The new Sonata Arctica album, Stones Grow Her Name, mixes great songwriting and production to produce one of the better albums to come out of the power metal scene in years. It relies heavily on keyboards (as accentuated by the album cover), yet they aren’t intrusive. The band hasn’t lost sight of this being a metal album. Despite the complex arrangements and layered vocals, the guitars drive the songs. In other words, with all of the intelligence and sensitivity, the album has muscle.
One of my complaints from of Sonata Arctica’s output from over the years is their slow songs. I have no problem with the fact that they do them. I just never liked the ones they put out. This time around that complaint no longer applies. It’s not necessarily a high-speed album throughout. Even one of the slower songs, “Alone In Heaven,” is relatively mid-paced. I can just imagine fists pumping from the crowd if the band were to play it live. The chanting at the end also had to have been written with live performance in mind.
The aforementioned song is followed by “The Day,” which has such a similar feel to it that the album does have a dip in momentum. It’s quickly picked up by “Cinderblox,” with a danceable feel to it, sounding like American bluegrass with guest musicians on banjo, double bass and violin. The speed slows down again with “Don’t Be Mean.” It may be the slowest song on the album, but it’s short. For those of us who prefer the faster Sonata Arctica tunes, it goes by without bother. The album then ends (depending on which edition you have) with the epic two-parter “Wildfire.”
With all of the complex arrangements the songwriting is kept simple. Stones Grow Her Name is an awesome album. The track order could have been better, but overall the album is worth adding to your collection. Overall, horns up.