Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 5/22/2007
posted on 6/2007 By:
Working a darker slightly progressive angle, Unia reveals a very different side of Sonata Arctica that may leave longtime devotees shaking their heads from side to side instead of up and down. The fifth full-length addition to their discography is quite the departure from the band's previous releases. Much in the way that Dragonland successfully modified their approach on Starfall in 2004, Sonata Arctica have scrapped their signature hyper-melodic power metal sound for an Evergrey-esque slant that yields minimal positive results for the Finnish five piece.
The emphasis on fancy fretwork is far less prominent on Unia than ever before, as the guitar is used as nothing more than a rhythm instrument. Fans of songs like "Blank File" and "Wolf & Raven" from Ecliptica and Silence, respectively, are better to steer clear of this disc entirely. With the exception of "In Black And White" and "The Harvest", both of which boast quite stunning solos, Jani Liimatainen brings little to the table that could be viewed as even remotely bold or inventive. In some instances it serves well but, for the most part, his dull delivery of muddy power chord posturing is possibly the biggest part of what went wrong with this album.
On the other hand, the drum and keyboard performances on Unia shine with remarkable professionalism and grace. Rather than a consistent double-bass gallop, Tommy Portimo explores a variety of drum techniques and patterns that are new to his playing and help to distract from the bland guitar work mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, Henrik Klingenberg burns up the ivory with synthesized classical runs that would give Richard Andersson goose bumps. All in all, Klingenberg is the main attraction musically on Unia and has been the subject of my attention since he joined Sonata Arctica in 2004, not to mention his work in Silent Voices.
Tony Kakko is in his usual cheesy form, singing overly dramatic and emotional airs of troubled and/or failed relationships, a common theme throughout Unia and all Sonata Arctica albums. At times his vocal enunciations seem a bit out of place as if he wasn't on the same page as the rest of the band, however, he hits the nail right on the head with Queen-like multi-layered voicings on "The Vice" and "My Dream's But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare".
Though the album isn't a complete failure, it is significantly less inspired and focused than anything Sonata Arctica has done to date. Down-tuned and downtrodden, Unia suffers most from an overabundance of half-ballad mid-tempo tracks that sluggishly edge their way to bitter end. New listeners may find the album to be quite tolerable and possibly enjoyable, but original Sonata Arctica fans will most likely want to avoid this one altogether.
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