Sound — 8
Despite the ups and downs of their recent album, "The Days Of Grays"; Sonata Arctica's thirteen years of experience really shine through. Every sound fits perfectly, all vocals, guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, and even the guest instruments like the banjo in the track "Cinderblox". There is a surprise as the last two tracks are "Wildfire Part II: One With The Mountain" and "Wildfire Part III: Wildfire Town Population: 0". They are continuations of the song "Wild Fire" from the 2004 album "Reckoning Night". At points in "Wildfire Part II" you could easily pick out some bits of the original "Wildfire" that are used, as well as some sounds from the album "Reckoning Night". The album is pretty much progressive metal through and through; finally shedding the power metal coat entirely. The album, once again, is a more solid progressive style than the last album. The tracks' lengths are more similar to Sonata Arctica's first two albums. Short, 3-4:30 minute songs that are faster and quick followed by one (Or two on "Stones Grow Her Name") longer song like "Ecliptica"'s "Destruction Preventer" or "Silence"'s "Power Of One" or "The End Of This Chapter". While most the tracks are strong and pretty well off; the track that stands out the most is "Cinderblox". I mentioned above that there was a banjo part. "Cinderblox" is interlaced with a banjo part that flawlessly fits into the music and doesn't interrupt the feel at all. The only track that seemed to be a little weak was "Don't Be Mean". This one just didn't turn me on like the other tracks did and it seems to lack the energy the other tracks convey.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics are not the same loveless werewolf at the door and Caleb breathing down a girl's neck. The songs are far less lyrically intense than "Days Of Grays", "Unia", or even "Ecliptica". There are still some fantasy elements, but they are toned down as are the metaphors. Two songs, "I Have A Right" and "Wildfire Part III: Wildfire Town Population: 0" have quotes from the United Nations "Rights Of The Child" and Sir David Attenborough. These work extremely well with the songs they are used in.
Overall Impression — 8
Compared to their early works, Sonata Arctica's "Stone Grow Her Name" is a far cry from the fast, power metal keyboard/guitar solos. When put face to face and back to back to more recent albums "Unia" and "Days Of Grays", they show they can ably handle the progressive turn they took about five years ago with "Unia" (I am aware that "Reckoning Night" had some progressive elements, but I'm talking full on progressive metal). Overall, I was one of the many who were unsure of Sonata Arctica's new approach; but after a few listens through the whole album I believe they have a tight grasp of their music and where they are going for the future.