Devil's Review: Sonata Arctica – Stones Grow Her Name

 I have a like/meh relationship with Sonata Arctica.  I don’t like all of their stuff and really only started listening to them a couple of albums back.  2012 brings us their latest offering, Stones Grow Her Name, a melodic and straight forward metal/hard rockish album.  As a Finnish Power Metal band, I should be a huge fan (PM and Finnish band!).  With this work, I have a greater appreciation for Sonata Arctica.

Overall, Stones Grow Her Name feels like a concept album to me, though nowhere have I read or heard that it was.  The lyrical content seems to have a thread throughout, but the songs aren’t necessarily related.  There are spoken word parts and some musical continuity as if they are trying to tell a story.  It just feels like a concept album.  Sonata Arctica’s songwriting lends itself to a concept format, as well.

The musical performances by the individual musicians here are very well done, especially vocalist Tony Kakko.  His voice fits nicely with the mid-paced metal, not a high pitched screamer, but a mid-range tenor/baritone.  They offer what I would consider music that is on the lighter side of power metal.  They don’t particularly offer a great deal of speed or technicality for the most part, but the songwriting is solid.  At times, they even exhibit some progressive tendencies.

There are a few highlights on Stones Grow Her Name, particularly the song Cinderblox.  It is different, but very well done, and a memorable song – how often do we get banjo in metal?  (Ensiferum did it on their last album, too).  This one could be a bluegrass song.  Just listen and imagine a bluegrass band doing it.  There is a fiddle (not violin) as well.  Aside from the metal guitar riffing and solo, it’s a bluegrass song!  Kakko even has a bit of a twang singing.  Losing My Insanity and Somewhere Close to You are good metal tunes that maybe should have kicked off the album.  I Have a Right is a pop-ish ballad that fits nicely.

The two Wildfire songs wrap up the album, providing a nice closure.  These first of the two songs, in particular, has that bluegrass/country feel much like Cinderblox, but not quite as thorough.

All in all, a decent album from a band I haven’t always enjoyed.  There is a wide range of music here, metal to hard rock,  ballads to bluegrass.  Sonata Arctica certainly surprised me on Stones Grow Her Name and it is an album that I think will make them a more regular listen.

Here is the video for I Have a Right.

I hear the sound in a METAL way.

-Harley

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