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Sonata Arctica: The Last Days of Grays

Sonata Arctica are a difficult band to pin down. Whilst clearly of the power metal tradition, they also have something else that is difficult to define, they aren't quite poppy, but they certainly have a softer aesthetic than many of their contemporaries.

This extra element is all the more prevalent on The Days of Grey, an album that does its best to defy expectations. Seemingly torn between a desire to craft crowd pleasing power metal and an occasional urge to introduce more (dare I say it) modern elements, it occasionally vacillates wildly between the two. The strongest moments of the album tend to be where the band chooses one path or the other. But even given that, it is perhaps surprising that the album isn't patchier than it is.

The album bookends, versions of "Everything Fades to Gray", are both wonderfully brittle piano led pieces that eschew grinding guitars for warm atmosphere and work very well. Equally, the crisp rapid attack of the second track "Deathaura" is an excellent counterpoint, introducing a sense of energy and drama.

As with many offerings within the genre, there are occasional moments where the song writing is perhaps a little naïve and grating. But the album does retain an enormous amount of charm, even during the most excessively melodramatic pieces such as "Juliet" – a mini suite serving as an ode to doomed love. There is an infectious sense of enthusiasm that can't help but draw the listener into much of the album. It certainly isn't perfect, but for the most part the union European metal with lashings of influences from further west works well.

The Last Days of Grays sometimes offers a restrained take on the grandiose theatrics of power metal, but on other occasions revels in their melodrama. The inconsistency is a little odd at times, and it may irritate the purists, but despite that this is a difficult album not to like.


Track List:
01. Everything Fades To Gray (Instrumental)
02. Deathaura
03. The Last Amazing Grays
04. Flag In The Ground
05. Breathing
06. Zeroes
07. The Dead Skin
08. Juliet
09. No Dream Can Heal A Broken Heart
10. As If The World Wasn't Ending
11. The Truth Is Out There
12. Everything Fades To Gray (full version)

Added: October 19th 2009
Reviewer: Richard Wheelhouse
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 3119
Language: english

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Sonata Arctica: The Last Days of Grays
Posted by Paul Williams, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-10-19 15:42:29
My Score:

Before The Days of Grays I had pretty much only listened to Winterhearts Guild and that has been as far as I have ever really gone into Sonata Arctica's discography but that's not because I didn't enjoy their music, it was more of my own fault. When people would say "check out Unia, its so much better than anything they've done recently" I would agree to check it out before going back to what ever grave robbing, necrophilia condoning band that I happened to be listening to at the time.

But this was before The Days of Grays. Upon listening to it I found my self struck with the need to check out Unia as, once again, people kept stating that it takes all the best aspects of The Days of Grays while beating it with a heavy stick just for that extra power.

So after that bit of background story I'll get to the review. Firstly, The Days of Grays is pretty damn good for Sonata Arctica. Secondly, Unia is better, so yeah, you can probably stop reading here because I'm just going to go on about why Unia is better for the next couple of paragraphs.

If you happen to still be with me (and God knows why you are) then I owe you an explanation and its simply the fact that Unia had balls, truth be told they weren't big balls but balls all the same! The Days of Grays is more like a castrated Turisas with its (almost) epic keyboard passages and double bass driven sections that just wimp out when the singing comes in. Don't get me wrong I really enjoy the singer's voice but his strengths are really in the ballads and not the heavier songs, which deserve a much stronger vox.

Another problem I had with this album was the seemingly toned down guitar and by that I mean…"TURN YOUR DAMN VOLUME UP!!" With song titles like "Flag In The Ground" and "Deathaura" I expect some bloody decent riffs or at least an audible one that isn't being drowned out by keys, or even worse just being completely substituted for a piano.

Now don't get me wrong; I didn't mind The Days Of Grays. It has some soothing melodies, some excellent ballads, and even a few solos that are half decent but for gods sake it should borrow a Y chromosome for that extra kick to the listener's genitalia.





Sonata Arctica: The Last Days of Grays
Posted by Scott Jessup, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-09-27 13:53:20
My Score:

The Last Days Of Grays is album number six from Sonata Arctica, the first with Elias Viljanen who has replaced Jani Liimatainen on guitar. Unia certainly was a big step away from the fast power metal like music they were performing previously. Sonata Arctica were diversifying and experimenting with many differences to before, with different results and taking many more listens to appreciate.

There was many split opinions about this new direction the band had taken amongst the fans, with not a lot of middle ground, put me in the older school having been a fan since their first release. I suppose it's just what I got used to hearing from Sonata Arctica. I still enjoy many of their newer songs that retain some of that classic Sonata Arctica feel, such as "Caleb" on Unia, and those on The Last Days Of Grays, like "The Last Amazing Grace" and "Flag In The Ground". Track eleven is called "The Truth Is Out There", I wonder if that title came from my favorite tv series?, also if you have the option then bonus track "In My Eyes You're A Giant" is a good addition.

The Last Days Of Grays doesn't see a return to that former style even thought there are many elements. The dramatic "Deathaura" commences with female vocals which is the first surprise, and sure while Tony's vocals sound as wonderful as ever, if anything I would have like to heard less vocals at times, allowing more input from guitarist Elia Viljanen. I'm sure he could have ripped it up much more if given the opportunity, such as on tracks like "Zeroes".

Unia fans will certainly enjoy The Last Days Of Grays, in fact many metal devotees may also find this agreeable, but give it plenty of time though, as it's one of those CDs that is a slow grower.



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