Sonata Arctica -- Unia
Sonata Arctica are one of the great enigmas of my life as a music fan. They play almost strictly generic "flower" metal and have nothing in their music that can't be heard in a boatload of other power metal bands, even from their homeland of Finland. There is no reason that I should love Sonata Arctica as much as I do, and yet they are my favorite power metal band.
Their fifth studio album is (for once) a departure from their tried-and-true power metal roots, and is actually quite progressive. However, I don't feel that all of the "progression" on Unia
is completely necessary. Progressiveness should not be achieved by setting out to be proggy, it should grow naturally in the songwriting process. Many of the "prog" sections on here seem forced. This doesn't ruin the album, it just seems blatantly evident at times that this is a serious transitional album for Sonata Arctica.
Certain songs are greatly strengthened by their proginess, such as the six minute mini-epics "It Won't Fade" and "My Dream's But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare". Straightforward rockers, while in less abundance than on past SA releases, are present and are as excellent as ever: opener "In Black and White" headbangs its way across the floor and "The Harvest" wouldn't be out of place on an 80s thrash outing (sans Finnish-inflection drenched balls-in-the-vice vox, of course).
Pointless filler exists as well: pussy ballad "Under Your Tree" (about singer Tony Kakko's fucking dog
) and the utterly confusing "The Vice" come to mind, but this album as a whole is a lot more listenable for people who don't like Sonata Arctica, and probably pretty bad if you wanted them to stick to their roots.
Music, like all things, must evolve. Sonata Arctica had no generic power metal left in them, so they made a prog metal record. There are kinks that need to be worked out: for example, the balance between keys and guitar is tipped a bit too far in favor of the former. But by the next record, I have faith that SA will have the gears working as a reinvented band and will kick our (well, my) ass all over again.