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
So, 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…
Then 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.