US debut release in SA’s career. Kudos, I suppose.

Normally it takes only a few songs to ruin an album, and despite some cheesy writing that all power metal bands love so much, Sonata Arctica have mostly been able to avoid that on their past efforts, but Stones is unique in this regard. There’s not one bad song on this album, or a few bad songs, but in actuality most of the songs on this thing are fairly awful. The opener, ‘Only the Broken Hearts’, is a fairly enjoyable affair, with nice melodies and stand out vocals, as well as some progressive flourishes, but after that everything just falls down hill at a 90 degree angle. The majority of this album is filled with a lot of loose ideas that don’t really fit together, like the blue-grass influenced ‘Cinderblox’, which actually sounds interesting, but is far too weird and off-putting to be considered ‘good’. And don’t even get me started on the cock-rock anthem ‘Shitload of Money’.

As a whole this album suffers from some really bad writing, and poor decisions. I’m sure the album was a lot of fun for the band to make, they were able to dabble in a lot of different ideas, and they’re probably going to make more money on this than any other album, but I can’t seem to think that this album is anything less than a disappointment. I’ve always enjoyed Tony Kakko’s vocals, and his stellar vocals are still fun and passionate on this release, but that doesn’t make up for the stale presentation of this album as a whole and the awful melodies that somehow found their home on most of the songs.

It seems like Sonata Arctica want to be a progressive metal band, but they really don’t know how to make a proper transition. Even though the majority of SA’s core fans disliked the album Unia, and the continued flavor found on The Days of Gray wasn’t met too happily, those were two of the best things that this band has ever put out. If they had decided to continue on down that road, I’m sure they would have been able to find their niche in the progressive genre, but instead they opted for whatever it is that they decided to do on this album. Honestly, this album is such a mess I don’t even know how to qualify its attributes into words. Now, the album isn’t all bad, even I can recognize that, but the good just cannot outshine the bad at this point. There are probably only two types of people who will enjoy this release; fans of the band who have followed their career through thick and thin, and people who like cheesy love songs with a faux-tough-guy attitude behind the music. Despite Tony’s wails on ‘Don’t Be Mean’, I really can’t help myself…

Sonata Arctica – Stones Grow Her Name gets …

2.0/5

– EC

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