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Whether you’re a fan or not, most metal fans are at least aware of Sonata Arctica’s existence and some have strong opinions one way or another. This is evident by the fact that the press sheet accompanying their new album, ‘Stones Grow Her Name’, told us absolutely nothing except the track list. They are apparently a band that needs no introduction. It’s clear within the first few bars of ‘Only The Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)’ that this album isn’t going to be along the exact same lines as ‘Unia’ and ‘The Days of Grays’. Some of the pomp from the earlier days is back and doubtless that will be appreciated by some of their long-standing fans. It’s not a copy of ‘Ecliptica’ by any stretch of the imagination but if you’re not a fan of slightly over-the-top metal then there are certain tracks that aren’t going to be up your street. If you are a fan though, then look no further.

The song that’s already out there, ‘I Have A Right’, does seem to be an obvious choice for the lead single from the album as it is one of the more generally accessible songs and it has a sing-along chorus that will doubtless go down well on tour. The only slight dip in quality on the album is ‘Alone in Heaven’. While I’m sure it’s perfectly fine as a stand-alone song, when it’s compared to the rest of the album it does stand out as being a bit naff both lyrically and musically (especially during the chorus, the rest of the song is actually alright). They recover well with the piano-driven ‘The Day’ though, so I’m sure they can be forgiven the slight misdemeanour. ‘The Day’ might not be the best song on the album either but there is something about it that’s quite likeable, musically.

While the first two thirds of the album has a more old school feel, there is a sudden change to the more progressive side of the band and not even necessarily in the way that you might expect. For example, probably the biggest stand out track on the album, for several reasons, is ‘Cinderblox’. With tongues placed firmly in cheeks, the band decided to record a banjo-grassroots-country-power metal song. It sounds awful, right? Actually, it somehow works really well but maybe isn’t for the purists. To close, the album takes a trip down memory lane and revisits ‘Wildfire’ from ‘Reckoning Night’. Both are outstanding progressive pieces of work in their own right and well worth 15 minutes of your time. The sound harkens back to ‘Unia’ more than anything else and they are very distinct from the original song and there’s no Nik Van Eckmann (or equivalent) to give the tracks a slightly ominous opening, which is a bit disappointing but forgivable.

There’s a good mix of new and old sounds and the album almost acts as a summary of the band’s musical history so far but also shows that they’re not afraid of taking risks and that they’re a band that we can, hopefully, expect a lot more from in the future.
Nuclear Blast
Review by Siân Williams
18th May 2012
1) Only the Broken Hearts (Make You Beautiful)
2) Shitload of Money
3) Losing My Insanity
4) Somewhere Close To You
5) I Have a Right
6) Alone In Heaven
7) The Day
8) Cinderblox
9) Don't Be Mean
10) Wildfire Part II - One with the Mountain
11) Wildfire Part III - Wildfire Town Population 0
"...the album almost acts as a summary of the band’s musical history so far but also shows that they’re not afraid of taking risks..."