Sonata Arctica // Stones Grow Her Name
Rating: 2.0/5.0 — Stones Grow Her Nonsensical Disappointment
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: sonataarctica.info | facebook.com/sonataarctica
Release Dates: EU: 2012.05.18 | US: 05.22.2012

Sonata Arctica - Stones Grow Her NameSo, Sonata Arctica‘s career has been an interesting journey. Starting out as straight up Stratovarius rip-offs with the good fortune of not having a vocalist who sounded like a mouse caught between a wall and a door, the band produced several records that are universally worshipped by power metal junkies everywhere in Ecliptica, Silence and Winterheart’s Guild. With Reckoning Night the band started down the road towards their most progressive material, but that record was like a nice combination of their older sound with the new things. Then Unia happened. Panic ensued, cranky power metal fetishists wrote them off and yeah, they seemed OK with that. But, the record was sneakingly catchy and the same can be said of The Days of Grays, which while named stupidly had some of the band’s best material to date. Stones Grow Her Name, then, always stood to be a controversial record because they don’t have a single song called “FullMoon” on it—but where would the band wander now that it had lost its mooring in EuroPower?

Apparently the answer to that rhetorical question is: who the fuck knows. Stones Grow Her Name is like the combination of the band’s worst instincts and new sound coalescing into a record that is simultaneously uneventful but provocative in its mediocrity. While there are some good moments of straight forward metal like “Only the Broken Hearts,” and “Somewhere Close to You,” which are more reminiscent of earlier days with their tempos and good melodies, these are offset by the utterly horrible “Shitload O’Money” and “Don’t Be Mean.” The latter has to be Tony Kakko’s biggest English as a Second Language fail of his career, though this time it’s about the feel of “does this sound totally fucking stupid?” and not grammar—and this is a man who wrote the song “Shy.” But, I guess I shouldn’t be mean…

Sonata Arctica 2012Then there’s the just plain weird shit. “Cinderblox” would be interesting—it’s the band’s first foray into bluegrass ffs!—if it weren’t for the fact that the harmonies sound just totally off in the chorus. And while the “Wildfire” parts two and three have some good stuff, they’re just not particularly enjoyable or well-written songs. Part III is heavy, but it’s more disorienting than interesting. Part II continues the progressive tendencies of later material, but sometimes I just wish that Tony Kakko would write a melody worth singing as opposed to wandering like he does. There are moments here, but the awesome doesn’t seem to ever coalesce. And when you take the bad, the weird and combine them with the “meh,” like “Alone in Heaven” and “The Day,” both of which are serviceable filler but not great, one starts to wonder: are these guys even really enjoying themselves anymore?

I assume that if they were miserable they would just quit, but either way this record sounds uninspired and disoriented. One could easily get the impression that there is a lack of motivation or joy from a writing perspective because the music feels boring and uninspired. I am not among those calling for a return to Ecliptica, but I have trouble understanding how a band that produced such inspired works as Winterheart’s Guild or Reckoning Night or even just 3 years ago put out The Days of Grays could produce a record so flat. It’s a shame, but so it is. Only the most die-hard of fans need apply. Power metal fans would be well advised to check out the new Sabaton instead.

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  • Its not that bad. I’d give it a 3.5/5.
    The new Sabaton is even more boring, the same chorus in every song and as damn near generic power metal as I’ve heard for a long time.

    • HohenheimOL

      I think you’re confusing “having the same chorus and being generic” with “not breaking into jarring, lackluster attempts at country music ” . Because, y’know, being musically consistent isn’t generally a point of criticism. 

      If, however, you must have your contrived sense of variety, maybe you should go listen to Between the Buried and Me or something.

      •  Please, don’t assume that you know what I am thinking.
        Nor am I confused in any way about Sabaton.
        It’s decent basic metal, song structures are similar and the big vocals in every chorus, sound the same to my ears.
        Every album needs some variety, even the slightest.
        I don’t hear that with Sabaton.

        • HohenheimOL

          I don’t care what you’re thinking, I’m talking about what you’re saying. If you miscommunicated your opinion, that’s on you.

          But on to your point. Metal is not about throwing in new things left and right. Metal is about consistently improving in quality. Sonata Arctica has not improved in quality. In fact, their entire album is composed of either rehashes of their earlier material, or experimental misfires.

          It doesn’t matter if Sabaton’s songs are fairly predictable. You know why? They sound better than they did last album. They continually refine their music to be more energetic, more powerful, and particularly more cohesive. Beyond that, they have no need to radically alter their style. 

          That’s not to say  they couldn’t have tried a new things to be even better(like when Rhapsody flirted with black metal screams), but they have no obligation to do so, and it certainly doesn’t drag Sabaton down to the level of Sonata Arctica.

          • Zadion

            Sabaton? Drug down to the level of Sonata Arctica? Sonata Arctica is far beyond the level of Sabaton however you look at it. Even if this album deserves a 2.0, and even with one excellent release from Sabaton (I haven’t heard it yet), it doesn’t make up for the fact that SA’s entire backlog is far more excellent than Sabaton’s

          • HohenheimOL

            Wrong. Sonata Arctica was good at one point, but now they fucking suck. Whereas Sabaton was good earlier, but now they’re great. 

            But all that’s irrelevant, because older material doesn’t affect the quality of a band at present. Get that fact through your head before acting like you have a valid argument to make.

            The fact of the matter is that Sonata Arctica just released their worst album yet, and Sabaton just released their best. So as it stands, Sabaton is leagues better than Sonata Arctica.

          • Zadion

             The quality of a band at present is only one factor to consider when taking into mind the band in general. I guess that’s irrelevant though, because you saying Sabaton was “good earlier” means the disagreement is null. Every experience of mine with Sabaton in the past has been purely negative. Whereas I hail The Days of Grays as one of the best albums of the entire decade. One triumphant record does not undo a past history of flops, nor vice versa.

            To each his own though, I always say.

          • HohenheimOL

            http://www.thatsnotmetal.com/2010/11/their-old-stuff.html
            All I’m gonna put forth the effort to post at this point.

          • It’s totally OK to love a band’s older material and hate their new material. In fact, it’s encouraged. Bands that start to suck should not be held up just because we’re emotionally attached to them. 

          • Sabaton was never super good, this record wouldn’t have been as good if it hadn’t been in Swedish—it’s partially the well-done writing and topic that made this record so good. 

            Sonata Arctica on the other hand have been super good in the past and just stink now. Too bad, this record is a pile. 

          •  Wrong, Unia was Sonata’s steaming turd.

          • HohenheimOL

            Except this one is worse. Way worse.

          • I know what metal is about mate, I’ve been listening to it, seeing it, and playing it for 30 years.
            Sonata are way above Sabaton in every aspect.

          • HohenheimOL

            No. No, they are not.

          • AngryMetalGuy is a fag

            No. You’re a fag.

          • HohenheimOL

            The mad is strong with this one.

          • AngryMetalGuy is a fag

            I’m VEEEEEERY mad all the time.

  • MrBlindGuardian

    I really look forward to listen to this album some more.

    I just received it in my mail today, and have only had the chance to listen to it once.

    On first listen, i do agree with you that there are some moments where i do think, wtf is going on here?

    However, i also think that most of the songs were very good at first listen.

    I mean, the first 3 songs are really amazing, i really like shitload of money.

    And both only the broken hearts and losing my insanity are really catchy and well writin.

    I consider don’t be mean as one of the pearls of the album, really good ballad in my opinion and cinderblocks to be the best so far, and i think it willl stey the best song.

    I disagree with the 2.0, but i wouldn’t give it above 3.5 myself either! :)

    Thank you for the review, been really interested to ead your opinion on this one since i am a sonata fan and have been it from well, winterhearts i think :D

  • Damn, you angry Angry metal guy? xD but yeah, interesting how amg seems to hate this album while other reviewers absolutely love this…
    Also, any chance you could review Nightmare’s new album? And Kreator and The Agonist’s new albums coming out in a week?

    • Don’t have either the new Kreator or The Agonist. I hate the record industry.

  • AMG is a meanie! :(

    Seriously though, as always, very enjoyable review. You kinda seem to get more inspired when you dislike an album, and I am grateful for that.

    • Ha, well that’d kind of a bummer in a sense. I want ALL my writing to feel inspired. 

      • Perhaps I’m more entertained by a little bile, so I could be projecting. :)

  • You said it all perfectly. I totally agree, and my heart is heavy.

  • Hah. I love reading your negative reviews.

    • They seem popular. I think people expect them to be great, too, ’cause of the name Angry Metal Guy. They just expect me to be an angry dude.

  • Zadion

    Meh.

    I would’ve fully agreed with this review on my first, second, third, even fourth and fifth listen. I think I pointed out on Facebook how much I was astounded they released this after the magnificent The Days of Grays (which does not have a bad name, BTW). However, after really letting it soak in, it grew about as much as Unia did. I originally found songs like “The Day” and “Cinderblox” senseless, but now they are among my favorites. I find lyrics can make or break an album like this – that may be why I still dislike “Shitload of Money” (seriously, what a flop those lyrics are), but “The Day” turned into an SA favorite (its lyrics are very touching). I quite like “Don’t Be Mean” for the same reason. Tony’s “broken heart” ballads may seam cheesy and stupid to some… but for me, they expose a feeling I can relate to  far more than I want to. I’m all for dark, gothic poetry like old Opeth stuff, but sometimes a bold, simple statement like so many of Tony’s lyrics is all that’s needed. As long as we don’t get stupid lines like, “But I have seen your picture on the cover of a filthy magazine,” anyway…

    Finally, the Wildfire tracks are excellent. For me, his vocal lines are just as much “worth singing” as they ever have been. I don’t see the meandering at all. The riffs are good, but Tony’s vocal passages make the tracks just like they have any other SA song.

    Wildfire II / III and The Day make the album worth it, IMO. Definitely a 3.5 for me, as well. Actually, I think that’s about what I gave it on my M-A review.

    Oh, one final thing: Winterheart’s Guild is EASILY their most overrated album. There’s only like 3 good songs in it. I still consider this album subpar for SA, but it’s still better than Winterheart’s Guild.

    • But dude. Don’t be mean? Is that what really what we need? C’mon. That’s a fucking faceplant. 

  • AMG, I’m curious – how many times have you listened to the album? I was a little bewildered myself the first time through, but some of them grew on me after a couple more times. If you’ve listened to it like 20 times and still don’t like it, then fair’s fair. I was just wondering.

    “Cinderblox” is becoming a favorite, the odd harmonies don’t ruin it for me. The drama of the two Wildfire tracks definitely gets better with repeated listens as well. I even like “Shitload O’Money,” I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling it a “great” song or anything, but it’s fun to sing along to. “Don’t Be Mean” is definitely pretty cringe-worthy and many of the other tracks (“Alone in Heaven,” “Losing my Insanity,” “Only the Broken Hearts”) don’t make much of an impression on me at all. It’s not Days of Grays, that’s for sure, but I think I would have gone with 3/5.

    • Quite a few. Closer to 10, not 20. The problem is that after a while there was no intrinsic desire to continue. I believe that music needs to be worked st sometimes, but one should not waste his life listening to bad albums from bands he one time liked.

    • @Volrath: I agree, this album does grow on you. 3-3.5/5 would be a far more fair rating.

  • I guess I’m one of the weirdos who absolutely love this album. It’s true, on the first listen through, I actually almost threw it away. But I didn’t give up because Sonata is my favorite and I wanted to give them a fighting chance, and I’m glad I did. This is one of their strongest albums to date (okay, Shitload of Money is cheesy as all hell, but it’s fun to sing-along and it’s one of their heavier pieces).

    What makes or breaks this album for me is twofold: First, Tony’s songwriting is actually fantastic, IMO. I can’t even understand how he comes up with the most fluid and natural sounding phrases to sing to. Some of the weirder songs on first listen are actually super cool when
    reading the lyrics and understanding the meter associated. Second, maybe I’m just ignorant or a blind fanboy, but I REALLY enjoy everything Tony works into his pieces. He is one of the few artists who uses vocal work for more than just main or backing vocals. He uses them for sound effects, off-melody rips, talking rhythms; it’s really quite fantastic all of the qualities he can work out of his instruments. The layering and mastering of this album are also obscenely good. It’s absurd.

    To sum it up, I respectfully disagree with most of the article, but I also understand that we have different ears and expectations.

  • rocking_rose

    I enjoyed all previous  SA albums since I’m into Power Metal aswell as Prog Metal. But this album…I don’t know. This is somehow…nothing. No catchy melodies, no real deep lyrics which would come to live with a progressive composition, also the mixing is really crappy imo. It sounds like all is put on one level (where is Tony’s shining voice that stood out in other albums?!). Mediocre, no real highlights, does not hurt but does not stay in my ear.  This is not the same band that I became a fan of!!

    PS: If this would have been a debut album of some new unknown band, I’d say ok, they have potential, let’s see how they develop, but this is SONATA ARCTICA, damnit! These are the guys who wrote “The end of this chapter” or “Gravenimage”!!! And now this….Nope, I’m out.

  • AngryMetalGuy is a fag

    Terrible review. You really know nothing of music, hahaha

    • Yup. That’s why I run the blog and write about music and you’re just a douchebag on the Internet calling me a fag.

  • cheese4927

    There was something about this album that grew on me. I was really disappointed when I first heard it — it didn’t sound like Sonata Arctica at all. I felt like Tony was having an identity crisis or something.

    But then I listened to it again, and again, and again… something kept pulling me back. It was a similar experience I had with the second half of The Days of Grays. The more I listened, the more I came to enjoy the songs, and they are quickly becoming some of my favourites. Although “Only the Broken Hearts” and “Shitload of Money” don’t start off the album strong at all for me, I think it quickly picks up and becomes quite a piece of art. And in regards to “Don’t be Mean,” I feel like the naivety of the lyrics was intentional. I could be totally wrong here, but for me it adds to the song a kind of innocence that he wanted to have in there.

    Good review, and if I had read it when I first listened to the album I would have agreed with you 100%, but after listening through a number of times I’ve gotta say I’m really starting to love it!