This band doesn’t really need an introduction as most in this realm of music have heard them and already developed an opinion of them… multiple times even. And, man, do those opinions vary wildly. I could be way off base, but I’m going by what I’ve seen and heard. I see a lot that feel their early stuff is their best and nothing since The Days of Grays has lived up to that era. Fewer like all their output, and even fewer actually like this latter era. What’s reality? I don’t know. But I do know that what feeds into these opinions is true.
The band we have today is a bit of a different style from where they started. They were more of a power metal band early on and have added more progressive leanings as they go on. For myself, my favorite albums are The Days of Grays and the follow up, Stones Grow Her Name. But I come from a view point of the more melodic the better. Now… I will say, that I was never really able to get into The Ninth Hour. Nothing much seemed to click with me on that one.
So, now you know where I am coming from with what I say about this release. And what is on offer here is definitely more melodic than the last album, to me anyway. And a lot catchier.
But I’ll go ahead and say it: don’t go expecting a fast, power metal affair here. Not a whole lot anyway. I read in an interview that they were going for an album more inline with the last few releases. And that is what I hear here, for the most part. I hate to do so, but you will see the phrase “mid-tempo rocker” a LOT in this review.
Things start off with Message from the Sun followed up by Whirlwind. Tracks that easily sound like they could have fit on the The Days of Grays or Stones Grow Her Name. Message starts off calm but gets rocking. But maybe not to the early power metal days a lot of fans hope for. But it works for me.
You’ve no doubt already heard the next track, Cold. If not, check it out below. It makes sense that it is one of the first singles released as it is one of the more upbeat and catchy tunes. Though, like a lot of their content recently, more laid back than what used to be expected from them. More of a mid-tempo rocker, really. Funny thing: normally, I don’t read YouTube comments (there is a reason people call them toxic) but I scrolled down on this one upon release and was surprised to read a particular comment that really turned out to be true. This song, while good, sounds a lot better if played back at 1.25x the speed. Kind of sounds like more old school Sonata. So maybe if you listen to the whole album at this speed the fans of the older material may find something they like too? Lol. I’m sure parts would sound weird, though.
Up next we Storm the Armada, which SOUNDS like it should be a fast-paced track of raging Sonata of old. But, alas, it is another mid-tempo track. Decent enough.
The Last of the Lambs is a slower ballad built around percussion mostly, almost sounding like a James Bond song is about to start at the beginning, but overall, definitely isn’t that. This one is dialed WAY back. But it fits the subject matter. And they follow that up with another mid-tempo rocker in Who failed The Most? Good song to sing along to with its catchy chorus.
Ismo’s Got Good Reactors…. what a song title. This one gives us a rollicking, up-beat instrumental that sounds like Sonata Arctica covering a Trans-Siberian Orchestra song but with their signature sound. Great tune.
Demon’s Cage starts off calm and then cranks into the same song style from the last track and then goes through a few moods: calmer verses, rocking chorus, angry riffs, calmer again… overall another mid-tempo rocker.
A Little Less Understanding is a good, more upbeat song (check it out below). Great harmonies and melodies present here. Another great song to crank up and sing along with and a good reason it was one of the early singles.
The peak of the album for me is in The Raven Still Flies With You. It has a more theatrical feel and a great atmosphere to it. And it is yet ANOTHER mid-tempo rocker. But, man! That chorus and those keys! This song itself feels like an album closer! Epic sounding. Love it!
We end with The Garden. The last time I heard an album end with a track by this name, it blew me away (Rush). So, from my personal perspective, this is a bold move. What is presented here is basically a calm-ish, 6 minute or so waltz. Another bold move to close out an album in this way. It’s a good tune. Beautiful, actually. And being the third longest song on the album, it just adds to the overall calmness on this release. Which doesn’t seem like the GREATEST idea. But it is what it is.
It may sound like I’m complaining here, but I’m not really. It is a really good album! Their best? Nope. The Days of Grays still holds that title for me. And if you haven’t been happy with the last few albums of theirs, you might not be happy with this one either. But who knows! I still feel it is worth checking out.
1) Message From The Sun
4) Storm The Armada
5) The Last Of The Lambs
6) Who Failed The Most
7) Ismo’s Got Good Reactors
8) Demon’s Cage
9) A Little Less Understanding
10) The Raven Still Flies
11) The Garden
Release Date: September 6th 2019
Label: Nuclear Blast