Sonata Arctica - Unia
Nuclear Blast
(Cacophonic) Melodic Metal
12 songs (58'35)
Release year: 2007
Sonata Arctica, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Chris
Now that's a band I've been a huge fan since day 1. Their first album was a Stratovarius monster on speed, and to this day is their most memorable album in my humble opinion. And though Silence was an excellent follow-up to their dicography, the band then entered a period of high and lows, but always managing to release albums that contained enough good material to forgive some of the filler songs. Is Unia a wake up call or just another of the band's low ?

This question cannot be answered at the first listen, which was, plain and simple : awful and painful ! A cacophony of sounds that did not deserve the Sonata Arctica stamp. I thought I'd throw up when I first listened to this album. If you like this album from the first listen, then all I can conclude is that we don't come from the same planet (but everyone knows I come from the Saiyan planet ;) ). Jokes aside, at first its a bit difficult to find lots of things to like about Unia. I had to wait until my fourth full and attentive listen to actually start to like some of the songs and some awesome moments (but even so they are few). Sonata Arctica as always been heavy on the keyboards, but this time they might have gone overboard in this area. I mean its like the keyboards are more important than the guitars, and that is plain wrong in my book. The problem is not that its full of keyboards (and not full of stars :) ), its just that it detracts the attention from the songs, and result in some cacophonic moments when you don't really remember what you're listening, since there's too many things going on at the same time. Thank god there are some songs that aren't too much affected by this musical (somewhat organized) chaos, mainly the first two songs. Now on the singing part, I don't know, its not the worst that Sonata Arctica delivered, but its most certainly not their best either. The first two songs, In Black and White and Paid In Full (which entered Finish charts in #1) are quite good songs, but its after these two that things tend to get, well, out of sync for a band as majestic as Sonata Arctica. For the sake of revenge, the third song, has very little moments that can be counted as highlights... its overdone in almost every way, keyboards are too omnipresent, drawning Tony's vocals and distracting you from the rest of the song, which is by no means a good one anyway. The next song It Won't Fade has a great heavy riff, and an interesting chorus. The use of keyboards as a clinging sound in the back as displayed in the second verse, is HOW the keys should be used (to add to the rest but stay discreet). Some interesting moments in that song, but also some cacophonic ones, weird changes (too progressive a la Queen went wrong for Sonata Arctica) here and there to make it an overall good song. And as if the last two songs hadn't make a big dent into the album already, a slow song points its nose to put the album to an almost stop (people, ballads are for the second part, if not to end an album, and not to be sprinkled all over like cheese on your pasta, something I don't like either btw :) ). If I can resume Under Your Tree in one word : boring. Its an attempt in doing something magical, but in my opinion it fails miserably with some of the album's trendmark cacophony (too much at the same time, and not in sync with what should be on a metal album !). The best thing about the next song is probably Nathalie Portman's sweet voice (at least I assume its her) in the intro. Well, there is a good riff in there too, and some attempt of going creshendo throughout the song, but then again Sonata Arctica misguided envy to go overly progressive is not paying out. And its a REAL shame as there are some moments of brillance in that song, but they get lost in the mix of bad ideas throwned in there too (like the hybrid Blind Guardian meets Queen attempt before the first awesome guitar solo of the album). This album could have been something huge, but its the perfect exemple of attempting to put too many ideas into one pot. If you take all the brilliant moments from the album, and put them into a "standard" Sonata Arctica album, then you'd get their best work, instead you're finding yourself waiting for a great moment lost into something that sometimes wants to be symphonic, sometime operatic but most of the time its just sounds wrong. It is important to note that if there is more than 1-2 things that go wrong in a song, that very song is LOST to me (even if it has awesome moments like the guitar solo and the bridge in The Harvest)... and since there is so many changes of style, tempo and vocal melodies in most of the songs, I find it difficult to find lots to like in terms of full songs (hence my score, though I'm trying to keep an open mind or this would get a crap logo treatment) besides the two first songs. Maybe what Tony did was pure genius and will be recognized so by others, but I'm sorry to say that to me it sounds mostly cacophonic.

I have no doubt that I'm very harsh with the band here, but its only because I'm (or was) a die-hard fan of Sonata Arctica, and while I have no doubt that some people will find their new attempt to be something original, and it probably is, its just not what I sign for when I purchase something that bears the name of Sonata Arctica. The band is definitely not the same it was when they wrote Ecliptica ! This last attempt emphasize the need for Tony to write more complex songs, and in my opinion : too complex for their own good. Some ideas are good, some few moments are even genius (think Divine Wings Of Tragedy by Symphony X, but unlike the later without good music in between the genius moments), but they get mixed with so average and non-metal compatible stuff that it all ends up sounding like a cacophonic excuse to a melodic progressive album. Its a shame if you ask me (and I guess you are if you're still reading). If you're a fan of the band since day one, there is very little chance you'll like what was attempted here, but the best is probably for you to try it for yourself. Fan of different and original metal might feel differently. As far as I'm concerned this a one of the biggest disappointement of the year yet. Sonata Arctica has fallen from grace...

Killing Songs :
In Black and White & Paid In Full.
Chris quoted 55 / 100
Other albums by Sonata Arctica that we have reviewed:
Sonata Arctica - The Ninth Hour reviewed by Jared and quoted 70 / 100
Sonata Arctica - Pariah's Child reviewed by Joel and quoted 85 / 100
Sonata Arctica - Stones Grow Her Name reviewed by Cory and quoted 71 / 100
Sonata Arctica - The Days Of Grays reviewed by Elias and quoted 95 / 100
Sonata Arctica - For The Sake Of Revenge (DVD/CD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
To see all 15 reviews click here
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