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Sonata Arctica’s seventh studio album Stones Grow Her Name is a baffling combination of music I can easily tag as familiar Sonata Arctica style and of music that defies any and all attempts at labeling it. I am not an old school Sonata fan and I’ve enjoyed their newer stuff quite a bit (Unia remains one of my favourites), but even so I was more than a little surprised by some of the material released on this album. It has several songs that rely on straight forward choruses, with simple melodies and maximum repetition (too much, unfortunately). The likes of I Have a Right and Alone in Heaven can be sung along about in the middle of the first listening session, but especially the first single, I Have a Right, doesn’t really suffer from it in my ears. It’s got something to say, and it’s certainly worth emphasizing with a catchy chorus. I have nothing but respect for Tony Kakko for tackling children’s rights in a metal song (UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child as lyrics).
The first songs of the album lead you into a strong, but different power metal world. The opening track Only the Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful) is perhaps one of the more familiar sounding Sonata songs on the album, but already the second track Shitload of Money is something else. At first, it really doesn’t even sound remotely like it could come from this album. My honest first thought was more to the lines of Reckless Love’s style, only later I found the Sonata in this song.
But what is really something else, is Cinderblox. I very nearly drove into a ditch, when this tune rattled out of my car stereos for the first time. Power metal with a banjo and a redneck fiddle? Hillbilly metal? What is this stuff? But soon it was growing on me – this is the way to re-think a band! Not in a million years would I have expected anything like this from Stones Grow Her Name, but it’s turning into one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s the odd one out, and gosh, can Peter Engberg play that banjo!
For me the highlights of this album are the keyboard melodies and the story of The Day, the interesting sound worlds of Cinderblox and Wildfire, Part: II – One With The Mountain plus the overall feeling of being entertained by the album. For my ears the band sounds great, there are several interesting themes and melodies on the album, and the band has definitely succeeded in re-inventing their music. My biggest criticisms go to the occasional over-the-top repetitiveness and simplicity of some tracks. When there are storytelling skills available, I would’ve loved to hear them being used to the full effect. Choruses are good, but verses could challenge the listener more.
This album is a curve ball Tony Kakko and the band have thrown at the fans, and I’m sure not everyone is happy about it. I’m sure an album like this will not please all fans, but I for one can’t wait to see how the songs work live.
01. Only The Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)
02. Shitload Of Money
03. Losing My Insanity
04. Somewhere Close To You
05. I Have A Right
06. Alone In Heaven
07. The Day
09. Don’t Be Mean
10. Wildfire, Part II - One With The Mountain
11. Wildfire, Part III - Wildfire Town , Population: 0
Bonus Track for Deluxe Digi-Pak version ONLY:
12. Tonight I Dance Alone