Sonata Arctica were once a band who were deemed to have perfected the brand of power metal founded by fellow Finns Stratovarius. Their first four albums were a solid effort of high tempo, fist pumping metal, but then along came Unia and Days of Grays and it felt like the band had lost their identity. Bearing this in mind, I was nervous to hear latest effort, Stones Grow Her Name. Thankfully… I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the ‘fist in the air’ brand of power metal we all first fell in love with, but it is a solid effort with just a touch of eccentricity to pull them back into our hearts.
Opening track Only the Broken Hearts gets us off to a promising start with its catchy, if slightly commercial sounding, chorus. This is however totally ruined with the next track Shitload O’Money which is oddly placed, badly written and I am still waiting for someone to explain to me how the hell it made it onto the album. Luckily there are enough decent tracks on the record to forgive them for this atrocity. Losing My Insanity, The Day and I Have the Right are all brilliant and showcase the band’s song writing ability perfectly. There is one track on the album which you will either love or hate. Cinderblox. The track includes banjo playing and even the band themselves admit is started off as a joke, but for me, it is a grower.
One thing worth noting is Stones Grow Her Name is not a concept album, each track tells its own story. This is with the exception of the final two tracks. Wildfire Part II – One With the Mountain and Wildfire Part III – Wildfire Town Population 0 are a nod to the original Wildfire track which appeared on Reckoning Night back in 2004. The tracks continue the story of the mountain town arsonist and are, in my opinion, two of the best written tracks on the album and leave no question unanswered regarding the musical ability of the band. Vocalist Tony Kakko, famous for his amazing range and power, may not be demonstrating his talents as much as in previous records, but still a valiant effort and if you can ignore the slightly dubious harmonies in Somewhere Close to You, you won’t be disappointed.
I don’t know how well this album will stand the test of time but it’s definitely worth a listen. If you were a hardcore Sonata Arctica fan who was put off by Unia and Days of Grays, you might find it is now time to open your mind, broaden your horizons and let in banjo power metal!