Sonata Arctica - Unia (Nuclear Blast Records) - Back
Although Finland’s Sonata Arctica have been releasing albums since 1999, "Unia" is my first exposure to the band. After being assigned this review, I tracked down about an album and a half of the bands older material, to give me a reference point. If the songs that I listened to are any indication "Unia" marks a bit of a change of direction for Sonata Arctic. Overall, my opinion of this album is mixed.

"Unia" is power metal in it’s most glossy and polished form. This album consists almost entirely of mid tempo fare, quite a bit different from some of the blazing fast songs that I found while investigating the band’s back catalog. While most of the songs are driven by mid paced guitar riffs, keyboards play major role here as well and are a pivotal part of the band's sound. Vocalist Tony Kakko has a solid midrange voice and a strong delivery, making the vocals a highlight of the album. Choruses and layering add another dimension to the vocals, and call to mind some of the things that Blind Guardian have done in this department on their last few albums. The vocals in combination with the emphasis on keyboards give "Unia" and almost rock-opera type feel at times. The production has a warm clear sound with all of the instruments being audible in the mix.

The lack of variance in the tempo of the songs is really a problem here. The focus on mid paced songs combined with the emphasis on keyboards make it difficult for "Unia" to harness any type of aggression. Furthermore, none of the songs really jumped out and grabbed me, again I attribute this to the lack of significant tempo changes throughout the album. There are a lot of different elements at work here, and "Unia" is undoubtedly an ambitious opus, but the album just seems to meander on and on, without ever reaching a destination.

"Uina" does nothing to offend, it is a classy and professional sounding album and contains numerous interesting moments. At the same time it does little to make a lasting impression and simply does not draw me in. This type of high-fi, almost symphonic power metal is really not something that I normally listen to, and it would be unfair not to state this before ending the review. Still, I can’t help but think that something is lacking here.


Reviewed By: Garett F.