You never forget your first love – mine was power metal. The very first metal bands that I got into back in the day were the likes of Angra, Edguy, Dragonforce and… Sonata Arctica. Sonata had it all: pretty piano hooks, galloping guitars, anthemic choruses and a touch of Finnish melancholy. They were dark, melodic, romantic, eccentric and just a little bit nuts (hell-oo creepy horror movie voiceover on ‘The End of This Chapter’), but brilliant.
“Stones Grow Her Name” is like Sonata‘s midlife crisis album. It’s like a puzzle with too many pieces. There’s a distinct lack of the riffs and catchy melodies that they’re known for and instead a lot of widdling, a lot of synths and a lot of…just, noise, making the overall sound of the album totally incoherent and convoluted. All the songs sound very ‘busy’, with too much going on. There are some brilliant parts, but not enough brilliant wholes.
Opener ‘Only the Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)’ is decent in a Sonata-by-numbers kind of way, with twinkly bits and a singalong chorus, but is just drowning in waaay too many keyboard and vocal tracks. Similarly ‘Losing my Insanity’ is okay, but nothing we haven’t heard before. Meanwhile, a special mention goes to ‘Shitload O’ Money’ for the most embarrassing and unintentionally hilarious song title, and a chorus that literally goes “she’s gotta shitload o’ money…” Oh, Tony. You’re better than this. I can feel something dying inside of me as I listen to it. If I was being kind I’d say it’s almost so bad it’s good, but in reality it’s so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these elitist wankers who only likes ‘the old stuff‘. ‘The Days of Grays’ was awesome. I even loved the divisive ‘Unia’. I’m all for bands trying new things and experimenting with their sound, but by the seventh album Sonata Arctica should really have their shit together. They did have their shit together, so I don’t even know what’s happened.
Oh, wait, they did try something new – a song called ‘Cinderblox’ heavily features, erm, a banjo. It adds absolutely nothing to the song but makes me think that they boys are trying their hand at a bit of folk metal, and utterly failing. I want to cry a little. By the thirteenth track on this overlong nightmare of an album I’m just begging for it to be over so I can listen to ‘Ecliptica’ and forget this car-crash ever happened. I’ll give them 5 to be kind – do better next time, boys.