I’ve been a fan of Sonata since ecliptica, and for the most part i’ve enjoyed everything they’ve put out. I will not recap all their previous albums, but I will say, in my own opinion this is some of their best work to date. There is no doubt in my mind the Ecliptica is still by far their best album, but there is only so much speed metal to be done these days. I really enjoy how dark this album is. From the erie opener leading into Deathaura, to the sad and gloomy juliet, this album has a bit of everything. I feel it’s somewhat of a mix between Winterheart’s Guild and Unia. I feel that this album was what they wanted to accomplish with Unia. I know that alot people have mixed emotions about this album, but i think if people just get past the fact that SA wants to try new things, and give the album a whirl they will find that there is still SA roots deep within, and some new elements that’s going to keep fans always wanting more. I know i want more, and I wonder where they will go from here. Some con’s I have about the album since i find this album not quite perfect, is the lack of solo’s, but then again, I can’t complain about that when i’m hearing violins…..oh how i love violins…..Enjoy Day’s of Grays! I know I do!
Stirring up youth in the hearts of many and acting like a sonic beacon for fans seeking the ultimate adrenaline high, Finland’s ambassadors of light and hope have toiled through difficult times long enough to harvest an award-winning career. The Days of Grays is a testament to finding light in the darkness as after years of touring in relative obscurity here in the States, Sonata Arctica have found their place. Taking their cues from traditional and Power Metal bands, arena rockers and a seemingly long-gone time when melody in heavy music was the expectation, not the exception, the band have returned to the faster, chant-friendly, fist-pumping songs they’re known for worldwide.
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I have listened with great anticipation to the new Sonata Arctica The Days of Gray CD more than a few times. The band has certainly changed their style over the last two albums, but this change has evolved more with The Days of Gray when compared to Reckoning Night, their last gasp at the Wolves years as I like to call the earlier works; and Unia, the more “pop” sounding Sonata Arctica.
The Days of Gray opens with a beautiful instrumental in “Everything Fades to Gray,” which has majesty and a nod to classical music. The band then uncharacteristically open the second track, “Deathaura” with a female vocal supplied by the sweet voice of Johanna Kurkela. The song is wandering and builds to a classical sounding crash. The band has moved its sound to a place I have not heard from them before, and it is bit more than reminiscent of a band like Kamelot than Sonata Arctica. There is some displaced (in all honesty) multi-layered sounds coming through on this song, which adds to the “metal” moments of the album. It also adds a bit to the song.
“The Last Amazing Grays” is the third track, which sounds a bit more like “pop” than “power” metal. All of the time, Marko Passikoski’s thundering bass strums evenly along. Tony Kakko’s vocals are in perfect pitch. Missing is Henrik Klingenberg’s flashy keyboards in this song, giving in to a more classical sway in the background. Tommy Portimo’s high snare drums are missing as well, as the more thundering bass heavy drums are pounded. The guitars of Elias Viljanen play the power metal riffs with clarity and precisely. This is the signature song on the album, that explains the themes of death, redemption, atonement and individuality, which is the reality of maturity and “the days of grays” as we age. The band seems to set the tone of the growing musically with their spirit of aging theme that encompasses this album.
“Flag in the Ground” is the traditionally “tuneful hit” that we have come to expect from Sonata Arctica over the years, as it hearkens back to their mid-period. To me it is an opposite of “Don’t Say a Word,” in which a lover learns of his woman’s infidelity and brutally says good bye. Now a maturing Kakko is finding himself and discovers his lover wants him back. Truly a great song.
Carrying on that self-discovery theme is “Breathing,” perhaps the most deeply moving song on the album. Kakko sings “I cannot control my life anymore; Feel a need to leave and breathe on my own; I remember all the broken songs of my life; Maybe one more wrong will make it all right; I just really need to be alone now…” It reminds me of Ruins of My Life from Ecliptica, as this one is a slower and more haunting song.
“Zeroes” follows as a quicker, but more of a throw-off song. Not my favorite on the album, but it offers some speed at a space in the album when it is needed. It also features the famous Kakko scream.
After “Zeroes” is “The Dead Skin’ continuing the aging sage theme of the band. It has grown me in its pacing and building up to a climax theme. It also features the heaviest bass riffs thus far on the whole album. And then in the center of the song are the tuneful keyboards that I enjoy from the band. Probably among the most powerful songs on the album. I really like this one.
“Juliet” follows and I again sense a nod to more gothic sounds of bands like Kamelot (and no, I am not calling my favorite melodic/power metal band a goth band). This one has the thundering signature rhythm sound of Sonata Arctica, cat references, and a sense of longing. You can sense this has the longing and despair as they Kakko sings “life is but a long, sad game; lifeless souls avoiding shame; two dead swans is all we need; to pave the winding memory lane.” It also plays on Shakespeare’s theme of lost love, but the “Romeo” and “Juliet” are much older from Sonata Arctica and have lived much longer than Shakespeare’s characters. It sounds honestly like something that could have been pulled from Kamelot’s Black Halo
“No Dream Can Heal a Broken Heart,” follows the bombastic “Juliet” and features Johanna Kurkela on vocals. The aging theme is continued as Kakko sings “One day we will run out of tomorrows; and yesterday’s become the stuff our dreams are made of…” The poisoned lips references are also a connection to “Juliet’s” theme.
The next song “As If The World Wasn’t Ending” starts with a keyboard solo that I swear was lifted from early to mid 1970s pop music like the Carpenters. It seems oddly out of place, but then the crash and rumble of the bass and guitars crescendo rescues the song and the guitar solo in this one is the best on the album. This is a song about a delusional soul looking for comfort in toxic liquids to reach drunken understanding.
“The Truth Is Out There” is a redemption song of sorts, atonement by acceptance. It also has among the most clever lyrics on the album. “Now I am crawling in (my crawling skin); I can’t wake up anymore (can’t find the door); I try to make a deal (with myself); to avoid the blinding door (once again)….Can I trust my own eyes; Is that me in disguise; Is this bliss or am I insane?” There is a soaring and swirling quality in the keyboards and choruses of voices in this one, complete with cellos and orchestration. This song seems like a more mature piece of music performed by Sonata Arctica.
The album proper ends with a return to the themes and musical moments of “Everything Fades To Gray.” The song is a summation of life. Lyrically, the philosophy is clear: “When it all ends; when everything fades to gray, we dive into the darkness; some things are needless to say.” There is a crash of sounds in this one as a false ending brings us back to the central theme of age, redemption, acceptance, and the inevitable end.
The bonus track “In My Eyes You’re a Giant” is among my favorites. It sounds like it could have easily fit on Eclipitica, or Silence from their past. The “wolves’ theme returns as well. Kakko sings “Here I am howling at the bright new moon; the burning flame within, my own kin, and; every night I heard something out there calling me; reminding me, friend, to know, I am not your child.” This song hearkens all of the Sonata Arctica fans to the high hat and snare drums, the heavy bass, the quirky vocals, the sharp guitars and the signature keyboard solos. It is the perfect ending of this mature album, as this song is a return to the colors of the band in the last hurrahs of The Days of Gray. For more of my stuff, just check out Sweetwood Metal Moments, my hard rock, power metal and heavy metal blog; you’ll be glad you did.
Let me introduce myself as a Sonata fan from the beginning. I have always loved their fast, double-bass laden power metal. As an objective listener who like GOOD MUSIC and not just double-bass crazy fast stuff, I can say that this is definitely one of their best albums. Sonata Arctica has made a truly epic album full of hard, melodic rock that fans should love despite a slight slow-down in speed. But please note that it is definitely an increase in tempo and power from Unia. I get bored with Unia, but have been listening to Days of Grays constantly since I bought it in September. As with most albums from groups you love that have been around a long time, I was a little disappointed as I listened to the album the first time around. But that’s basically a result of having to distance the new songs from the band’s previous songs that are ingrained in your mind. the second time around was a charm, and I recommend this album to anybody that likes rock, likes rock with good lead singer voices, and likes rock with melody. GO SONATA!
This album is simply a masterpiece! This album is kinda like Unia just minus huge choirs of Tony’s. This album contains lots of catchy vocal melodies, shouting and orchestrations. The downside is that there is not many solos on the album and it’s all just Tony (not really a bad thing). It might take the listener a few spins to appreciate the album much like the bands previous release “Unia”. Overall I haven’t been bored with this album and I listen to it regularly. Sonata is doing the right thing in my opinion and making there own music/style, if your expecting old Sonata Arctica and can’t accept growth and maturity in bands then this isn’t for you. Enjoy the experience! The Days Of Grays is one of the best releases this year (2009).
I’m going to have to disagree greatly with the other 2 reviewers. This album, like many other great albums, takes some getting used to. Sonata Arctica have definitely evolved into more of a progressive outfit than a power metal outfit. This is NOT a bad thing, as the fantastic vocal lines and soaring melodies lend themselves wonderfully to both genres. The people who say bad stuff about this album will likely be the same people who disliked Unia…comments like “not enough super fast songs”, “where is the double bass”, etc. In reality, this album is a logical progression from the sidestep that Unia was. I love ALL of Sonata Arctica’s stuff, but I feel like this evolution/change in their sound is not a bad thing. I mean really, how many years do you think a band should spend rewriting the same album? I for one am very impressed with the added maturity of Sonata’s songwriting nowadays. Sure, some of the fun aspect of it had to be killed off in the process, but the other super fast power metally albums still exist for you to listen to when you want a fix of that. The Days of Grays and Unia provide another side of this band, and I think that any Sonata Arctica fan will enjoy this with some repeated listens.
Standout tracks: Deathaura, Zeroes, Juliet, As If The World Wasn’t Ending