Sound: To start off it will be good to understand that this album is quite different than prior releases. Rather than being a fast paced, typical power metal album, it is a lot more progressive in sound. Though this is probably not due to Elias (their new guitarist), but rather to their maturing as a band; which has also been seen this year with Stratovarius and their new album, Polaris. In a sense, Sonata's new album follows the sound that UNIA had, but went into a darker tone altogether.
Honestly I was not overly impressed with the album after first listening to it. This was partially due to the fact that it was so different than their other albums; but then again the same thing happened with UNIA, which later became one of my favorite albums. The Days of Grays is also shaping up to do the same, for it is quickly becoming the most played album I own.
Notable is the lack of extended guitar solos; but this was even the case for UNIA, and it seems to add room for more depth in other places that may have not possessed any if it was simply just a cut and dry power metal album. Though, at the same time I would have liked to have had a solo or two where there are parts that are just layered chord progressions, but overall it was not in any way a substantial drawback from the music that was otherwise very good.
Basically it is a mature sound, that may not appeal to everyone, especially someone looking for a Dragonforce type sound. Which is why this album shines, because it is dark. // 8
Lyrics: Lyrically it is what has come to be expected of them; that is a lot of lyrics about either love or emotions. Do not take this as turn off, for they do it without sounding like every other typical song of the same subject. The tone of the lyrics are much darker than any of their previous releases, and unlike UNIA, each song flows fluently with the lyrics. The best way to give a full comprehension of the lyrical content is to give a brief explanation of each song:
01. Everything Fades To Gray: (instrumental)
02. Deathaura: honestly I don't know what this song is about, it seems to follow a common theme, but also feels like a collection of songs rather than a whole song; though it is worth noting that it is a good song musically, and probably has a meaning somewhere in it. If anyone knows what it is about please comment.
03. The Last Amazing Grays: this song is essentially about how there must be hope that the new generation can keep the world alive; for the old generation is dying as "time is catching up with [them]." Also, the narrator (singer) sees that "life is just a phase" and that "in the eyes of every newborn" he sees both the "future" and the "past times."
04. Flag In The Ground: this song's easy to understand; after all, the lyric booklet tells what it is about, and to sum it up it is about immigrants who would come to America in search of land, in order to escape from serdom in Europe, and in hope of finding a new life.
05. Breathing: the first ballad on the album (though song 2 may be considered a ballad as well). The song goes right into emotional struggles when it says "no color can add a flavor," rather, the person's life is so dark that not even the brightest of days can make him feel warmth or happiness. This is definitely a song to listen to for anyone who is searching for a well written ballad.
06. Zeroes: from what I can tell this song is about how governments construct lies to feed to their people in order to trick the people into doing what it is they want for their political agenda. At one point "the sun is... ashamed to light a lie," and at other points throughout the song there are hints that also refer to political lies.
07. The Dead Skin: can probably be interpreted multiple ways, but the easiest to write at the moment is that of a love story, or rather a love story gone wrong. The story goes that there's a man who cannot stand the way he acts, and he knows that the person he is with is suffering from it as well. During the chorus he says that "if love's the neck that kept us together, and apart... Now it's broken," which shows that they are apart, and from being apart they have to move on, and the one who moves on is the one who is "strong enough to peel off the dead skin."
08. Juliet: an alternative take on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Rather than tragically and romantically dying together, only the Romeo character dies traditionally, while Juliet, the "double-crossing, filthy whore" lives. The Romeo character wanted "to pave the way to memory lane" by having "two dead swans" (him and her). Nonetheless, this is an interesting take on the story.
09. No Dream Can Heal a Broken Heart: this song was not that easy to figure out, but in my opinion it seems to be about a man who knows he cannot be with a certain woman for one reason or another. Though he is constantly seduced by her, and she has made his "independant thought deleted." eventually he has a revelation and realizes he must say "goodbye love," and move on.
10. As If The World Wasn't Ending: basically the world is a mess, and that it's hard to blame it on one person for "[he is] only a man, [and] the world is imperfect to." While the world is in dismay it is best not to always ponder on it, and instead "live this night... As if the world wasn't ending."
*this may actually be quite inaccurate, so if anyone has a better view on it please let me know.
11. The Truth Is Out There: yeah, this song I can't really comment on because - after doing a bit of digging around - it is about the X-files, and seeing as I have never watched the X-files I cannot comment on it.
12. Everything Fades To Gray: (lyrical version) a rather dark and chilling way to end an album. it says basically that "Death is cheating us somehow... and he's already here." and that life should be spent in the moment, "contact[ing] the living," and simply "remember the dead;" for "repetition proves its worth... [allowing us to] remember," the past. but ultimately, when we die and "everything fades to gray," it will all repeat itself.
There are different bonus songs depending on which region the album is purchased, so for consistency they will not be recorded here. // 8
Overall Impression: This album should definitely be listened to by anyone who appreciates progressive metal, or anyone who is looking for something different than the typical power metal album. The mature take on the album by the band really shows its presence, and brings a lot of depth to the album. It's hard to say which songs are the most impressive; not due to the fact that they're all good or any other unthough reason, but rather due to the fact that they all seem to have a slightly different feel to them. Though it is easy to say that Breathing was the second song that I instantly became hooked to; the first being Flag in the Ground, which was also the first single released from the album. Juliet was also a song that I was easily attached to; due to it's lyrical and musical content. That is not to go without saying that there were songs that took quite some time to get used to (ie Zeroes and The Truth is Out There). Though, by having the last song just be an extension of the intro seems to be a bit lazy to me; even though other bands have done it with success it seems as if Sonata simply dropped a vocal track onto the original, and added a little bit at the end.
It seems to have improved upon certain aspects of the prior release, UNIA. Overall it may be one of the best metal albums of the year, and if not it is definitely up there with Stratovarius' release, and within the next few days it will be known if it will be up there with the new Leaves' Eyes album (Njord).
As an aside: I would definitely buy this album again if it was lost or stolen, after all, it has some pretty cool cover art, and is a great addition to my album collection. // 9