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  • Five years on Last.fm

    21 Abr 2012, 22:41

    Tracks played: 78 288
    Posts written: 201
    Shouts: 446
    Journals written: 50
    Artists in total: 811

    My top artists five years ago (April 22, 2007)
    1. Nightwish (93)
    2. Evanescence (47)
    3. Sonata Arctica (35)
    4. Within Temptation (32)
    5. System of a Down (28)
    6. Breaking Benjamin (23)
    7. Lars Winnerbäck (20)
    8. Dream Theater (19)
    9. Kamelot (18)
    10. Dia Psalma (16)

    My top artists four years ago (April 13, 2008)
    1. Nightwish (3,527)
    2. Sonata Arctica (2,037)
    3. Kamelot (1,392)
    4. Epica (1,273)
    5. Within Temptation (1,106)
    6. Evanescence (873)
    7. Hans Zimmer (856)
    8. Helloween (750)
    9. Xandria (662)
    10. Led Zeppelin (656)

    My top artists three years ago (April 17, 2009)
    1. Nightwish (4510)
    2. Sonata Arctica (2863)
    3. Kamelot (2573)
    4. Hans Zimmer (1545)
    5. Epica (1429)
    6. Within Temptation (1380)
    7. My Dying Bride (1225)
    8. Dream Theater (1022)
    9. Evanescence (890)
    10. Helloween (889)

    My top artists two years ago (April 18, 2010)
    1. Nightwish (5038)
    2. Sonata Arctica (4373)
    3. Kamelot (3282)
    4. Epica (2523)
    5. My Dying Bride (2073)
    6. Hans Zimmer (2065)
    7. Within Temptation (1638)
    8. Dream Theater (1312)
    9. Howard Shore (1311)
    10. Avantasia (1254)

    My top artists one year ago (April 17, 2011)
    1. Nightwish (5291)
    2. Sonata Arctica (4674)
    3. Kamelot (3962)
    4. Epica (2789)
    5. My Dying Bride (2695)
    6. Hans Zimmer (2068)
    7. Within Temptation (1885)
    8. Tiamat (1635)
    9. Dream Theater (1629)
    9. Avantasia (1629)

    My current top artists (April 21, 2012)
    1. Nightwish (5616)
    2. Sonata Arctica (5173)
    3. Kamelot (4220)
    4. My Dying Bride (3417)
    5. Epica (2927)
    6. Within Temptation (2160)
    7. Hans Zimmer (2073)
    8. Dream Theater (1972)
    9. Agalloch (1852)
    10. Tiamat (1788)

    Okay, so wow. Five years on Last.fm?! That's fairly awesome.

    This was a slow year. I admit it. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, but this was by far my slowest music year since I first started getting into music for real after discovering metal in 2006. I think it has a lot to do with starting university the fall of '11, and simply not having the time I used to have for it. Plus, I really got into podcasting, and so I didn't even have the time for music when getting to school! :(

    But about what has happened. Nightwish stays at first place, but will be surpassed by Sonata Arctica and Kamelot in a few years if their pace continue. I really don't listen to them as much as I used to, even though they are still awesome, and even though I managed to see them live again this March in Gothenburg.

    My Dying Bride finally beat Epica for the fourth position. Epica is an amazing band, as is My Dying Bride, and I'm curious to see how they will play this out in the coming year. I have bought the new Epica CD "Requiem for the Indifferent" and I have listened to it, but I have yet to really get caught up in it. The same is true for the new Amberian Dawn album.

    Within Temptation beat Hans Zimmer for the sixth position, as my Zimmer listens decrease incredibly to... five. Five! Yeah, he will probably drop even further next year. As for my prediction about Within Temptation failing the top ten this year (check 2011's anniversary journal), I did underestimate them a tad. Yes, their new album "The Unforgiving" was not my cup of tea, but they did garner some listens and they did survive well.

    Dream Theater got ahead of Tiamat, which was also surpassed by Agalloch - one of my newer loves. Out of the top ten, Agalloch came out of nowhere this year, after I discovered them 2010 just in time for their latest release "Marrow of the Spirit". They are the only band in the top that hasn't been a love since around 2008-2009 when I first really got into music. Tiamat is a good band, but it's sort of like Nightwish - I already know all their stuff too well, and in one way or another I rarely feel like listening to them. Bands like Agalloch are still interesting.

    Avantasia were indeed kicked off the top ten this year, even though I've experienced a resurgence in their listens in the past few months.

    Okay, prediction time! What will 2013, my six year anniversary, bring?

    1. Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Kamelot and My Dying Bride will keep the four first positions. MDB will get around 4000 listens finally, but will fail to beat Kamelot. Sonata Arctica will, after releasing a disappointing album, increase in numbers but not enough to beat Nightwish.

    2. Agalloch will continue its rise, beating Dream Theater and Hans Zimmer, and getting left right behind Within Temptation, at position 7.

    3. Avantasia will beat Tiamat for the 10th position, and Dream Theater for the 9th.

    4. Claimants of the top-ten throne will include Amberian Dawn and Ayreon, but neither one will reach it in time.

    My prediction for April of 2013:
    1. Nightwish (5821)
    2. Sonata Arctica (5799)
    3. Kamelot (4455)
    4. My Dying Bride (4092)
    5. Epica (3263)
    6. Within Temptation (2312)
    9. Agalloch (2234)
    8. Dream Theater (2103)
    7. Hans Zimmer (2083)
    10. Avantasia (1804)
  • Four years on Last.fm

    17 Abr 2011, 20:37

    Tracks played: 69 601
    Posts written: 201
    Shouts: 413
    Journals written: 49
    Artists in total: 766

    My top artists four years ago (April 22, 2007)
    1. Nightwish (93)
    2. Evanescence (47)
    3. Sonata Arctica (35)
    4. Within Temptation (32)
    5. System of a Down (28)
    6. Breaking Benjamin (23)
    7. Lars Winnerbäck (20)
    8. Dream Theater (19)
    9. Kamelot (18)
    10. Dia Psalma (16)

    My top artists three years ago (April 13, 2008)
    1. Nightwish (3,527)
    2. Sonata Arctica (2,037)
    3. Kamelot (1,392)
    4. Epica (1,273)
    5. Within Temptation (1,106)
    6. Evanescence (873)
    7. Hans Zimmer (856)
    8. Helloween (750)
    9. Xandria (662)
    10. Led Zeppelin (656)

    My top artists two years ago (April 17, 2009)
    1. Nightwish (4510)
    2. Sonata Arctica (2863)
    3. Kamelot (2573)
    4. Hans Zimmer (1545)
    5. Epica (1429)
    6. Within Temptation (1380)
    7. My Dying Bride (1225)
    8. Dream Theater (1022)
    9. Evanescence (890)
    10. Helloween (889)

    My top artists one year ago (April 18, 2010)
    1. Nightwish (5038)
    2. Sonata Arctica (4373)
    3. Kamelot (3282)
    4. Epica (2523)
    5. My Dying Bride (2073)
    6. Hans Zimmer (2065)
    7. Within Temptation (1638)
    8. Dream Theater (1312)
    9. Howard Shore (1311)
    10. Avantasia (1254)

    My current top artists (April 17, 2011)
    1. Nightwish (5291)
    2. Sonata Arctica (4674)
    3. Kamelot (3962)
    4. Epica (2789)
    5. My Dying Bride (2695)
    6. Hans Zimmer (2068)
    7. Within Temptation (1885)
    8. Tiamat (1635)
    9. Dream Theater (1629)
    9. Avantasia (1629)

    Wow, four years? Really? I was surprised at three, but four? Nice.

    My top ten is virtually the same as a year ago, but a love for Agalloch has begun to surface, and they have climbed from a hundred plays to 959 only in the past six months, marking a position 19. Don't be surprised to see them enter top 15 or even 10 by next year. One might also expect Leaves' Eyes, who now has the 12th position and soon will release a new album.

    As with last year the big top four remain the same, but slowly stepping down. These were the four bands that, together with Within Temptation (7) introduced me to metal, and they will always have a special place in my heart, but I don't listen that much to any of them any longer. Nightwish has only increased by 200 plays, Sonata Arctica by 300, Kamelot 700 and Epica 200, and even though it may seem impressing it is not for such rojalities. Within Temptation has recently released a new album, The Unforgiving which garnered some fresh plays from my side, but it wasn't anywhere as brilliant as the latest releases by Epica, Kamelot or Sonata Arctica. So Within Temptation are dropping more and more, and will probably continue to drop and maybe fall from the top 10 by 2012.

    Still, no bands are to take their positions any time soon, the reason being that I listen to a larger variety and less to each band than I did a few years ago. I currently have 34 bands all enjoying over 500 plays, and my entire top 17 have over 1 000 plays. 89 bands have over 100 plays.

    Another nice surprise is that this is the first year with no tenth position! The ninth position is instead split between Dream Theater and Avantasia, both with 1629 plays.
  • Epica + ReVamp + Kells concert review

    27 Sep 2010, 22:44

    Sun 26 Sep – Design Your Universe Tour Pt. II review

    Arriving at 16:00, three hours before the show, Stina and I considered ourselves pretty late, often waiting for at least two hours for most shows, but we also noticed the line being exceptionally short, with only five or so people before us (the gang just ahead of us had waited for two and a half additional hours, and the two before them were Dutch, presumably following the band around). As it turned out, the lines stayed pretty much the same, and when the show was just an hour away there were hardly fifty people in line, most of them die hard 21st century goth chics (this is when I realise that symphonic metal concerts are awesome for lonely single guys with a thing for goths, but I resist informing my girlfriend).

    When the entrance open at 19:20 the line has grown somewhat, but hardly what I could have expected, and I and Stina easily make our way into the front line, the rest of the audience a mixture of symphmetalgoths and your traditional beer drinking vikings by the pub section (this is a club concert after all). As a club the audience is surely less enthusiastic and the special effects are less outstanding, but this also makes an intimate environment, perfect especially for the fans of less wellknown acts such as ReVamp (and Kells I guess, but I didn't see anyone coming for their sake).

    ReVamp are the first to kick off, and they immediately fire the crowd up with their album intro Here's My Hell, followed by a number of their faster tracks before the duet ballad Sweet Curse, in which lead singer Floor Jansen does both verses in comparison to the studio version (though backed up in the chorus). Still a very beautiful song, if not more beautiful, with Floor getting more part, especially as I've never been to fond of the almost Linkin Park-ish sound of the male verse. I'm also happy to see one of my favorites, Kill Me With Silence, and one of their biggest hits Million, with its Epica- and After Forever-like chorus that really got the crowd going before a both heavy and catchy finale with In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part: Disgraced and Head Up High. I'm sure ReVamp garnered a new section of Swedish fans as well as pleased a number of old fans. I, who never got the chance to see After Forever (Jansen's ex band, founded by Epica leader Mark Jansen) and never having seen ReVamp before (this being their first Sweden show in existence) was certainly pleased, being met with an even more powerful sound than the album, and a band that surely had experience on stage. Jansen has an amazing spirit in her vocals, and it seems to me that she's really been reborn with this new band.

    Kells was second on stage, and they were the only band I didn't come for. I had never heard of this French semi-symphonic metal band before the announcement of the concert, and I missed to check them out on forehand. And while I loved every moment of both ReVamp and Epica, I'm sad to say that most of Kells music seemed all too general and boring to me. The fact that they sung on French, a language I only barely understand, means less than the fact that most songs had very basic structures, that there were no interesting guitar riffs whatsoever, and that the singer sounded like a drugged-up daughter of Avril Lavigne and Amy Lee, and her very confusing dance, seeming like a strange rip-off of Sharon den Adel, destroyed the few really good moments. If the band is reading this and wants a pointer from a miserable music geek, the concept The heavier the better really works on this band. I was honestly surprised in one of the earlier songs (possibly Ailleurs) when the band fell into some crazed-out punk metal growl, and the lead singer's vocals suddenly turned extremely promising, even reminiscent of the angrier sections of ReVamp tracks such as Kill Me With Silence. Why not turn into some female-fronted punk metal act (and I certainly don't mean that in a bad way)?

    Epica, the main attraction, kicked off beautifully with their latest album intro Samadhi ~ Prelude ~ and Resign To Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns - Part IV ~, which immediately got people going. I have always said that this is the perfect intro to both an album and a concert, and I continue believing so - not only does Samadhi build up wonderful hinting and suspense that is wonderfully brought down by the immediate action of Resign to Surrender, but the latter goes really far - about two minutes if I don't missrecall - before lead singer Simone Simons joins on stage. And while the rest of the band is awesome, Simons is for many the one big attraction (sorry, boys). The setlist is quite phenomenal, mixing old and new songs - the constant live favorite Sensorium and Epica's answer to UnOpened; the exotic and catchy Martyr of the Free Word; the beautiful piano ballad Tides of Time; the more folk metal track Quietus. The (original) setlist end with two of the band's longer tracks, The Obsessive Devotion from [album artist=Epica]The Divine Conspiracy[/track] and the title track Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns - Part VI ~ off their latest album - both of which are some of my favorite Epica tracks. The band leave the stage and I start to wonder whether there will be any encores (this is after all a club playing) when the keyboardist returns to congratulate us for being a wonderful audience (in a way that actually sounded honest in comparison to most when the band doesn't know where they are and won't remember tomorrow). The band comes up on stage and runs a trio of songs, including another one of my favorite, their first song ever Cry for the Moon and the all-time fan classic Consign to Oblivion (or, well, Consign to Stockholm as they called it).

    I leave happy, and Stina keeps telling me the whole way home how she can't believe the concert, immediately marking the spot for her favorite ever.

    But there's more...
    Members of both ReVamp and Kells stayed for signing merchandise, and Epica offered some really awesome shirts I wish I could have bought. With my poor economy I decided upon buying a ReVamp poster and I had it signed by Floor Jansen herself (after I couldn't speak a word and she had to ask if I wanted her to sign it - possibly more nervous than meeting both Kamelot and Sonata Arctica.

    Setlist ReVamp
    1. Here's My Hell
    2. In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part: All Goodbyes Are Said
    3. Fast Forward
    4. Sweet Curse
    5. In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part: Disdain
    6. Kill Me With Silence
    7. Million
    8. In Sickness 'Till Death Do Us Part: Disgraced
    9. Head Up High

    Setlist Kells
    1. Réminiscences
    2. Avant que tu
    3. Ailleurs
    4. Le manége déchanté
    5. Mes Réves
    6. Sans teint
    7. L'Heure Que Le Temps
    8. Korn
    9. La sphère
    10. Lueur

    Setlist Epica
    1. Samadhi ~ Prelude ~
    2. Resign To Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns - Part IV ~
    3. Sensorium
    4. The Last Crusade
    5. Unleashed
    6. Martyr of the Free Word
    7. Tides of Time
    8. Quietus
    9. The Obsessive Devotion
    10. Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns - Part VI ~
    Encore 1. Cry for the Moon
    Encore 2. Sancta Terra
    Encore 3. Consign to Oblivion
  • Milestone 4: 1000 plays for entire top 15

    9 Jul 2010, 21:15

    So now my entire top 15 artists have at least 1000 scrobbles, finalising with Blackmore's Night today. Woo.

    Past milestones:
    *One year on Last.fm
    *Two years on Last.fm
    *Three years on Last.fm
  • Three years on Last.fm

    18 Abr 2010, 12:47

    Tracks played: 58 348
    Posts written: 197
    Shouts: 334
    Journals written: 46

    My top artists three years ago (April 22, 2007)
    1. Nightwish (93)
    2. Evanescence (47)
    3. Sonata Arctica (35)
    4. Within Temptation (32)
    5. System of a Down (28)
    6. Breaking Benjamin (23)
    7. Lars Winnerbäck (20)
    8. Dream Theater (19)
    9. Kamelot (18)
    10. Dia Psalma (16)

    My top artists two years ago (April 13, 2008)
    1. Nightwish (3,527)
    2. Sonata Arctica (2,037)
    3. Kamelot (1,392)
    4. Epica (1,273)
    5. Within Temptation (1,106)
    6. Evanescence (873)
    7. Hans Zimmer (856)
    8. Helloween (750)
    9. Xandria (662)
    10. Led Zeppelin (656)

    My top artists one year ago (April 17, 2009)
    1. Nightwish (4510)
    2. Sonata Arctica (2863)
    3. Kamelot (2573)
    4. Hans Zimmer (1545)
    5. Epica (1429)
    6. Within Temptation (1380)
    7. My Dying Bride (1225)
    8. Dream Theater (1022)
    9. Evanescence (890)
    10. Helloween (889)

    My current top artists (April 18, 2010)
    1. Nightwish (5038)
    2. Sonata Arctica (4373)
    3. Kamelot (3282)
    4. Epica (2523)
    5. My Dying Bride (2073)
    6. Hans Zimmer (2065)
    7. Within Temptation (1638)
    8. Dream Theater (1312)
    9. Howard Shore (1311)
    10. Avantasia (1254)

    Three years! It's the longest I've been active on any community, really. Why? Maybe because Last.fm leaves space for inactivity. I can stay away from the site for months, while scrobbling automatically any time I listen to music (daily), and still come back and write a journal, update my profile info, and then stay away for a while longer. There are moments when I'm more active, like December 2009 - January 2010 when I was active hours a day, but generally I just check in four or five times a week, and write perhaps ten posts every two weeks. I don't use the forum at all anymore, and I rarely write any journals that aren't originally from [url="http://blog.mangaworld.se";]my blog.

    So what's different musically? Obviously I haven't listened as much to Nightwish or Within Temptation, and previous 9th place Evanescence has dropped entirely. Meanwhile, Avantasia has risen to tenth position, and My Dying Bride has almost doubled the scrobbles in the past year, now on position five, kicking Hans Zimmer from 4 to 6, and sinking.

    Both Sonata Arctica and Epica has released albums that are some of the greatest in the history of heavy metal, and definitely milestones in symphonic metal. Leaves' Eyes is not yet on top ten but rather on 11, but deserves a special mention: The latest album Njord is their best yet, and when I saw them live with Kamelot last weekend they were awesome.

    2009 was a golden year, and 2010 has already seen the release of two awesome Avantasia albums. We will also be presented with new releases by Kamelot (I heard the new song The Great Pandemonium live and it is truly promising), Tarja (while not my favorite singer, My Winter Storm had some really good songs, and the new track In for a Kill is impressive), and Within Temptation (we are promised a new direction, and I'm curious like hell). 2010 will be a new golden year in music, of that I am sure.

    And I will continue scrobbling until the day I die!
  • The Golden Age of Symphonic Metal - Review of Epica's Design Your Universe (2009)

    29 Nov 2009, 17:42

    I was born in 1992, and if I could choose I wouldn't change it for a second. Sure, I was only four when Therion released Theli, considered one of the earliest symphonic metal albums, and I was only six when Nightwish released Oceanborn in 1998, but I have lived to witness the release of many great albums since the mid-2000's.

    This is what I concider the golden age of symphonic metal. Right here, right now. It is a genre that develop well on its own as well as into other genres - Leaves' Eyes blend it perfectly with folk music (Njord of 2009 for example) and Sonata Arctica earlier this fall released The Days of Grays which was the first album that really showed a mixture of power, prog and symphonic metal without one taking the overly control.

    A certain cliff in the history of symphonic metal was released only a month ago... Epica's Design Your Universe is the album I will speak of today.

    This phenomenal, epic, melodic, bombastic album kicks of with their best instrumental yet, the intro song Samadhi ~ Prelude ~, before entering Resign to Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns - part IV ~. DYU is the first album to continue the A New Age Dawns saga, first started on the 2005 album Consign to Oblivion. The first three parts told of the collapse of the Mayan civilization, and this 2009 release show the next three parts. To me, Resign to Surrender sounds like an amazing intro song, the perfect way to reawaken the saga in. It builds up perfectly, before finishing and leaving the scene for the next song (and the first video for the album), Unleashed. Unleashed is far from the best song of the album, but I understand they used it as a video. It is a real catchy song, and Simone sounds amazing in it. I can't see why it's their most popular on Last.fm, but still a great track.

    The fourth song on the album is Martyr of the Free Word, and here I must speak my mind. Why, oh why, couldn't this be the third song? I would much prefer it to be ahead of Unleashed, simply because Unleashed is a bit too grande and bombastic, whilst Martyr is more of a metal song. Resign to Surrender followed by Unleashed just doesn't sound as good as followed by Martyr of the Free Word. This aside, it's a really cool track, one of the more special on the album, with influences from oriental music in the vocal lines. Mark Jansen's grunts right after the chorus really is an amazing part that does the song.

    The next song is another more bombastic one - Our Destiny. I'm sad to say this is one of the weaker songs on the album, if I have to choose one. It is a great song, but compared to the rest of the album it's kind of dull. The thing is that it's too long... it's only 6 minutes, not much to Epica standards, but I feel it's a little too much. If it were to be cut down into at least 4:40, 5, it would be much higher in my ratings.

    Kingdom of Heaven ~ A New Age Dawns - part V ~ is the fifth chapter of the A New Age Dawns saga, and the longest song on the album at 13:35. It is an awesome track, especially the first eight minutes, but it's still a disappointment to me. Maybe I had too high hopes - before I heard it I saw an interview with Mark Jansen explaining how he had worked on the song for three years, and how he considered it their best by far. To me it's pretty low on the list of top tracks on DYU, after the title track, Martyr of the Free Word, Burn to a Cinder, and Resign to Surrender. As with Our Destiny, maybe this song would be much better if it were to be cut down, maybe with as much as three or four minutes. Another remark is the spoken parts in the second half of the song... I don't mind cheese, in fact I order a triple cheese sandwich listening to Stratovarius and Rhapsody of Fire, but these spoken parts really shift the song from epic to humorous, not a completely reparable damage I'm afraid.

    After an epic song like Kingdom of Heaven, it's often tough to hear another song right away. Many bands solve this problem with either putting an easier rock song right after (Nightwish's The Poet and the Pendulum was followed by Bye Bye Beautiful), or the epic song is the final track on the album. The dilemma here is how there are two epic songs, Kingdom of Heaven as well as the title track, which is put as the final song (a perfect choice, more of that later). So the choice was to have an interlude as the seventh track, entitled The Price of Freedom ~ Interlude ~, a clip of people speaking of the price of freedom being death and orchestral music in the background resembling of many horror pictures from the 1920's.

    The interlude leads elegantly into Burn to a Cinder, one of my favorites on the album. It is one of the more melodic songs, going back to the power metal territories of Consign to Oblivion and The Phantom Agony. The song ends with an epic moment leading into deep sorrow ("Why can't I bleed with you?") followed by the album's first ballad, the moving Tides of Time.

    To me, both Deconstruct and Semblance of Liberty are pretty standard symph metal songs - no big surprises, catchy choruses, nothing really special except for the speaking part in Semblance of Liberty ("Read... my... lips").

    The second ballad of the album is also the weakest song Epica has ever made. I was glad when they announced that Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica would guest feature on the song White Waters, but this doesn't feel like Tony at all. All Tony touches turns to gold, but this is as far from gold as you could get. White Waters is not beautiful, it is boring and weird, and the only thing that saves it is that Semblance of Liberty leading into the final track of the album would be very weird. And the final track is gold.

    Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns - part VI ~ is the best song Epica has ever written, and that's final. It is just perfect, from it's epic chorus ("We can't undo what we have done, so show us now what we've become") to its final, heartbreaking, whispering verse that always makes me weep.

    This is Epica's best release to date, and I'm really excited if they will ever top it, because let's face it.... this is the latest chapter in the history of awesome music.
  • The tagging of Beethoven's 9th Symphony

    15 Nov 2009, 19:53

    One of my all time favorite works are Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Now how is it supposed to be tagged for Last.fm? Some tag it as one track - 9th Symphony, but the file I have is divided into twelve parts, first tagged very strangely. I have thus changed them into:
    * 9th Symphony - 1st Movement
    * 9th Symphony - 2nd Movement - I
    * 9th Symphony - 2nd Movement - II
    * 9th Symphony - 2nd Movement - III
    * 9th Symphony - 3rd Movement - I
    * 9th Symphony - 3rd movement
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - I
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - II
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - III
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - IV
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - V
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - VI
    * 9th Symphony - 4th Movement - VII

    Comments?
  • Review: Sonata Arctica - The Days of Grays (2009)

    15 Nov 2009, 19:45

    Originally released on October 1, 2009 on my blog.

    This review is completely ignorant to the bonus symphonic CD or the bonus tracks. It’s just the 12 original tracks.


    To me, Sonata Arctica has always been the power metal band. They were, together with Nightwish and Within Temptation, what brought me into both heavy metal music and classical music in circa 2005 – 2006. Since then, I have heard literary hundreds, if not thousands, of bands. Among these are Stratovarius and Helloween, two of the first power metal bands in the 1980’s and onwards. When I first heard Stratovarius, I though “oh – so that’s where it comes from”. And yes, it is obvious – Sonata’s 1999 debut Ecliptica was more or less a tribute to Stratovarius. There is basically no orginiality, although there are some really good tracks (including “FullMoon”, “Letter to Dana” and “Kingdom For a Heart”).

    Both Silence (2001) and Winterheart’s Guild (2003) were MUCH more original, with several truly unique songs. The band, though, started to get bored with this style that more or less was a big tribute to the 1980’s power metal band. All this resulted in the more progressive Reckoning Night of 2004, an album that I’ve never really been that fond to. There is a lot of “purer” heavy metal – “Misplaced”, “Ain’t Your Fairytale”, “Wildfire” – and a lot of freakish let’s-have-fun-and-play-our-asses-of in “The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Real Puppet”. This latter new angle was also a great part of their next album, 2007’s Unia. Unia was their first album to take a completely different direction, away from the general power metal and into a field of… can I call it progressive metal? I don’t think I can. It is a type of melodic metal, with influences from classical music, power metal, thrash metal, progressive metal, classical rock, psychedelic rock… It was something I had never heard before. At first I didn’t really like Unia, but I listened it through a few times… and it’s incredible.

    The Days of Grays was the successor of Unia, and I was really worried. What could this lead to? Would it be another great turn, maybe into thrash or doom? Would it follow Unia closely – maybe too closely? Or would it be a turn back into the power metal field? It turned out I was wrong altogether.

    The album kicks off with an instrumental intro – something I am a big fan of as long as it is good and not just something thrown in. And that’s absolutely not Everything Fades to Gray (Instrumental), which leads perfectly into the album’s epic, the wonderful Deathaura. This eight-minute track is a bit disappointed to me, actually, since Sonata usually has so great epics (”The Power of One”, “The End of This Chapter”, “Caleb”, “White Pearl, Black Oceans”), but I suppose I’m just constantly annoyed by the same thing; it is too fast. I would not mind at all if it was mixed into being played for a total of 15 och 20 minutes… Because as it is it’s just too fast, too much reminding of Wildfire. It’s okay for a minute at the time, but going fast as hell in eight minutes?

    The second track is also the first single – The Last Amazing Grays – and is a beautiful semi-ballad about dying proud and with dignity. I actually cried the first time I heard it (when the single was leaked), although it’s now quite overplayed (I think it’s about 80 plays according to Last.fm, the single edit included).

    Flag in the Ground is the third track and the second single. If you prefer the old school Sonata, this is the song you’ll like on Days of Grays. The song is a remake of the unreleased song “BlackOut” from the band’s early demos. It’s a really catchy tune with an epic bridge and finale - “I put the flag in the ground / Screaming and shouting, I’ve never been so proud, love / I make my way into the great unknown / Land by the river and a newbuilt home / Every night when I’m looking at the fullmoon rising / I hold you and know that we are free.”

    My favorite songs on the album are probably “Juliet” and “The Truth is Out There“. Juliet is both a big allusion to the famous Shakespeare play / the Italian legend of Romeo and Juliet, as well as the fourth and (I think) last episode in the Caleb tale (”Don’t Say a Word”; “The End of This Chapter”; “Caleb”). And it’s wonderful! It’s so beautiful, so sad, so epic! “These are my final lines, I used all my nine lives / My soul reason to die; there’s no life without you”. And The Truth is Out There… what can I say? So incredibly original and… well… strange but great at the same time. I really love it’s atmosphere, and it’s lyrics linked constantly with the great TV series The X Files.

    What I missed on Unia was the ballads. On the earlier albums, there were lots of wonderful guitar-based ballads such as Letter to Dana and Shamandalie, but this sort of dropped out with Unia. With Days of Grays, it’s a bit different; there ARE two ballads, if not quite different to the original type. Breathing is actually one of my new favorite songs with Sonata. It is very melancholic and epic, and reminds me of Draw Me. As if the World Wasn’t Ending is different, it is a bit more… well… I don’t know. It is not a bad song, but it’s not excellent either. It is somewhere in the middle, just your standard ballad.

    What can I say about The Days of Grays as a conclusion? It is great! Go buy it! At this point, it is honestly my favorite Sonata Arctica album, very original, melodic, sad, epic… It is just wonderful. Try it out, but be careful not to judge it too early; I didn’t like it at all until the third or fourth listen.
  • Top 50 listened albums

    4 Nov 2009, 22:26

    This does not really symbolize my favorite albums, a'ight?
    Quispiam's top albums (overall)
    1. Kamelot - The Black Halo (824)
    2. Sonata Arctica - The Days of Grays (689)
    3. Kamelot - Epica (647)
    4. Nightwish - Dark Passion Play (600)
    5. Epica - The Divine Conspiracy (581)
    6. Hans Zimmer - The Last Samurai (560)
    7. Trans-Siberian Orchestra - The Lost Christmas Eve (546)
    8. Nightwish - Once (498)
    9. Nightwish - Century Child (446)
    10. Nightwish - Oceanborn (438)
    11. Sonata Arctica - Silence (438)
    12. Nightwish - Wishmaster (428)
    13. Amberian Dawn - The Clouds of Northland Thunder (423)
    14. Sonata Arctica - Unia (JP rel.) (418) 15. Epica - Consign to Oblivion (407)
    16. For My Pain... - Fallen (397)
    17. Kamelot - Karma (384)
    18. Avantasia - The Metal Opera (382)
    19. Within Temptation - The Heart of Everything (371)
    20. Howard Shore - The Fellowship Of The Ring (363)
    21. Sonata Arctica - Unia (363)
    22. Howard Shore - The Return Of The King (361)
    23. Leaves' Eyes - Vinland Saga (335)
    24. My Dying Bride - Like Gods of the Sun (308)
    25. Within Temptation - The Silent Force (303)
    26. Avantasia - The Scarecrow (295)
    27. Sonata Arctica - Songs of Silence (280) 28. Diablo Swing Orchestra - The Butcher's Ballroom (273)
    29. Epica - We Will Take You With Us (271)
    30. Blackmore's Night - Ghost Of A Rose (266)
    31. Epica - Design Your Universe (263)
    32. Kamelot - The Fourth Legacy (261)
    33. Epica - The Classical Conspiracy (254)
    34. My Dying Bride - For Lies I Sire (253)
    35. Howard Shore - The Two Towers (243)
    36. Tristania - Widow's Weeds (242)
    37. Nightwish - Angels Fall First (241)
    38. Amberian Dawn - River of Tuoni (238)
    39. Sonata Arctica - The Last Amazing Grays [Single] (226)
    40. Lacuna Coil - Comalies (222)
    41. Dream Theater - Octavarium (221)
    42. Evanescence - Fallen (220)
    43. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV (219)
    44. Sonata Arctica - Reckoning Night (214)
    45. Leaves' Eyes - Lovelorn (211)
    46. Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence CD 2 (209) 47. Delain - April Rain (206)
    48. Tristania - Illumination (202)
    49. Something Corporate - Songs for Silent Movies (201)
    50. Breaking Benjamin - Phobia (200)

  • Hopes Were High - The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger available on Last.fm now!

    21 Oct 2009, 19:51

    Today, October 21, 2009, sees the release of Hopes Were High's fourth album, the first one actually being good: The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger!

    It is the first of seven planned parts to be inspired by the The Dark Tower fantasy series by Stephen King. It is also by far the longest HWH release, by 51 minutes.

    It departures a lot from all previous releases, as it abandons most heavy metal instruments excluding some drums and bass; it relies much more on symphonic instruments as well as choirs. As with the previous two releases Among Crows and Gods and These Hours of Conclusion it is entirely computer-generated, except for two bonus tracks: a demo version of the title track and an unreleased song entitled "Tull".