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.