Sonata Arctica

The Days Of Grays

Written by: PK on 01/12/2009 16:27:04

Sonata Arctica are a band that seems to divide opinion in metal circles. Some people see them as one of the main protagonists in a cheesy subgenre of rock music, while others (myself included) can't help but love the catchy melodies and frenetic guitar and keyboard work. "The Days Of Grays" is the sixth studio album that the Finnish five-piece have given us. 2007’s "Unia" was largely a disappointment, with one or two standout tracks and what seemed like a lot of filler, and was a marked step down from 2004’s "Reckoning Night". The new offering was the opportunity for the band to shine and show why they are a force to be reckoned with on the power metal scene.

The album begins with an instrumental version of the final track on the album, "Everything Fades to Gray" and is quite a downbeat opener. The title of the song also sets a precedent for several tracks on this album which do appear to "fade to gray [sic]" themselves. It’s not that they are bad songs, but they just seem to meander along for large parts, and you get the feeling that the band was simply trying to find ways of padding out some songs that would otherwise have lasted about 90 seconds. Songs such as "The Dead Skin" typify this. Parts of it showcase some of the things that are just so damn good about the band; clever chord sequences and progressions and layers of vocals that create an epic sound. It’s just a shame that other parts of the song are so muddled and nondescript.

Surprisingly, the album has two of its better tracks stashed away at the end. Both "As If The World Wasn’t Ending" and "The Truth Is Out There" hark back to the sound of some of the slower songs on earlier albums by having a much more straightforward structure and sound to them, and they are all the better for it. The single from the album, "Flag in the Ground", is more or less what you would expect Sonata to provide. It is a fast-paced effort that gets you tapping your foot and nodding your head, something that doesn’t really happen that much as you listen to the rest of the album.

"The Days of Grays" sees Sonata Arctica moving further away from their roots and having an almost progressive metal sound at times. They aren’t quite Dream Theater yet, but this album is certainly a far cry from where the band was a decade ago. They were quoted as saying that they were going for a darker sound on the new album, which is apparent, but it isn't necessarily a sound that fans of their older material will enjoy. A number of songs do grow on you the more you listen to them, but as with "Unia", about half of the album is fairly forgettable. If you want to get into the band for the first time then it is advisable to bypass this new album and purchase their first two albums "Ecliptica" and "Silence" to truly get them at their best. As a slice of power (or occasionally progressive) metal, "The Days of Grays" isn’t bad, but it isn't going to blow you away either.

6

Download: The Last Amazing Grays, Flag in the Ground, As If the World Wasn't Ending
For The Fans Of: Stratovarius, Dragonforce, Blind Guardian, Nightwish
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 18.09.2009
Nuclear Blast Records

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