Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 5/29/2012
Stones Grow Her Name
posted on 5/2012 By:
Sonata Arctica has always been the kind of “metal” you’d hear playing at Disney World (or at least in the Disney store), but I’ll admit that I thoroughly enjoyed 2004’s Reckoning Night and a few tracks from The Days of Grays. Like them or not, many of their tunes are fun, anthemic, and well composed. Unfortunately, Stones Grow Her Name marks what I’d call Sonata’s weakest attempt, and despite a few bright spots and interesting twists, it’s a corroded sparkly rainbow of mediocrity and lazy songwriting. Better luck next time, guys. Seriously. Figure out where the luck is and employ it before you write another song, please. The opener, “Only The Broken (Hearts Make You Beautiful)”, is as cheesy as the title suggests, but it’s not the worst track on the album by a long shot.
“Shitload of Money” is an entertaining 80’s glam throwback, which I appreciated due to its lack of lovesick peasants following princesses on horseback into a misty forest, spewing weepy adoration. It's atypical of Sonata's other work, and while it's not gritty by any means, it still a bit more substantive than the fluffy merengue of the surrounding tunes. The next track, “Losing My Insanity”, starts off with some saccharine piano before launching into a basic chugging riff and a conventional Sonata Arctica structure. To put it in simple terms (Sonata are experts at this), this album is painfully predictable (except for the bizarrely bluegrass inspired and pleasantly speedy “Cinderblox”) and even more syrupy than I could have anticipated. Vocally, Tony Kakko is still on top of his game, and he delivers even the most dopey high school lyrics with commendable sincerity. Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius fame also lends his talents to a few tracks, but it doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.
“I Have A Right” is an electro-pop track combined with “power” metal and the charm of a kindergarten musical. I cannot for the life of me imagine a bunch of sweaty bearded metalheads chanting along to this, as it seems to be an adorably modulating empowerment anthem better suited for a sensitive elementary school kid. In fact, there’s a voiceover from a child (or a very puny-sounding adult) in the middle of the song, which amused me to no end. This is a cute song, but even as an eight-year-old, I would’ve rolled my eyes at this.
As previously mentioned, “Cinderblox” (darling spelling duly noted) is a surprising and banjo-filled departure from their usual fare, but it’s not terribly well done, and there are times where the unconventional bluegrass/metal hybridization completely fails to resonate. Still, I respect the risk, and as the next track “Don’t Be Mean” implores, I’m trying to be diplomatic here. This tune is a strummed acoustic ballad, and aside from a few comical vocal runs, it’s fine, although hearing a grown man sing, “Don’t be mean to me” is sort of depressing (and not in the way I think Tony was going for). I recognize that I’m not a huge fan of Sonata Arctica to begin with, but I own a solid chunk of their discography, and I find Stones to be severely under par. Additionally, I’d be extremely uncomfortable calling this album metal, because it rarely falls under this categorization. I’m not even sure what I’d call it, but during the vast majority of the album, I felt as though I was being slowly gored (and bored) to death by an obese and arthritic unicorn. In short, I don’t find Stones Grow Her Name to be necessary listening material unless you’re a die-hard fan of Sonata Arctica and won’t mind making excuses for its lack of effective risk-taking, charm, and strength the whole way through.
Stones Grow Her Name doesn’t improve until “Wildfire, Part: II”, which is the first time the band writes a cohesive, well-executed, and enjoyable tune during this record’s hour-long tenure. Ultimately, “Wildfire, Part: III” brings in some squealing guitars and double bass, which was such a relief after ten tracks of major key tonality and mind-numbing banality that I actually paused the tune to breathe a colossal sigh of relief. Finally, a song that I could classify as power metal without wincing. It’s also over seven minutes long, which is nearly enough time for me to forgive a couple of the album’s previous sins, but the track ends with a bizarre robot narration that made me squint confusedly at my iPod, as though it would tell me what the hell just happened. In any event, it’s still the best song on the record, and even a good track alongside Sonata’s finer previous work, but eight minutes of decency doesn’t make up for the rest of this Playskool trainwreck. If there’s a tangible storyline to Stones, it was lost upon me, and it mostly comes across as a sequence of randomly regurgitated ideas and desperate attempts at catchiness.
I went into this listening experience with fragile optimism, and I left feeling as though my eardrums were encrusted with crystallized aspartame. I would listen to this album a few more times to see if it grows on me, but I think I’ve paid dearly enough for my transgressions, and I’m not enough of a masochist to put myself through this sonic torture again.
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