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Articles Home » 2009 Articles » Sonata Arctica - 2009 The Days Of Grays
Sonata Arctica - 2009 The Days Of Grays

ARTIST: Sonata Arctica
ALBUM: The Days Of Grays
LABEL: Nuclear Blast
SERIAL: NB 2379-0
YEAR: 2009


LINEUP: Tony Kakko - vocals * Elias Viljanen * Marki Passikoski - bass * Henrik Klingenberg - keyboards * Tommy Portimo - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Everything Fades To Gray * 02 Deathaura * 03 The Last Amazing Grays * 04 Flag In The Ground * 05 Breathing * 06 Zeroes * 07 The Dead Skin * 08 Juliet * 09 No Dream Can Heal A Broken Heart * 10 As If The World Wasn't Ending * 11 The Truth Is Out There * 12 Everything Fades To Gray (Full Version)



'Where do they go now?'

That was the question I posed at the end of my review of their previous album, 'Unia', released in 2007. With this their sixth release, would they tweak their sound? Add some detail and curves to the extent of not knowing when to stop? Include enough catchy hooks so resplendent on their earlier outputs or maybe the hope of many other reviewers for the group to be generally managed and thinned to promote the growth of a normal power metal band. Well if you are in that last category and you join many reviewers feeling that I have read recently, especially in the printed format, you are seriously going to be disappointed. Sonata Arctica continue to outstand, even with the replacement of Jani Liimatainen (Cain's Offering, more about that latter) with equally as talented Elias Viljanen, the change is seamless. The influence of Northern Kings is obvious in many of the songs with the added orchestration, that initially was a touch overbearing and the simple melodies and hooks seem to have been overtaken. However once you understand this change, which is actually only more common in the earlier tracks and less obvious during the course of the album it's more that this adds to the album rather than being the major overbearing factor.

The Songs
It could be said that Sonata Arctica are playing a dangerous game with the opening pairing. Maybe not so with the instrumental opening of 'Everything Fades To Gray', but more obviously with the second track 'Deathaura'. In fact it's a good 5 minutes before you hear Tony Kakko, actually it's the beautiful voice of Johanna Kurkela that is first performed. The tune is full of Rhapsody Of Fire orchestral waves and the group is constantly jumping around the musical score. It's when you follow the lyric book to see how perfectly Kakko has written the words to form a permanent attachment to the music. I wonder what came first - the music or the lyrics. For a hardened Sonata Arctica fan like me it has taken over a dozen plays to understand and enjoy this tune, it's hard work, but it's a true epic. It's a song like the album that you must not jump to conclusions at an early stage, because initial thoughts will alter at an alarming rate each time you listen.

Back to planet Earth with 'The Last Amazing Grays' and a return to the expected Sonata Arctica hooks so common in their repertoire. It's an example of high class melodic metal and will definitely last longer in your mind, that the characters in the latest hack and slash series on TV, being 'Harper's Island', no relation to me I might add.

The first single and the track issued on many a sampler, is 'Flag In The Ground', and represent one of the catchiest tunes ever put together by the band. It mixes celtic sounds from the 'Wild Frontier' days (of Grays!) of Gary Moore. The piano taking a prominent role with a rolling thunder of drums. Its 100mph of power sweeping over miles of the green fields of Ireland until you reach the Devil's Causeway. To my mind it's the finale of the last 3 verses that provides a resurgence of the melody fixation the Finns have, with tremendous guitar soloing.

Sonata Arctica have always had a softer side and 'Breathing' continues this, providing a welcome change of pace, which is something many peers seem to have trouble with. It creates a break in proceedings for the benefit of the album rather than a song to stand out on itself. It's not looking to be a star but more of a hard working midfielder. This is quite common with this group's recording, just little ditties strategically placed, not full songs, just like you would find on early Queen albums, Kakko freely admits being a firm favourite of Queen.

'Zeroes' is again a change in direction, with effects on the vocals, but just listen to that chorus, perfect, very much like mixing Rammstein, Samael and Edguy. Much more of a concerted effort on riffs, with the keyboards providing an absorbing energy. Probably has the most simple song structure on all of the 12 tracks. This new influence continues with 'The Dead Skin' but really it's nothing that they haven't tried before, especially on 'Unia'.

With 'Juliet' it is very much back to normal service, with the vocals being overlaid on a bed of symphonies. Also add some crunching riffs with a swirling thunder of orchestra. I have lost count the amount of times my head has started unconsciously nodding to the music. An excellent tune, the vocals and instruments firing a never ending volley of fire flares, which seem to pinpoint the most telling moments, a metal waltz.

'No Dream Can Heal A Broken Heart' begins with Lord Of The Rings horns, last seen on any Summoning album, mixed with harpsichord. Lots of vocal choral effects, with many captivating moments, more straight ahead take on things. Small refrain of female vocals that give it Leaves Eyes feel, plus the well worked death metal guitar riffs. Mixing Mostly Autumn with Nile, what a combination.

As with nearly all their albums, the final tracks represent quite a flourish. 'As If The World Wasn't Ending', displays a likeness to Kakko's work with Northern Kings, in terms of their credible attempts of some power ballads, like the Tina Turner cover 'We Don't Need Another Hero'. Even down to the fact this could well transpire into a pop ballad.

'The Truth Is Out There' falls back on the usual song structure and provides another musical session of pure pleasure. Keyboards playing a major key role here, the song keeps pumping until your body is full of endorphins; you're faced with crescendo after crescendo, magnificent.

Finally we come full circle, with the full version of 'Everything Fades To Gray', rather than the instrumental that opened the album. It brings the album to a stunning close, with another blast of orchestration.

One last point, the limited edition version contains an extra disc classed as the Orchestral CD, which contains 6 of the above tunes, plus the bonus track 'In The Dark' as it states, orchestral versions. Well it beats dour acoustic interpretations, it actually comes across as a more relaxed feel, with some excellent added strings. For once it's a bonus CD that I have actually played more than an enquiring one off listen. Well worth the small extra expense.

In Summary
I went back to play Cain's Offering a number of times, originally thinking they were totally different and no real link, however I have changed my thoughts on it, and really the difference between the two are like having two slices of toast in front of you. One will have simply have butter on it, still very enjoyable while the other will be smeared with marmite/vegemite (which is to represent the orchestra) with the edges neatly cut off. With every Sonata Arctica album something astonishing happens, here if you had earlier tried to predict your thoughts on what this album would be like, you would had an easier job to find a secret cold war Russian city, that wouldn't be signalled on a map. But just as the city would still have the necessary infrastructure to power the community this album has all the necessary structures, talents and excitement to power Sonata Arctica to new heights.

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