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Their Days of Grace - 95%

The_CrY, February 13th, 2010

What have we here? A new album by Sonata Arctica, entitled The Days of Grays, depressingly misspelling Grace as Grays. Well, that does sum up the themes of the lyrics, they are pretty depressing. Yet the music would fit better with the correctly spelled version of that word. For we have once more a great album by Sonata Arctica and it’s the follow-up to the progressive Unia. What should we expect here? I expected a Unia II, but instead we got something a bit more worthwhile.

So, what do we have here? In sound, The Days of Grays is still very progressive, like Unia, but it’s much more in touch with their power metal past. In fact, this album even contains a traditional Sonata Arctica power metal song “Flag in the Ground”, which is easily one of the best songs from the album! Perhaps they were born to make power metal after all... hmm? Anyway, there’s been a slight change in the Sonata line-up on the guitar part: Jani Liimatainen out, in comes Elias Viljanen. I don’t notice any decent changes in playing style, probably because Tony Kakko still writes all the songs. The guitar sound did change however, they now have turned down all the bass on the amp, it seems. It’s a downright ugly sound, but luckily the guitar is never the main instrument in Sonata, so the album can (and will) still be saved! The album has a very dark sound overall, and this is not a bad thing. Winterheart’s Guild also was a bit darker than their previous releases, and is second to this one my favorite Sonata album. Luckily depressing lyrics are mostly compensated by great music with these guys.

The album opens with a progressive piece “Deathaura”, showing off a balanced mix between progressive and power metal. The changes in mood, key and bar still occur like on Unia, but the speed has been turned up like on Silence. The first single “The Last Amazing Grace” on the other hand is a song that wouldn’t have appeared on any of those albums; it’s really a typical song for this current album. It’s progressive in a way, but without all the key, bar and mood changes. This time it’s a real song, with true sing-along choruses and bridges like we are used to on albums like Reckoning Night, yet this time it’s not accompanied by the fast double bass rhythms. The good best part of this album must be the set of songs right after “Breathing”, a quite unnoted ballad. Especially “Zeroes” gets my full praise! It’s so swinging with its offbeat drums and its ‘so-wrong-it’s-cool’ vocals. Not to mention it is followed directly by “The Dead Skin”, another highlight. This one shines mostly in the progressive part. There’s a very heavy instrumental piece in the middle of this song, and it’s just great to bang your head to that. Apart from that, the chorus is very catchy. Some say the melodies on here are almost poppy, but I assure you that it’s no poppier than on previous albums. As if we are not already on a highlight there is “Juliet”, again a progressive piece with many themes full of melodies, telling Shakespeare’s tale about Romeo and Juliet in from a different perspective. We are still not out of highlights, but I can go and describe the next few tracks as detailed as I would like, it would not come over as such.

In short: I think this album is their best yet. I see almost no flaws, and they have achieved the perfect balance between Unia and Winterheart’s Guild on this album, with the Unia-part still being the most dominant. This album is a true grower, and I truly run out of words when I’m trying to describe its greatness. I would highly recommend this album to anyone who likes progressive metal and Sonata Arctica.

Strongest tracks: “Flag in the Ground”, “Zeroes”, “The Dead Skin”, “No Dream Can Heal a Broken Heart” and “The Truth Is Out There”.

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