Sonata Arctica - Unia 3/5
1. In black and white
2. Paid in full
3. For the sake of revenge
4. It won't fade
5. Under your tree
7. The vice
8. My dream's but a drop of fuel for a nightmare
9. The harvest
10. The worlds forgotten, the words forbidden
11. Fly with the black swan
12. Good enough is good enough
Change. Some people embrace it with open minds, while others cringe, carry on and use the word “selling out” just to make themselves feel better. Change and different are the 2 words being talked about in forums and around the water cooler about Sonata Arctica’s latest CD, entitled ‘Unia’.
I’ve read a lot of comments in forums and reviews about ‘Unia’, and while there are a few... maybe even more than a few comments saying they enjoyed the different sound/feel, most have been on the negative side. And each to his/her own, I’m not here to say who’s right and who’s wrong. But after I read these forum comments and reviews, and before I actually spun the CD, I wanted to get the low down straight from the source. So I read as many interviews with frontman Tony Kakko as I could find, and I found that after reading Kakko’s explanations of the CD, I understood it better once I started listening to it.
‘Unia’ (meaning “dreams”) is purely driven by the lyrics and the musical structure. Those 2 are the main standouts with this CD. That and the notion that there are no speedy songs on it. But does it really matter that there are no speedy tracks? For me, I wasn’t too fussed. But die-hard Sonata Arctica fans, who still want every release to be an ‘Ecliptica’ clone, will find the lack of speedy tracks to be a problem. Kakko stated when he was writing ‘Unia’, that after he was 6-7 songs into it he noticed that none of them were fast, but just kept going because that’s the way the songs were going. He also stated that he didn’t want to write a speedy track because there had to be one; he just didn’t feel like writing one. Kakko didn’t want to repeat the speedy songs of the past and make it predictable. ‘Unia’ is definitely something that no one predicted.
The lyrics on this CD are quite different to what Kakko has written previously. These lyrics are rather lengthy and very abstract, which could also be said about the CD as a whole. Some people may not be able to get their heads around most of the lyrics on the CD, and will therefore call the songs boring. But I must say that ‘Unia’ held my interest from beginning to end, because it is so different. ‘Winterheart’s guild’ and ‘Reckoning night’ are both solid CDs, but I found myself getting bored with the same type of songs which are on every Sonata Arctica CD. Hearing ‘Unia’ was like reading a new chapter in the life of Sonata Arctica; it was very refreshing and unexpected.
But having said all that, I’m not going to say that this CD is a masterpiece. Yes, it’s different, yes it’s weird in a good way and yes I enjoyed the change of pace; but there are some songs on the CD where it just feels too abstract, too chaotic, and those songs suffer as a whole. The music structure changes so frequently in some of the songs, that it is rather difficult to enjoy, despite praising them for doing it. But in the end, some of the songs from ‘Unia’ are not really that different from past releases. The first 3 tracks “In black and white”, “Paid in full” and “For the sake of revenge” do sound similar to Sonata Arctica’s past mid-paced songs, especially “Paid in full”, which I consider to be the best song on the CD.
Some of the weaker tracks on the CD would include the short track entitled “The worlds forgotten, the words forbidden” and the very different and weird “My dream’s but a drop of fuel for a nightmare”. Going by Kakko, this song is about the bad omens in people’s dreams and the strange things which arise in everyone’s dreams. The musical structure of this song is constantly changing, which makes it feel chaotic and hard to enjoy. Kakko states that the reason for the overpowering structure changes during the song is to produce the feel of a strange dream, which we have no control over. All the weird dreams we’ve all had, we know that it jumps from one thing to another with almost no connection between them. Even though I think it was a good idea, I also feel that it is a bit overpowering and there is too much going on to fully enjoy it.
As for the better tracks on the CD (I already mentioned “Paid in full” and “In black and white”), I quite enjoy “Fly with the black swan”. It is one of the more melodic songs on the CD, and has a catchy chorus. Kakko’s vocals are very good on this song, as they are on the entire CD. If it wasn’t for Kakko’s powerful, emotional, graceful and at times, aggressive vocals; this CD would have been a disaster in my opinion. “Under your tree” and “Good enough is good enough” are enjoyable emotional ballads, particularly “Good enough...” due to the string orchestra and piano which you can hear throughout the song. The remaining songs sit somewhere in the middle and are both not strong but not weak either.
It is pointless to try to tell you how this CD exactly sounds, because it is virtually impossible as it is nothing you have ever heard from Sonata Arctica before. You can read all the descriptions you want from reviews and comments from people, but to fully understand it, you need to listen to it yourself and then make up your own mind. That’s what I did and now my opinion on the CD has changed. I will say this though: It does take quite a few spins to let it grow on you and to fully understand what Sonata Arctica are trying to do with this release. If you are a fan of the ‘Ecliptica’ style Sonata Arctica and always prefer them to sound that way, then you will never be able to enjoy this CD.
In no way do I think ‘Unia’ is Sonata Arctica’s best release, but I do think that it’s fairly good and I enjoy the change of pace you hear on the CD. It may be chaotic and abstract and different, but if you can get past that, there are a lot of things to enjoy from this CD. This one will come down to personal preference.
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