by: Sonata Arctica

Named after the Finnish word for "dreams," Unia was Sonata Arctica's fifth and heretofore most controversial studio album, being that it found the group experimenting with novel songwriting techniques, and diverting from the straight-and-narrow of their career path for the first time. Problem was, these new elements mostly served to subvert the group's extremely competent and popular power metal formula with unprecedented doses of commercialism -- likely due to band leader and chief composer Tony Kakko's recent taste of pop success through a song he wrote for the winner of Finland's American Idol equivalent. Whatever the cause, this sudden change of direction sparked a veritable war of words across the Internet among their fans, which was somewhat ironic if you consider that Sonata Arctica's material was always relatively predictable -- just heavier and faster. Change is change, though, and the familiar presence of a few semi-fantastical lyrical themes ("For the Sake of Revenge," "Fly with the Black Swan") and overly dramatic ballads ("Under Your Tree," "Good Enough Is Good Enough") apparently wasn't enough to make up for the sudden disappearance of those rapid-fire power-thrashers of yore (flashes of which can nevertheless be heard in album standouts "Caleb" and "The Harvest"). And yet, if one were to come upon Unia without the prejudices of expectations past, they would probably appreciate the unquestionable hooky immediacy delivered by anthemic heavy rockers such as "Paid in Full," "It Won't Fade" and the brilliantly named "My Dream's But a Drop of Fuel for a Nightmare." So perhaps time will show that Unia's change of approach, and the heated debate it spawned, really were much ado about nothing, but first time arrivals will still want to pick up one of Sonata Arctica's earlier releases if they want a proper introduction to their prevalent power metal template. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia

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