After being highly enthusiastic for the material that I've heard on "Reckoning Night" it really felt that Sonata Arctica have finally come into their own as a Power Metal powerhouse! It really seemed to me that they could do no wrong with the release of "Unia", which is why I got the album without a single hesitation. The results of my quick reaction were so disastrous that I now almost never purchase/listen to a record before doing at least minimum amount of research!
"Unia" was the album where Tony Kakko pretty much decided that he's had enough of the straightforward power metal sound of the past and wanted to make sure that his songwriting would be taken seriously by the metal community. The description of the style that he goes for on "Unia" should have been more pleasing to my ears since this prog metalesque sound does remind me of "White Pearl, Black Oceans...", which is probably my favorite track by Sonata Arctica. But when hearing the actual album it's clear that the results are pretty disastrous to say the least!
By pretty much removing all traces of straightforward Power Metal melodies, Sonata Arctica lost the only quality that made them unique in the growing world of metal. There is nothing really wrong with mixing symphonic metal with lite hints of prog metal but there are at least 10 other bands who already completely dominate this genre and Sonata Arctica is really not the act that can pull off convincing progressive sound due to their obvious lack in the instrumental department. They are far from a technical band to begin with, except for a few excellent keyboard players they employed in the past.
Overall, "Unia" is literally a dream that just was not meant to be and the more I listen to it the more convinced I become of this conclusion. My interest for Sonata Arctica faded after this release and I haven't even bothered listening to "The Days Of Grays". Having said that, I will probably give "Stones Grow Her Name" a go even though the first single "I Have A Right" is easily the worst track they've ever released. I'm really curious about the two "Wildfire" tracks that are a continuation of the original track from "Reckoning Night", but my expectation are pretty low.
**** star songs: It Won't Fade (5:58) Caleb (6:16) The Harvest (4:18)
*** star songs: In Black And White (5:03) Paid In Full (4:24) Under Your Tree (5:14) The Vice (4:08) My Dream's But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare (6:13) Fly With The Black Swan (5:08) Good Enough Is Good Enough (5:31)
** star songs: For The Sake Of Revenge (3:23) The Worlds Forgotten, The Words Forbidden (2:57)