Etikettarkiv: music review

Amberian Dawn – Circus Black (2012)

For one reason or another (or perhaps for no reason at all), I have missed out completely on music for a while. No good. Until this weekend I hadn’t heard Nightwish’ new ”The Crow, the Owl and the Dove” single with the previously unreleased ”The Heart Asks Pleasure First” b-track (cover of the theme song of the awesome film ”The Piano”), and I have yet to hear the new albums of both Epica, Eluveitie and Amberian Dawn. I suck, I know.

After going through Nightwish (which wasn’t a big surprise since I had heard a crappy live version recording before, but it’s nice to have it in good quality along with the lyrics and an instrumental version), I come to Amberian Dawn.

Last time AD released an album, ”End of Eden” in 2010, I was a huge fan after ”River of Tuoni” (2008) and ”The Clouds of Northland Thunder” (2009), and the result was me waiting like crazy for the release date, going through the forums day and night, staying home from school and waiting for the CD to land in the mail. The CD was awesome, and I wrote an extensive review of it immediately.

When the new ”Circus Black” comes, all is different. I know it’s been out for ages, yet I somehow haven’t bothered. I want to set aside time for it, I want to listen it through carefully and then go all fanboy-y on the internetz for a few days. I simply haven’t had the time.

Now is the time.

Here comes the mega awesome super cool extra turbulent Aki review of ”Circus Black”, written as I listen, with my very first impressions. Hell, I have yet to start it now, and I’m shaking… and it’s not just the coffee in front of me. Let’s go.

[Edit: I listen to a download version, as I can’t wait for my CD to arrive (in a couple days!). I therefore managed to screw up and missed ”Cold Kiss” and ”Guardian” at first, realising the mistake after reviewing ”Letter”. That’s why I complain about no song being over five minutes at one point. The ”Cold Kiss” review was thus done out of order and added afterwards.]

 

1. Circus Black (03:48)

I dislike starting with title tracks. It feels weird. The title track should be an intro of sort – not necessarily a short atmospheric intro, but some sort of kickstarter. Not the main song, as the title track tends to be. Oh well, let’s judge the music and not the title.

Starts with a creepy but cool sound, fits with the circus theme. The metal drums kicks in alongside the background sounds. Heidi sounds great as always, dulls the track down a tad. To nitpick, the chorus sounds like it comes to early, I wanted a longer pre-chorus section. Good vocal lines though, and still great background instruments. Good unexpected drum line before the second chorus. I don’t really listen to the lyrics first time around, but I’m sure there’s some awesome story somewhere.

Unusually interesting bridge section for AD, with good guitar lines and a quick yet suiting solo. Slows down in a good way, this is probably great live. Again, I think the chorus returns too early.

 

2. Cold Kiss (03:30)

Cool beginning! Melodic yet fast, classic AD. Nice whisper effects, but I’m a sucker for even the simplest background stuff. Timo Kotipelto’s guest vocals work great, I was worried if they would feel strange against Heidi’s but they sound excellent without taking over too much or feeling out of place. Nice riffing and cool keyboard solo. Overall a nice song, the riffing was indeed cool, and it feels like one that will grow on me.

 

3. Crimson Flower (04:24)

It looks weird to have three titles beginning with C in a row. Oh well. [written after realising the existence of ”Cold Kiss”: hey, four C’s!]

Good start, doesn’t really sound like AD but it’s good to vary. The vocal lines come in beautifully. Hard not to head bang, great mixture of exciting heavy metal and simply beautiful vocals. Unusually slow a tempo, but that’s what I’ve been looking for in AD for a while.

Wow, interesting turn after the chorus, slowing down completely. Great fairy tale-like theme in the music. The choirs complement Heidi’s vocals elegantly. I like how the tracks so far have had fairly lengty bridge sections, and with a cool solo in this one. That’s something I’ve hoped for in a while. The songs seem overall longer too, at over four allover, lenghtier than the previous ones (though I’m sad to see no five or six minutes tracks like on ”End of Eden”).

Epic finale!

 

4. Charnel’s Ball (04:27)

Another slow intro? Hm, alright. Exciting start with cool tempo and good guitar-bass-drum-combo. Feels a tad weird with another mid-to-slow-tempo after ”Crimson Flower”, but it might still turn. Oh, the intro turns into chorus (or chorus-like section)? Cool, it worked better than I’d imagine. The bass lines in the second verse are unusually imaginative and cool without disturbing Heidi’s vocal lines, I’d like to see more of that in the future.

The guitars and bass really kick in for the second chorus, it works truly epically. Again, this is probably really cool live. Cool drum solo line before the third chorus.

 

5. Fight (03:20)

I’m constantly paranoid about song titles and how they work in an album listing, which I know almost no-one else cares about, but still: I am truly disturbed by ideas such as having the three first track share the same progenital letter (C), and having two one-word tracks in the middle (”Fight” and ”Letter”) and two much longer titles close to the end (”I Share With You This Dream” and ”Rivalry Between Good and Evil”). I know no-one else cares, but IT FREAKS ME OUT. Please send this on to Who Gives a Shit Inc., Penny Lane 156, Switzerland.

Judging by the intro, the title and the length this seems to be one of the speedier ones. Yep, confirmed. ”River of Tuoni” flashback! This would probably have fit better right at the start, not as a wake up call after ”Charnel’s Ball”. I need either a cool atmospheric intro (read ”Of Silence…” by Sonata Arctica) or a kick-in-the-butt super power track to start an album.

Surprisingly kick-ass guitar solo, much heavier and much more… metallic than I’m used to see from AD. Might not work on every song, but this sort of thing should come around more often. ”Fight” certainly is a good title. I find myself drumming the keyboard with my fingers towards the end, awesome stuff. More of this live!

 

6. Letter (04:31)

Is this the quick-start section of the album, with both ”Fight” and ”Letter” starting with bass drums after the other three were much slower? Weird.

Interesting vocal section, and good pre-chorus section. Good tempo, I immediately start kicking with my feet. Good mix of slow and quick music, works organically as well as keeping it interesting and unexpected.

7. I Share With You This Dream (03:36)

Starts with a nice guitar melody and fitting riffing in the background, a tad sudden in my taste but at least it’s radio friendly. I have forgotten who’s doing guest vocals, but it feels like it works fine. I just hope Heidi comes in more than just the background. Nice chorus, but a little expected and too little heavy for my taste. Speaking of which, there has yet to come a real ballad. Is it ”Guardian” or ”Lily of the Moon”? I guess the latter.

In the second chorus I find myself drifting. It’s not bad, but it’s getting a little boring, nothing new comes. An okay solo, but nothing special or unexpected. Maybe it will grow on me in the future. A third solo comes, identical to the other two, only with a slight difference in drum pattern. What? It ends? This didn’t really work for me, at least not on first listen.

 

8. Rivalry Between Good and Evil (04:00)

A little too revealing a title, don’t you think?

Starts out like a fun and melodic instrumental (as it is). AD are skilled musicians who work well without vocals as well as with, and it’s nice to have a track per album to let them show it without restraints. At 1:20 I start hoping for a tempo shift or a turn of melody, and shortly after the song quickens. The circus theme seems to show again, or mayhap it’s just my imagination running wild without lyrics. At 2:20 I start to think the melody is getting a little overused, and shortly after it changes. They seem to know exactly what I want on this one, except that it might linger a little too long on certain sections (prior to the 2:40 mark or so). I hope this goes excellently into ”Guardian”, it sounds like it might. Oops, it didn’t really, but great finale!

 

9. Guardian (05:08)

I always look forward to the longer tracks, not because they _have_ to be better than the rest, but because they often are. They often leave a little more time to get the music across than the shorter tracks. In AD’s history, a lot of the shorter tracks feel somewhat incomplete and rushed, where I would have preferred more time devoted to intros, pre-chorus sections and bridge sections. Their longer (4-6 minutes) tracks are usually more interesting than the shorter (2-3 minutes).

Sounds like I was wrong about ”Lily of the Moon” being the ballad, this one seems to be it. Then again AD has a tradition of making their ballads longer than the standard songs. Heidi’s voice surprises me, it’s almost been a tad dull on the rest of the album but this felt unique. Maybe just because it’s almost alone? The dual-voice in the end of verse one seemed a little too much, but the double choirs shortly after worked nicely.

The chorus is epic without losing tranquility to speed. Slowing down a little too much? Feels a little too much like ”Willow of Tears” in that sense. Nice slowing down to another choir section though, it feels natural before the guitar melody and the second chorus. Nice drum section at around 03:40 before the fitting guitar solo. The heavy riffing is nice and unique to an AD ballad, as is the general heavyness of the song.

 

10. Lily of the Moon (04:06)

Ah, sudden! But nice. Cool to have another quick one, they have been slightly abscent as compared to other albums (especially the first two). I overall enjoy more AD songs being mid-tempo on ”End of Eden” and ”Circus Black”, but it’s nice to keep with the classic speed too. Cool chorus, background riffing seems to be a theme on this album.

The chorus and the overall speed and melody suits excellently for a closing song in a way no previous AD finish has. I can only imagine it would work greatly as a finale live too. I find myself drumming on the table of excitement, this just might be a new favourite. Awesome!

Within Temptation – Faster (single, 2011)

I was hoping the new Within Temptation album would lead them into a heavier direction, or at least a development of the symphonic metal of The Heart of Everything, but it seems like I was incredibly wrong. Judging by the early comments by the band, I assumed the new album The Unforgiving, to be released on March 25, was to be in a cleaner hard rock style. With the new single Faster, however, they seem to go more in the styles of a classic techno pop approach. Oh no.

I will not judge the entire album from this, no, but it does make me a wee bit disappointed already. I really loved The Heart of Everything as well as all their earlier albums, and I would hate to see such a band fall into ruins.

I am still really excited about the album, which is created alongside a graphic novel with the same name. The prequel is out already online, and it looks quite cool. The idea overall is great, and I’m excited to see how the story goes and how the lyrics goes into the overall story (I have always been a sucker for good concept albums).

I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but… well, the incredibly moronic Faster cover only increases my possible dislike for the song.

Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit (2010)

American black folk metal act Agalloch’s fourth studio album Marrow of the Spirit was released in October of 2010, perfectly before the winter season hit Sweden. And yes, the music fits perfectly with winter – this album is especially gloomy and filled with despair even in comparison to 2002’s The Mantle and 2006’s Ashes Against the Grain. The listener is given a unique 65-minute experience, travelling through an unforgiving forest of despair and doom, revisiting the hands of a creator and drowning in the cold lake Niðstång again and again.

They Escaped the Weight of Darkness (03:41)

While the album technically starts with They Escaped the Weight of Darkness, I would lie if I counted is as anything but an intro. It is almost four minutes of setting the mood with sweet cellos contributed and apparantly also composed by cellist Jackie Perez Gratz. The intro works extremely well, even though I wouldn’t have minded it shortened by a minute or two, and it perfectly sets the mood when we are thrown back into the black metal abyss.

Into the Painted Grey (12:25)

On first listen, Into the Painted Grey was the weakest track to me, and checking through music sites (especially Last.fm), it seems most listeners agree. Black metal has never been my genre – while most heavy metal genres have spiked through me at one time or another, black metal has constantly stood out as meaninglessly dark and without any real emotion. Agalloch became the exception of this when I first heard Ashes Against the Grain, but only because it is so much more – it stands out with incorporating both harsh and clean vocals, and it features folk guitar seldom heard in the genre. Into the Painted Grey is on first listen obvious return to a much more simplistic black metal, and it is only on subsequent listens that I have realised that this is not the case.

Into the Painted Grey features a force and a darkness seldom seen in Agalloch’s music, alongside the high-pitched guitar melodies and the just slightly audible acoustic guitars. And while the first five minutes are of an incredible force of ”let’s blow this shit up”, the remaining seven minutes or so feature a return to classical Agalloch, with sudden mode swings between electric and acoustic guitars, and perfect drum-guitar moments almost never heard in black metal. And as I hear vocalist John Haughm scream out ”How long shall I suffer here?” just past the seven-minute mark, I can’t help but feel a chill over my body and a tear by my eye.

While the lyrics of Marrow of the Spirit are as cryptical as ever before (and as they should be), these are the lyrics I can understand the most. The loneliness and despair of this everlasting, immortal being (dare I say God?) is saddening beyond my understandig. If ”You Were But a Ghost in My Arms” made me feel like running through a forest and ”A Desolation Song” had me weeping with a bottle of vodka in a Lappi shelter, Into the Painted Grey makes me want to scream from the very top of Kebnekaise.

The Watcher’s Monolith (11:46)

When ”Into the Painted Grey” ends so suddenly The Watcher’s Monolith picks up wonderfully with classic Agalloch acoustic-electric guitar composition. This is definitely the most folky of Marrow‘s six tracks, and it works greatly with many good hooks and riffs. Haughm varies greatly between harsh screams and clean, almost whispering vocals in this one, and the track creates a deceptive mood, quickly varying between mellow tranquility and piercing tensity. Both the music and the lyrics give me the feeling of this song being the one with the biggest story of the album, but I still can’t quite figure it out through the words.

From 8:40 and onwards is a beautifully excellent section, alongside the second half of ”To Drown” my favorite of the album. A simplistic yet crushing guitar-drum-bass riff along a wonderful two-guitar solo melody leading into the sounds of an empty night and a two-minute piano outro reminiscent of Beethoven’s classic ”Moonlight Sonata”.

Black Lake Niðstång (17:34)

Black Lake Niðstång is constantly seen as Agalloch’s finest work ever, and although I still can’t make up my mind I can surely say it is the best track on Marrow, alongside the yet-to-come final ”To Drown”. It starts out with a two-minute keyboard-timpani-guitar intro, leading into a classic acoustic-electric guitar moment. The first four minutes are basically a long tribute to Scandinavian folk guitar, alongside the crushing keyboard-guitar lines and Haughm’s (?) whispering voice of agony.

By the four-minute mark, the actual song kicks in, and what the booklet calls ”voice of the dead” begins a whispering verse. The later ”voice of the niðstång” (a niðstång is also called a nithing pole in English), a crying yelp of Haughm’s, is incredible and really shows his varied talent as a vocalist. The song later moves into an almost four minute long keyboard interlude handled by a guest play from Sun O)))’s Nathan Carson. While these kind of things may go incredibly wrong, this one really works. The four minutes deliver an incredible emotion and every time it so suddenly falls back into the band I want to scream alongside Haughm. And the final few minutes before ”Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires”, the lyrics finally tells us the end of the story about the Black Lake Niðstång, and… well, why you should not drink from its waters.

Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires (9:39)

At almost ten minutes, Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires still stand out as the quickest and most sudden of all songs. A fierce explosion of riff after solo after riff, it manages to control itself and work incredibly well throughout it stages, from the high bass intro and interlude throughout running drum sections and on through screaming vocal lines, and understanding its lyrics it works really well together, including its suddenly oh so saddening finale, that moves into the final track…

To Drown (10:27)

On first listen, To Drowns was the first track to really stand out. I have always been especially fond of all its elements, really, from the ambient sounds to the folk guitar, from the cellos to the clean vocals and onward to the magnificent drone metal finale. I have little useful to say on this track, really, other than that it is an incredible experience, beating previous final tracks like ”…And the Great Cold Death of the Earth” (The Mantle) and ”Scars of the Shattered Sky (Our Fortress Has Burned to the Ground)” (Ashes to the Grain) incredibly.

Stratovarius – Elysium (2011)

Power metal pioneer Stratovarius’ twelth studio album Polaris basically shocked the fans in 2009, bringing forth a powerful line-up after the departure of long-time guitarist and composer Timo Tolkki, who left the band in a big feud in 2008. Polaris was a refreshing new album, stepping on new grounds of progressive metal and techno, and meanwhile continuing the twenty-year tradition that made band famous to begin with – technically challenging yet extremely melodic, uplifting songs with heart and emotion.

2011’s Elysium, the second album with the new line-up, is probably even better. The album highlights on melodic hits such as Darkest Hours and Event Horizon as well as the beautiful ballad Move the Mountain and the epic and emotional 18-minute title track as well as the beautiful Lifetime in a Moment. The album perfectly balances all that we have learned to expect from Stratovarius, and it even brings a bunch of new stuff to the table.

1. Darkest Hours (04:10)

Released in late November of 2010 alongside ”Infernal Maze”, Darkest Hours is another one of the many Stratovarius hits and singles that wouldn’t grow on me immediately, alongside especially the Polaris single ”Deep Unknown”. While growing on me eventually and becoming a pretty strong track, ”Darkest Hours” stays somewhat of a medicore track, though it is indeed a good listen.

2. Under Flaming Skies (03:51)

An interesting track with some unique riffs and melodies, even though I hoped for a return of the Arabic (?) theme in the intro. The solo is good but I can’t help but feel that the song would have worked better with a slower C-passage before the final chorus.

3. Infernal Maze (05:32)

Infernal Maze was perhaps a bad choice for a pre-album single release (alongside ”Darkest Hours”), because of its epic and extremely non-singley arrangement, but to me this is a golden song. It reminds me of many of Stratovarius classical epics, alongside the newer, progressive and neo-classical themes of Polaris, especially ”Emancipation Suite”. The song gets a grip on both an emotional and technical level, bringing up speed in perfect balance with slower tempos and excellent guitar and keyboard work. It grows a lot in just five and a half minute, and it does really impress me.

4. Fairness Justified (04:20)

The beginning of this semi-ballad sounds a bit off right after ”Infernal Maze”, but it works. The choir chorus works unexpectedly well, even though it feels a bit sudden and maybe even forced upon the listener. Alike ”Under Flaming Skies”, I think the chorus is better suited for a more epic track, where it can be built in additional two or three slower minutes before the first chorus.

5. The Game Never Ends (03:54)

The Game Never Ends sounds (at least on first listen) a little too much like old school HammerFall for my taste. Power metal is good and HammerFall is okay, but this kind of thing has been done. Hopefully it will grow on me on subsequent listens. The ending keyboard solo is pretty cool though.

6. Lifetime in a Moment (06:39)

The second longer track on the album (after ”Infernal Maze”) is less progressive and more of the traditional epic style, even though it does incorporate some nice new age reminiscent sounds and some techno work after the choruses. Starting out with an interesting choir introduction, it moves into a calmer piece and escalates perfectly as the chorus kicks in just before the three-minute mark. The guitar riffs in the chorus stick out like they seldom do in Stratovarius music, and it works. The guitar solo, alongside several solos on the album, is a bit disappointing and too generic for my taste, and so it also fails to bring the song up properly before the third and final chorus, but it is still okay. The song reminds me of ”King of Nothing”, one of my favorite tracks from Polaris, but I think I might start to prefer this.

7. Move the Mountain (05:34)

Move the Mountain is the first proper ballad on the album, seeing as even though both ”Fairness Justified” and ”Lifetime in a Moment” has ballad elements but I wouldn’t count either as a full and proper ballad. This is a good thing, really, and something I love in music with special arrangements (bands that come to mind include both Devil Doll and My Dying Bride) is how they seldom have real ballads, but they incorporate it well into the music making more songs have a whole new dimension. Kind of like the old-school episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama often ending on a heart-felt tone even though the episode overall is comedy.

I think vocalist Timo Kotipelto brings in some amazing vocals in here, especially in the heart-felt verses. Keyboardist Jens Johansson – one of my all-time favorites – brings in the first really amazing solo on the album at 3:00 – 3:56 until he also brings some beautiful piano melodies when the song moves into a bridge. I was previously disappointed with some of the songs lacking a proper bridge (especially ”Lifetime in a Moment” which ended all too soon), but this kind of makes up for it.

8. Event Horizon (4:24)

Wow! This song kicks off wonderfully well with some strange noices and voices moving into a neo-classical keyboard section before the first verse. And you know what I said about the lack of good solos? I take it all back. This song is filled with great riffs and solos, even though the vocal sections (on first listen) don’t sound that extraordinary. This is definitely a live song, and I can’t wait to see this live in the future.

9. Elysium (18:14)

Basic summary: This song is pretty damn awesome. It is epic and emotional and everything one could want from an 18-minute track from a technical and wonderful band like Stratovarius. It contains three different choruses, all extremely good, and it has some wonderful riffing, solos, picking and vocal melodies, with all instrumentalists as well as vocalist Timo Kotipelto on the top of their trade. I wrote down my thoughts while listening to it the first time, and you can see them here below.

[00:00] The big album epic… I was really looking forward to this. Stratovarius generally bring great longer tracks (many bands do, the longer tracks works good for great composers who need longer time to fully achieve their dream), and I’m pretty sure this is their longest yet – popular bands in general don’t deliver tracks above the 12-minute mark or so, with a few exceptions.

[01:06] The track starts out promising with keyboards and some full band work before being joined by a choir. Nice and epic.

[04:00] The song works into a verse with Kotipelto’s agonised vocals, and then moves into a chorus, a cool mixture of guitar riffing, bass lines, keyboard picking and some guitar melody. Then comes a guitar / keyboard battle solo, and it’s a quite nice one. Why did they save all good solos for the final three songs?

[06:01] The chorus returns a second time, before the song falls into a strange mid-section with cool effects, slow drums and some guitar riffing, moving into a heavier section.

[07:48] Drums and bass lines are joined by Kotipelto’s vocals, and it moves into some new chorus before a guitar solo kicks off, and he repeats the verse.

[11:00] Another great guitar solo! The chorus really starts making an impression the second (or is it the third?) time around, and I realise how emotional the song is on a deeper level.

[13:32] The song moves into a section like its introduction, and it really sits well after the chorus. Kotipelto’s voice works extremely well in with the instruments, and its more varied and emotional than, dare I say, ever before.

[16:52] An instrumental, semi-techno section comes and brings the song up even further, before a choir kicks in and with it kicks some serious ass, followed by the solo. I’m somehow reminded by one of my absolute favorite Strato songs, ”Mother Gaia”, but I can’t tell why. The song then moves into repeated chorus originating in the acoustic section (see 13:32) and it works oh so well. As always, I don’t listen much to the lyrics on first listen, but as soon as I get the actual album and not the Spotify version in my hands I will surely listen through it again with the booklet in my hands.

[18:13] And it ends.

Sonata Arctica – The Days of Grays (2009)

(this review is completely ignorant to the bonus symphonic CD or the bonus tracks. It’s just the 12 original tracks)

To me, Sonata Arctica has always been the power metal band. They were, together with Nightwish and Within Temptation, what brought me into both heavy metal music and classical music in circa 2005 – 2006. Since then, I have heard literary hundreds, if not thousands, of bands. Among these are Stratovarius and Helloween, two of the first power metal bands in the 1980’s and onwards. When I first heard Stratovarius, I though ”oh – so that’s where it comes from”. And yes, it is obvious – Sonata’s 1999 debut Ecliptica was more or less a tribute to Stratovarius. There is basically no orginiality, although there are some really good tracks (including ”FullMoon”, ”Letter to Dana” and ”Kingdom For a Heart”).

Both Silence (2001) and Winterheart’s Guild (2003) were MUCH more original, with several truly unique songs. The band, though, started to get bored with this style that more or less was a big tribute to the 1980’s power metal band. All this resulted in the more progressive Reckoning Night of 2004, an album that I’ve never really been that fond to. There is a lot of ”purer” heavy metal – ”Misplaced”, ”Ain’t Your Fairytale”, ”Wildfire” – and a lot of freakish let’s-have-fun-and-play-our-asses-of in ”The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet”. This latter new angle was also a great part of their next album, 2007’s Unia. Unia was their first album to take a completely different direction, away from the general power metal and into a field of… can I call it progressive metal? I don’t think I can. It is a type of melodic metal, with influences from classical music, power metal, thrash metal, progressive metal, classical rock, psychedelic rock… It was something I had never heard before. At first I didn’t really like Unia, but I listened it through a few times… and it’s incredible.

The Days of Grays was the successor of Unia, and I was really worried. What could this lead to? Would it be another great turn, maybe into thrash or doom? Would it follow Unia closely – maybe too closely? Or would it be a turn back into the power metal field? It turned out I was wrong altogether.

The album kicks off with an instrumental intro – something I am a big fan of as long as it is good and not just something thrown in. And that’s absolutely not Everything Fades to Gray (Instrumental), which leads perfectly into the album’s epic, the wonderful Deathaura. This eight-minute track is a bit disappointed to me, actually, since Sonata usually has so great epics (”The Power of One”, ”The End of This Chapter”, ”Caleb”, ”White Pearl, Black Oceans”), but I suppose I’m just constantly annoyed by the same thing; it is too fast. I would not mind at all if it was mixed into being played for a total of 15 och 20 minutes… Because as it is it’s just too fast, too much reminding of Wildfire. It’s okay for a minute at the time, but going fast as hell in eight minutes?

The second track is also the first single – The Last Amazing Grays – and is a beautiful semi-ballad about dying proud and with dignity. I actually cried the first time I heard it (when the single was leaked), although it’s now quite overplayed (I think it’s about 80 plays according to Last.fm, the single edit included).

Flag in the Ground is the third track and the second single. If you prefer the old school Sonata, this is the song you’ll like on Days of Grays. The song is a remake of the unreleased song ”BlackOut” from the band’s early demos. It’s a really catchy tune with an epic bridge and finale – ”I put the flag in the ground / Screaming and shouting, I’ve never been so proud, love / I make my way into the great unknown / Land by the river and a newbuilt home / Every night when I’m looking at the fullmoon rising / I hold you and know that we are free.”

My favorite songs on the album are probably ”Juliet” and ”The Truth is Out There”. Juliet is both a big allusion to the famous Shakespeare play / the Italian legend of Romeo and Juliet, as well as the fourth and (I think) last episode in the Caleb tale (”Don’t Say a Word”; ”The End of This Chapter”; ”Caleb”). And it’s wonderful! It’s so beautiful, so sad, so epic! ”These are my final lines, I used all my nine lives / My soul reason to die; there’s no life without you”. And The Truth is Out There… what can I say? So incredibly original and… well… strange but great at the same time. I really love it’s atmosphere, and it’s lyrics linked constantly with the great TV series The X Files.

What I missed on Unia was the ballads. On the earlier albums, there were lots of wonderful guitar-based ballads such as Letter to Dana and Shamandalie, but this sort of dropped out with Unia. With Days of Grays, it’s a bit different; there ARE two ballads, if not quite different to the original type. Breathing is actually one of my new favorite songs with Sonata. It is very melancholic and epic, and reminds me of Draw Me. As if the World Wasn’t Ending is different, it is a bit more… well… I don’t know. It is not a bad song, but it’s not excellent either. It is somewhere in the middle, just your standard ballad.

What can I say about The Days of Grays as a conclusion? It is great! Go buy it! At this point, it is honestly my favorite Sonata Arctica album, very original, melodic, sad, epic… It is just wonderful. Try it out, but be careful not to judge it too early; I didn’t like it at all until the third or fourth listen.