Sonata Arctica return with another awkwardly titled album, their 7th studio album in fact. The sticker on the front of the jewel-case (like we can trust what those little ads say!) boldly proclaims ‘…arguably their most complete album…’. Complete. What does that mean? Were the last albums incomplete? Essentially what they label-hype machine means is that this is a consistent and well-rounded album that emphasizes elements of all of their previous work. However that doesn’t fit on a sticker as well and doesn’t sound as good as ‘complete’. Kidding aside, I do know what the label means when they say ‘complete’. It is a very strong record.
Running at under an hour STONES GROW HER NAME sees the band incorporate many of the elements they are previously know for. There is the 14- minute epic song ‘Wildfire’, and there are fast songs, slow songs, and the requisite and passionate ballads with the usual emotive lyrics of Kakko.
In my review of the previous album THE DAYS OF GRAYS I had suggested that the happy sound had left the band and that they had really progressed into a symphonic, orchestral style. Well, this time they reverse the trend and reintroduce some of the happier riffs, the bouncier melodies that are easier to song along too. I have no proof but my gut tells me that whatever mood Kakko happens to be in when he writes the album is what it will turn out like. Since he is the sole songwriter it is all up to him. Last album, his writing was a bit darker and more introspective, this time he seems happier and lighter. It’s one of the more ‘fun’ Sonata Arctica albums in recent memory, since RECKONING NIGHT perhaps. How can you not crack a smile at Sonata Arctica doing a song called ‘Shitload O’ Money’ and putting it as the second track? I’d expect something like that from Edguy, not from these guys!
The line-up remains unchanged and Elias has solidified his role as guitarist. The performances are sprightly, fast and clean, which will not bring any new fans on board especially those looking for grit and heft of riff, but it may bring back a few fans who thought the last few albums were too dark or intense. Kakko’s lyrics are interesting, touching on modern day subjects like unemployment and children’s rights and the environment. He doesn’t get preachy thankfully because left-wing, liberal, moralizing in Metal lyrics always turns me right off. The lyrics are, as always, intelligent and thoughtful.
STONES GROW HER NAME is a simpler, more streamlined, less pretentious album but still with some of interesting audio injections like the blazing banjo on the moonshine-fuelled, hillbilly-inspired, cut ‘Cinderblox’ complete with a quirky vocal delivery in parts. What a fun song! The aforementioned long-song ‘Wildfire’ is just a monstrous tour-de-force that ebbs and flows and follows a story that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around. Acoustic piano is featured quite heavily in parts for juxtaposition as heard on the albums most conventional song (and probably future single) ‘Losing My Insanity’. Some critics might say this album is schizophrenic but I think it is a ‘complete’ success.
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