Unia (Nuclear Blast)
by Martin Popoff
Emotion worn on the hearts of their white, frilly sleeves, Sonata Arctica sometimes get too close to maudlin. Which is actually kind of refreshing, Unia welling up with a passion out of ’70s prog, something which slops over the top with swellegant ballad “Under Your Tree.” Definitely on the more orchestral side of the catalogue, Unia is filled with keys and acoustics and avalanched choirs of Blind Guardian-heroic vocals. “Caleb” and “Paid In Full” mine uncommonly personal terrain, Tony Kakko telling us clearly and bravely things most heavy metal rockers keep close to the vest. But the album swirls and whirls with verve, shot full of energy and panache like a Falconer record, Sonata Arctica really putting elbow grease into moving away from rote power metal into that whole “Hollywood metal” thing Rhapsody cooked up, but without the sword and sorcery, only the ornament. Occasionally, Kakko’s accent distracts from the presentation, but then again, it’s not a bad thing being reminded that a Finn is creating all of this, the band pointedly setting stride away from Stratovarius, especially with such full-on theater productions like “My Dream’s But a Drop of Fuel for A Nightmare,” a built-up pile of sounds bigger than it title.