Finland’s Finest Progress Pleasantly
If you are a fan of Euro-Power Metal, werewolves & stalking girls, then Finland’s Sonata Arctica are the band for you. A massive, orchestral sound with soaring vocals, heavy keyboards & fast, tight guitar solos combined to establish them, along with Edguy & Nightwish, as new leaders of the scene. However something changed with the release of 2007′s Unia. Gone were the driving bass pedals, the speed & a massive chunk of their cheesy catchiness. They had been replaced by a slower, more progressive sound with their most complex song structures to date. Needless to say, this was about as popular as a salad bar in downtown Glasgow.
The Days of Grays is a lot closer musically to Unia than it is to their first 4 albums. There are a few nods to the traditional Sonata sound, particularly on Flag In The Ground. The progressive elements introduced on the last album are still present but the whole album feels more light-hearted & straightforward than their previous effort. The heavy symphonic keyboard intro on Deathaura would fit better on a recent Dimmu Borgir album than it does here & its followed by some Nightwish style warbling before the album proper kicks in. After that, we get some more traditional Sonata keyboard & guitar solos whilst Tony Kakko’s vocals stand out as a career best.
There are also plenty slower tracks, Zeroes, Juliet & an excellent melodic interlude in the middle of The Dead Skin show than they are still capable of making the kind of dark ballads that made them stand out from the cesspool that late nineties power metal became.
This isn’t the return to form that some people had hoped for but its a step in the right direction. The pop hooks, outrageous solos and a lot of the speed are back but they’ve kept some of the darker, more intricate structures & themes from Unia. Its not a classic but, much like a sloppy handjob from a drunken teenage girl, you could do far worse than check out The Days of Grays.