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Reviews

Sonata Arctica: Stones grow her name

10/08/12  ||  BamaHammer

I’m probably one of the few here who enjoys the finer “whine and cheese” styles of power metal (See what I did there? I’m a fucken comedic genius). When it’s done well and done right, it can be just as intense and interesting as fine high-quality death metal or anything else. Sonata Arctica has always been one of the more consistently choice power metal bands of the past decade (and a half), and they always seem to give me something to enjoy with every release. “Stones grow her name” is no different. While it’s not their finest moment, by any means, it is an excellent slab of catchy, groovy, and thoroughly fun modernized power metal that is undeniably Sonata Arctica.

The band has little in common with their long-lost hyper-speed power metal incarnation of a decade ago. In fact, most of what the band used to define themselves in those days is nowhere to be found on “Stones”, and quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. They prove that speedy gallops and fluttering double-bass kicks is not what makes a modern power metal album. Instead the band relies on the rockin’, groovy guitar of Elias Viljanen to lay the foundation for an utterly rockin’, groovy album.

When Viljanen replaced long time guitarist Jani Liimatainen in 2007, I was a little skeptical of how he would fit into the picture with the rest of the band. I had always enjoyed Liimatainen’s work, and it felt like he played a huge role in defining Sonata Arctica’s sound. However, over the last two albums, I’ve come to realize that Elias Viljanen offers more than Liimatainen ever could quite simply because he’s just that damn good. Viljanen is probably one of the best all-around guitarists in power metal these days, and he should be given that he started out as essentially a instrumental shredder. On “Stones” he provides Sonata Arctica with countless delicious riffs and solos that are tasty and interesting without being flashy for the sake of being flashy, something I appreciate from these “shred” guys who join traditional metal bands.

As for this album as a whole, it was an album that I actually really enjoyed from the very first time I heard it. It’s very easy to digest and enjoy without having to think about it too much, which is a welcome characteristic at times. The production is very close to flawless, providing a solid bottom end that complements Viljanen’s deep seven-string prowess as well as Tony Kakko’s (as usual) fantastic vocal performance. When listening to the album as a whole, you may feel like the semi-soft “power metal ballad” may pop up a few too many times, and it may, but in reality, no band does that type of cut better than Sonata Arctica (See “Letter to Dana”, “Last drop falls”, “Gravenimage”, and about 10 others).

If you are looking for powerful, hard-hitting power metal, you’ll find plenty of that on here as well. The opener, “Only the broken hearts”, is an SA hit. “Shitload of money” provides all the tongue-in-cheek lyrical ridiculousness that this band has kind of become known for. “Losing my insanity” and “I have a right” are two tracks that will stick to you like bubblegum covered in pancake syrup. Even the stompy banjo of “Cinderblox” is fun. This isn’t the best power metal album I’ve ever heard. It’s not even the best Sonata Arctica album I’ve ever heard. But this is definitely the best power metal album I’ve heard this year, and it can definitely be a lot of fun to listen to, at least for a little while.

8

  • Information
  • Released: 2012
  • Label: Nuclear Blast
  • Website: www.sonataarctica.info
  • Band
  • Tony Kakko: vocals, keyboards
  • Marko Paasikoski: bass
  • Elias Viljanen: guitars
  • Henrik Klingenberg: keyboards
  • Tommy Portimo: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 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