Sonata Arctica

The Days of Grays

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Having announced their "boredom" with the likeable but at times all-too-predictable power metal peddled on their first four albums, Finland's Sonata Arctica brought a notably heavier sound and darker outlook to bear on their fifth opus, Unia, which understandably didn't sit well with many fans, but certainly helped their metal credibility as a band willing to take chances. So, for their sixth studio album (discounting numerous EPs and a few live recordings along the way), The Days of Grays, the Fins decided to keep things interesting by shifting direction yet again -- but this time they reigned in some of their progressive elements and focused their revived melodic tendencies underneath lyrics devoted either to doomed romance ("Juliet," "No Dream Can Heal a Broken Heart") or bouts of clinical depression (see "The Last Amazing Grays," the claustrophobic "Zeroes," and "The Truth Is Out There," which explores psychology as alien abduction). The romantic tracks often boast a mass appeal on par with Sonata's most successful countrymen, Nightwish, but by doing so naturally sacrifice almost every last metallic vestige and will likely further traumatize the band's older fans who still pine for the days when high speed power metal and fanciful fantasies dominated the band's songwriting. As it stands, The Days of Grays offers but two obvious opportunities for those fans to saddle their steeds and don their invisibility cloaks before traipsing off to medieval towns where witchery could severely damage your crops ("Deathaura," featuring guest vocals from Johanna Kurkela), or, failing that, sail away to the New World and pummel Plymouth Rock with the traditional power metal energy of "Flag in the Ground." Actually, the last song also serves up a good metaphor for Sonata Arctica's ongoing journey into uncharted creative territory, and time will tell whether their audience chooses to join them in their quest.

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