Sonata ArcticaThe Days of Grays
Rating: 4.0/5.0 – Very good to great, depending what you want from them..
Label: Nuclear Blast (USA | EU)
Websites: sonataarctica.info | myspace.com/sonataarctica
Release Date(s):
USA 9.22.2009 | EU: 18.9.2009

Sonata_Arctica_-_The_Days_of_Grays_artworkI’ve been a big Sonata Arctica fan for a long, long time.  One of the first records I ever reviewed in my entire reviewing career was Silence, which by many is still considered to be the band’s finest record.  I loved it, and I was instantly hooked by the band’s sweet hooks, tightness and particularly the vocal stylings of one Tony Kakko.  The music was just technical enough to make me feel superior to all the people who were listening to Nu-Metal, but poppy and feel good were the other traits that I loved about the band.  I’ve always described it as “driving music.”  You know, hit the open road, go as fast as you think you can get away with and blast Sonata Arctica at top volumes while you barrel down the highway into the amazing summer day.  Sound familiar to your experience?  I hope so, because that’s the angle I’m starting from.

Sonata Arctica is not that band anymore.  By admission, according to Henrik (keyboards), they were “bored as fuck” with that sound, which lead them to producing Unia, an album which did not sit well with many of the traditional Sonata Arctica fanbase.  Unia was a much more plodding album, more progressive I’d say, but lacking a lot of the catchiness and addictive speed that defined the band for so many years and for so many of their fans.  The Days of Grays is definitely not classic Sonata Arctica, but the good news is: it’s a grower.

Unlike old Sonata Arctica this record doesn’t rip out the door, but instead it creeps up on you with a long intro and the track “Deathaura” which begins with female vocals.  The sound is still heavy and keyboard-laden, but despite that the  slowness and chuggy riffs that still dominate this album, the speed has started sneaking back in, adding balance while satisfying a lot of my urges for catchy, speedy, poppy Sonata Arctica.  While the only true throwback to the older sound is “Flag in the Ground,” the tracks don’t disappoint.  Tracks like “Juliet” and “Zeroes,” walk on that fine line and with just a little bit more speed could probably have fit onto Winterheart’s Guild or Recknoning Night.  And, of course, this is Sonata Arctica, these guys are real pros and every track on here is perfectly performed, produced and constructed.  These guys do what they do, no matter what it is, convincingly.

But there is a reality to face for most fans.  Sonata Arctica has gone prog.  The thing that really stood about this whole album sonataarcticapromofor me is that they’re getting a little weirder, a little more subtle and more musically advanced.  The melodies sometimes seem off, just enough for you to know that’s intentional (like the beginning “The Dead Skin”), things are layered like crazy and the music is far more linear than it was.  The movement away from the nearly schlager formula tracks to these subtle, well-composed and interesting movements should be fully encouraged by everyone who likes to see bands develop.  Sure, these guys aren’t as fun anymore, but they’re so much better musically now.  The question is whether or not that’s enough.

For me, I want a balance between these two things, that is, between the subtle, musically interesting stuff and the musical happiness that embodied Sonata Arctica for me.  The Days of Grays strikes a pretty good balance on that front, making it both an interesting and fun record to listen to.  But as far as I’m concerned, they really nailed that balance with 2004’s Reckoning Night, which is my favorite album of theirs for that very reason.  I respect what the band is trying to achieve with The Days of Grays, and it’s well done… But, sorry guys, couldn’t you add a couple more fast songs?

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  • Rob

    Female vocals??? Prominent ones??
    Who is she? What lady is so special that she gets to be the first voice heard on an SA album?

  • asdf

    Very good review! This new stuff is not bad at all. But it’s not what made me love their music. God how much I hoped this new album to be little more like Silence. But the Days of Silence are gone. Everything is gray now.

  • K-man

    “Who is she? What lady is so special that she gets to be the first voice heard on an SA album?”

    She is Johanna Kurkela, a godess from Finland who makes music for angels. It is weird. As a power metal fan, I just can´t stop listening Johanna´s music. And it has nothing to do with metal. Check her out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxvNe761z2g

  • Freezer

    Excellent excellent…. Still, no one can out-Strato the mighty Stratovarius.

  • Rick

    This review is very accurate. SA aren’t as fun anymore, but their music has become epic! This album is definitely a step in the right direction imo. The band’s earlier stuff was fantastic, but if they kept doing the same type of music, they’d probably run out of ideas and become stale.

  • Nick

    Well, so far the only songs that I really enjoyed from this album were The Last Amazing Grays and Flag in the Ground. I absolutely love Sonata up through Unia, and I was very excited to hear of their new album… What a let-down. It’s all… quite boring. This review talks about the music being “off” just enough to tell you that it was intentional… but why would you want the music to sound off? The ‘layering’ just makes things sound cluttered, and frankly, Tony is pretty awful at this musical style.

  • Alcmene

    Totally accurate review. The album I love the most is the incredibly energy-filled (how do you name it? “driving music”? ;) ), majestic Reckoning Night. Damn, “Misplaced”, “Wildfire”, now that’s Sonata!
    Needless to say, after Reckoning Night, Unia was a huge deception (apart from “The Vice” and, to a lower extent, “The Harvest”). I think noone can say the songs are bad per se, but it really didn’t sound much like Sonata.
    However, I must say that, although The Days of Grays sounds more like Unia than it does of Silence, it has very interesting bits… Well, I won’t detail that here, the full review is just up there ;)

    Sonata is not the Silence one anymore, but it’s going on an interesting path, one I’m willing to follow them on, unlike I would have been if they had stayed in pure Unia style. I mean, we all knew that they had this slower but more melodic side (the acoustic reprise of Mary-Lou, Replica…) and they are exploring this side. After the cold sweats the Wolf&Raven 2008 remake gave me, this album is relieving! If “Juliet” and “Everything Fades to Gray” are representative of their new style, I’ll bear with it :)

    (…but it would still be nice if we could have Reckoning Night Pt. 2… Please? :'( )

  • At first I didn’t believe it was Sonata Arctica. I rechecked and OMG was I disappointed. Where did the good old days of Ecliptica and Silence go? Any Victoria’s Secrets left? Maybe some Replicas? Will Tallulah and Selene ever show their faces again?

    Despite my love for SA, I just can’t accept Unia and The Days of Grays. Hopefully, listeners won’t get “bored as fuck” with their new sound…

    • I didn’t like Unia at all, honestly. I thought it was a crappy record. This record is better in some ways, but still very much in the same vein, which is why I suspect that Jani left.

  • PirateMetalMasta

    This band sucks, never liked anything by them. I don’t see the hype.