Sonata Arctica - The Days Of Grays review
|Album:||The Days Of Grays|
|Release date:||September 2009|
01. Everything Fades To Gray
03. The Last Amazing Grays
04. Flag In The Ground
07. The Dead Skin
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]
13. In The Dark [limited edition bonus]
14. In My Eyes You're A Giant [Japanese and US bonus]
15. Nothing More [Japanese bonus]
Disc II [limited edition bonus]
01. Deathaura [orchestral version]
02. The Last Amazing Grays [orchestral version]
03. Flag In The Ground [orchestral version]
04. Juliet [orchestral version]
05. As If The World Wasn't Ending [orchestral version]
06. The Truth Is Out There [orchestral version]
07. In The Dark [orchestral version]
The Days of Grays is an album that was eagerly anticipated by the public, mostly due to the fact that some reviewers, who got to listen to it beforehand, labeled it as an album halfway between Unia and Reckoning Night. But I'd disagree with that-it's between the two albums only in terms of complexity. Musically, it's again a whole new Sonata Arctica. Don't worry though, the elements that make the very soul of the band are still more or less present and I shall discuss them below.
The thing that always separated them from the power metal crowd (or, as peeps here like to call it, the Euro Flower Metal scene) are their lyrics - mostly tragic stories of people who failed in some aspects of their lives. They are either in shape of stories or simply tell us of the state the protagonist is in. On this album, there are both types. The main songwriter, Tony Kakko, is known for his understanding of human psychology and precisely portraying feelings of anger, sadness, despair and confusion. This time, he went further on into the subject, writing about disappointment, alienation and inadequacy. Also, this is, in a way, an album based upon a loose concept - almost every song has something to do with dying, aging, and the understanding of the world that comes as we mature.
The band's trademark is also good performances by the members, especially in solos. The "new" style requires fewer solo-spots than the "old" style (and indeed, if you want to see some technicality, you have to go to one of their shows nowadays), but there is still plenty of opportunity to shine. I'll mention two of those - Elias Viljanen has a simple, beautiful solo-piece in "Breathing" and Henrik Klingenberg gives a stunning performance in the blues-drenched track "As If The World Wasn't Ending." Also, Kakko's singing is more perfect than ever, most notably in the bonus track "In The Dark."
Some people complain that this album is not winterish and cold like their previous ones, but I think those people haven't truly felt a lot of winters in their lives. It shows us the true face of it - dark, relentless and with little hope.
Speaking of the brand new elements, you can safely say that this is an album of firsts. In terms of lyrics, for the first time there is a song with a happy ending ("Flag In The Ground") and a song in which you can see a glimpse of Kakko's personal world ("Breathing"). This is the first album with Elias Viljanen, and also the first time they've brought a guest vocalist - that is, if you don't count some ten seconds Timo Kotipelto sang in "False News Travel Fast" on Silence. Finnish pop singer Johanna Kurkela graced two tracks with her lovely voice - "No Dream Can Heal A Broken Heart" and "Deathaura." Speaking of "Deathaura," it's a bombastic and symphonic piece which is almost too over the top, but the Sonata-boys have tuned it down enough to avoid what I had dreaded. Everyone's favorite tracks are "Juliet," which ends the Caleb-saga in the most majestic and stylish way possible, and the instant classic "The Last Amazing Grays."
Every song on the album deserves to be mentioned, but I'll just say that the rest of the tracks share the same atmosphere, and the message they get across is that we're all doomed. And it's only logical that an album about death and decay of body and spirit has that gray and bleak atmosphere.
Like 90% of the albums made, it has a certain number of flaws. The orchestral CD is nothing special, as it just takes out guitars and drums and adds a bunch of orchestral stuff which don't do the songs justice. The play-time is really long, which is perfect for Sonata-fans, but bad for a guy who just wants to see what it's about, so you have to be patient with this one. The order of the tracks could've been done differently, as the most varied tracks are in the first half of the album. And, lastly, the production pretty much drowns the drums and bass.
For the fans who stayed away from Unia, this might be easier to get into. For someone who likes both styles, there won't be a problem with the third one either. And for people who have always stayed away from this band-give it a spin; who knows, you might be surprised.
|The last five years have been testing ones for Sonata Arctica having run the wave of hype and enthusiasm raised by the first couple of albums dry. Critics have had a blast with the band in recent years, with none more victimised than the band's last output Unia. A couple of years ago Sonata Arctica looked like a shadow of its former self, but right now with the release of album number six, The Days Of Grays has shone a ray of light.
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