The Days of Grays
This album is one of the most argued about within the metal community, and within the Black Wind Metal ranks. Sonata Arctica had always been known for their keyboard laden, joyful blend of power metal, but in 2004 something really pissed Tony Kakko off, and they released “Unia.” Well, five years past and that anger displayed on “Unia” turned to depression and they released The Days of Grays. Either that, or Kakko has been spending too much time with Juha-Pekka Leppäluoto from Charon (they sing together in Northern Kings), either way, it made for an interesting album.
Many people associate Sonata Arctica with power metal, and for the most part, rightfully so. However ever since “Reckoning Night” they have been leaning more and more to progressive metal, and on this album, massively leaning to a strand of gothic metal reminiscent of Type O Negative and Charon.
“The Days of Grays” has a strong atmospheric presence, entirely different from any before displayed by Sonata Arctica. A strong, emotive, yet depressive atmosphere blankets the entire album like a dense fog. It’s not about the performances of each individual member that makes this album; it is the combination of them all. Yes, Elias’ guitar work isn’t as flashy as it could be, and Klingenberg’s keys aren’t as technical as they could be, and the same goes for Paasikoski and Portimo, some would say Kakko’s performance was reliant upon instrumentation as well, but even without it, the man’s spot on.
For “Unia,” Kakko decided to keep his upper register in reserve, and opt for a more dramatic approach at the mid range, and on “The Days of Grays” he keeps that. However, he has now begun screaming like a madman, on “Unia” he did some screaming, but they were more of a shout, while this is full on screaming. As it adds tremendously to the atmosphere and feel of the album, this is a very good thing, but if this damages his voice in the long-run, I hope he quits. But he’s probably using proper technique, so he should be fine. Klingenberg’s keys simply add a huge sense of melody and delicacy that juxtaposes Viljanen’s crushingly heavy guitar riffs. This slightly imperfect trio makes this entire album breathtaking, while the rhythm section keeps things heavy as well as keeping its namesake.
Truly where this album shines is in the song writing. Such diversity within them really makes the album as a whole entertaining, without becoming stale. Deathaura is probably my favourite track, sporting an epic melancholic feel, with just the right amount of female vocals to add some variation. The singles Flag in the Ground, which is a rework of an old pre-Sonata song, and The Last Amazing Grays are extremely different and both fantastic tracks. Flag in the Ground is a much more typical Sonata song, but Kakko’s scream, “SOLO!” at the end brings a bit of the new sound in as well.
Not that this album is without its faults, the second half is a little weak. After Juliet, the songs are a lose some of their charm. And having two versions of the song Everything Fades to Gray is a little redundant, as the introducing instrumental version is much better. However having eight killer tracks and four less amazing, but still great songs is not bad by any stretch.
I love this album; it is one of my personal favourites, as well as one of the best albums I have ever heard. I can understand how someone could dislike this, as the mood may upset some people, but I connect with it on a deep emotional level. That’s probably not a very good thing is it? Anyways, I suggest a few listens to the videos below before buying, but anyone should see the immense value within this.
Claus’ Rating 4.5/5