Sonata Arctica Biography
After some personnel changes in 1997, the outfit changed their name to Tricky Means. Let it be known to the Metal community that initially the band experimented in musical styles far from heavy metal.
Turning the page in 1999, Tricky Means recorded a new demo "FullMoon" in Tico Tico Studios located in their hometown, Kemi. At the time of recording the line-up consisted of: Tony (vocals/keys), Jani (guitars), Tommy (drums), and Janne (bass). This new demo was the first exploration for the band in heavy metal waters. The band's trademark sound of fast, melodic and keyboard oriented heavy metal with clear and high vocals was born. As fate would have it, and with help from Ahti Kortelainen of Tico Tico Studios, the "FullMoon" demo found its way to the premier metal label of Finland, Spinefarm. At the same time Tricky Means became Sonata Arctica.
Summer of 1999 brought us the first single from Sonata Arctica, "UnOpened". The title song was instantaneously included in Metalliliitto 1999 compilation CD. Two furious tracks from the single, UnOpened and Mary-Lou marked the arrival of SA to the power metal community. Of course, not everything went smoothly. During the first mix/pressing of the UnOpened single, Track 1, UnOpened, was unintentionally slowed down. The mistake was discovered shortly after the first batch of disks was sent to music stores. The entire first pressing was recalled. Approximately 200 copies from that first run were sold and are now considered rare collector's items.
Autumn of 1999 marked the release of the very first full-length album, "Ecliptica". Initially released in Finland, other countries quickly followed. Widely successful, Ecliptica opened doors for Sonata Arctica to participate in two tribute records. 'I Want Out' for a Helloween tribute album "Keepers of Jericho" and 'Still Loving You' for a Scorpions tribute, "A Tribute to the Scorpions" were both kick-ass versions of originals.
Soon after the release of Ecliptica, the band's mastermind Tony Kakko decided to concentrate more on singing, as opposed to trying to sing and play keyboards at the same time. Mikko Härkin (ex-Kenziner) joined the band to relief Tony from keys and to allow the frontman to roam the stage. This change allowed for much more energetic live shows. It introduced a new capability for Sonata Arctica - to have two keyboard players simultaneously, adding a new cool twist to the live sound.
Quick rise to fame continued through the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000. Soon after the release of Ecliptica, Sonata Arctica was chosen as support band for Stratovarius' European Tour, winning over 32 other bands from 15 different record companies. The tour started in April of 2000 with Strato and Rhapsody on the road. It lasted for two months, during which Sonata played over 30 gigs in 10 countries, traveling thousands of kilometers.
Very successful tour was followed by the release of the new mini-CD Successor. This new disk included two previously unreleased tracks, two cover tracks for upcoming tribute albums, some live tracks from Provinssi Rock and one edited track from Ecliptica.
In a small line-up change, Janne Kivilahti made a decision to part with the band due to personal reasons. Janne's last gig took place in Kemi on 30th June in the summer of 2000. Janne was replaced by Marko Paasikoski, who happened to be one of the founding members of Tricky Beans. Being a familiar face to the entire band, the transition was smooth and transparent.
Year 2000 brought not only a big tour, new mini-CD, and a small line-up change, but also media recognition. Sonata was chosen as a candidate for "the best new-comer band" by the Finnish Recording Industry Association in their annual Awards Gala, Emma. The new millennium is also treating the Sonata beans well. In the spring of 2001 Sonata Arctica opened two gigs For Alice Cooper, Dio and Ratt (in Oulu and Helsinki) in Monsters of the Millennium 2001 tour.
Forging the metal while it is hot, the band worked on the second full-length offering from autumn of 2000 through the winter of 2001. Again all the songs were composed by the band's mastermind Tony Kakko. The first single, "Wolf & Raven" from the album, was released in May '01. The album was scheduled for an initial release in Japan in June, other territories following shortly after.
This "right of way" for Japanese fans comes for a reason. The first album, Ecliptica, sold more than 30,000 copies in Japan within the first year of release.
The band also played its first four concerts in Japan in September 2001.
The latter half of 2001 was very busy for the band. In July a Finnish tour kicked off along with separate gigs (including Wacken Open Air in Germany) in Europe. Then the band headed towards the Land of The Rising Sun in September. After the Japanese tour Sonata Arctica toured the Europe as a support act for the heavy metal monsters Gamma Ray along with Vanishing Point as special guests. During the 5 weeks on the road, the band conquered a total of 12 countries with 28 shows. The tour ended with a show in Helsinki, Finland to the delight of the Finnish fans in November. While touring, the second single from the album Silence, "Last Drop Falls", was released. The song got aired quite well in the domestic radio stations, gathering even more popularity for the band.
Three weeks after the European tour, it was time for the second leg of the Finnish tour. Thirteen well-received gigs were played across Finland. The Finnish shows at the end of 2001 and in the beginning of 2002 were just an appetizer for the following tour in South America. Four shows in Brazil and two more in Chile truly showed the huge popularity of the band - the crowds they met were amongst the best and wildest ever. During one of the shows the band couldn't even hear its own playing since the crowd was louder than the huge loudspeakers!
The next release was the live album "Songs Of Silence". It was recorded in Tokyo, September 4th, 2001.
The European and Asian editions had completely different artworks, both made by Janne "ToxicAngel" Pitkänen who also became the exclusive artist for the following Sonata Arctica releases. The Asian version was released in March while the other parts of the world got their live album in July/August.
After the last show of the Silence tour, Jörisrock 2002, Mikko Härkin decided to leave the band due to personal reasons. The band announced their search for the new keyboard player and got a huge amount of applications from all around the world. Two of the candidates, both well-known and highly skillful keyboardists from Finland, were asked to travel to Kemi for the audition. Since the capabilities of the players were already known among the band, the choose of the new member was a bit extraordinary - the band wanted a player who could fit not only musically but also mentally to the band, so they dragged the applicants one-by-one to the bar. After spending a night in a bar with the candidates, the band voted for Henrik Klingenberg. Henrik had been playing in various metal bands like Silent Voices and Requiem about a decade or so and he proved to be the right man for the job.
The third studio album entitled "Winterheart's Guild" was recorded in the meantime, without the new keyboard player. A fellow mate of the band, Jens Johansson of Stratovarius, offered his helping hand and the band naturally was really pleased to get a world class keyboard player as a guest for their new album. Jens played solos for four songs while Tony handled most of the keyboard duties.
Henrik's first appearance with Sonata Arctica was held on February 21st, 2003 in Tornio. Hundreds of people in the audience coming from all-over Finland greeted the band and the new keyboard player enthusiastically. With Henrik in the band they got a huge amount of extra energy and visual appearance. No more glued-to-the-stage keyboards, Klingenberg took the stage with a true rock attitude and joined the show actively with his portable keyboard.
The second show ever with the new line-up was humbly held at the Tavastia club - the most legendary rock club in Finland!
In Japan, Winterheart's Guild was released soon afterwards. The band hit the road and traveled to the Land of the Rising Sun, playing eight sold-out gigs. According to the audience on the shows, the band was truly on fire making their best live performances ever.
The first single of Winterheart's Guild was "Victoria's Secret", a traditional Sonata Arctica tune with its melodic and speedy approach. During the first week the single notched #2 position on the official Finnish charts. The first position was taken over by Darude's new single which was released at the same time. During the next two weeks, Victoria's Secret seized the first position, leaving such names as Eminem, Negative and The Rasmus behind. Though the previous single "Last Drop Falls" was a hit in Finland, it never rose higher than #3 on the charts during its four months on them - Victoria's Secret truly became the most successful Sonata Arctica single until then.
The domestic success continued after Winterheart's Guild was released in Finland. During its debutant week it peaked at #3, this time leaving The Rasmus, Eminem, T.A.T.U and Stratovarius behind. The album stayed five weeks on the top 10. After a successful album release it was naturally the right time for the first leg of the Finnish tour. Eight successive shows in Finland were followed by four more in France. The festival season was opened with Sweden Rock Festival (along with artists like Queensrÿche, Yes, Kamelot, Whitesnake etc.), continued with e.g. Nummirock and the huge Sziget Festival in Hungary and ended with the legendary Wacken Open Air. The summer ended with the second leg of the Finnish tour. During this time 14,000 Finnish people had bought their copy of Winterheart's Guild.
Two more releases were made during the latter half of 2003. The Finnish people enjoyed a new single, "Broken", which included two previously unreleased bonus tracks. The tracks were recorded over a year earlier though, with Mikko still in the band. Japanese fans got themselves an extra tribute in November - an EP called "Takatalvi". The EP was mostly a re-release of the already sold-out Successor EP with some additional material and without the live tracks.
Because the previous recording deal with Spinefarm Records had completed with Winterheart's Guild, the band was marketing for a new deal. Needless to say, all of the major metal-releasing record companies were begging Sonata Arctica to join their ranks. After negotiations Sonata Arctica were signed to Nuclear Blast.
In the beginning of 2004 Sonata Arctica was chosen as a warm-up band for the Japanese tourdates of Iron Maiden. After the Japanese gigs in February, the band came back to Finland just to find out they were one of the nominees for the annual Emma Award in the category "the best hard rock / metal album". The other nominees were Children Of Bodom, HIM and Kotiteollisuus who also won the award.
March 2004 revealed two happy newsbits for Sonata Arctica. First of all, Tommy became a proud father of a newborn baby girl. The band also entered Tico Tico Studios in Kemi for the recording of their fourth studio album.
This time the recording session featured also Henrik who added fresh spices to the soup, later on called "Reckoning Night". After over three months of hard work, the recordings were finally completed. The album was mixed and mastered in the famous Finnvox Studios. The release dates were fixed to the beginning of October.
During the summer 2004 the band played on many festivals, this time conquering also new grounds. Finland's most famous metal festival, Tuska Open Air, got its part of Sonata frenzy in July. German fans got an additional bit of fame since Sonata Arctica played their first single from the forthcoming album, "Don't Say A Word", for the first time ever at the Summer Breeze festival. And finally, United Kingdom got also Sonatized when the band debuted at the famous Bloodstock Festival.
Don't Say A Word (single) was released on August 23rd solely in Finland. Immediately after the release the single hit the first position on the official charts! The next week the single attached the second position, following only Children Of Bodom's new single. A week after that, the EP version of Don't Say A Word peaked at the fourth position and dropped the single to the fifth position - so, during one week, Sonata Arctica made history and had two releases on the top five in the official charts!
The single version kept its second place during the next weeks, being totally six weeks in the top ten with the lowest position of 6th.
The EP was also released in Japan on September 22nd. Slightly after the EP, the Japanese people got once again the pole position for getting the new Sonata Arctica album week prior the European release. In Finland the album peaked at second position for the first two weeks with only Rammstein selling more copies. Finland wasn't the only country where Reckoning Night entered the charts. In Germany the position was 77th, in Switzerland 85th and in Norway 69th.
A headline tour was supposed to follow the release of Reckoning Night, but the band got an once-in-a-lifetime invitation from Nightwish to join their European tour as a special guest. The band opted in - Sonata Arctica toured Europe with Nightwish in arenas with capacities up to 12 000 people! During the tour band also played a handful of headliner shows over Europe.
In October 2004, the band received extraordinary news: they'd exceeded the Gold record sales mark with Silence. Silence had become eventually the most sold album of the band reaching the magical limit of 15,000 copies! Despite some releases being really close reaching the gold disc plateau, Silence was the first release in the history of Sonata Arctica reaching the gold disc status. In November the sold-out audience of Helsinki, Tavastia club - the most famous rock club in Finland - witnessed Sonata Arctica receiving the long-awaited gold discs and thanked the band by applausing with probably the longest applauses in the history of the club.
The gold disc party that started the whole Finnish tour was just the beginning - the following eighteen shows all around Finland exceeded all the earlier domestic tours by the number of shows and by the amount of audience. The final gig of the tour was at the newly-formed Finnish Metal Expo at Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki. From the beginning of the day the once again sold-out audience was eagerly awaiting Sonata Arctica to play, though the band was booked as the headliner and the last act of the whole-weekend expo! After midnight the audience finally received what it was been waiting for the whole weekend, and the entire hall virtually exploded.
The ending show of the Finnish tour was not only performed in front of the sold-out huge audience of the metal expo, but also a good practice for the band for the forthcoming Japanese tour. Sonata Arctica played for the first time ever the same set the Japanese fans were going to receive during the exclusive Japanese tour - and what eventually became inevitable, the same set which would be later on released as their first DVD "For The Sake Of Revenge", recorded in Tokyo on February 4th and 5th, 2005.
After the highly successful Japanese tour Sonata Arctica made a one-off Finnish gig at the 19th annual Emma (the Finnish Grammy) awards gala of the Finnish Recording Industry Association. If a metal band playing in a pop awards concert is a rarity, another rarity was Sonata Arctica performing only one song during the whole night: their first single from Reckoning Night, Don't Say A Word.
The next big thing was going to be a long tour supporting their highly successful countrymen Nightwish, once again, during their first major North American tour, but the headliners were suddenly forced to cancel the tour.
Despite this Sonata was invited to play a short tour of nine shows on the east coast. The band gave everything they got for the North American audience and promised to come back as soon as possible encouraged by the heart warming welcome they received both in USA and Canada.
After the North American trip Sonata Arctica played a dozen of well-received festival appearances in Europe. The size of the venues was everything between the small Hullun Mylly at their hometown Kemi to the gigantic Sweden Rock Festival and the legendary Wacken Open Air.
The festival season ended in August, and on August 24th the Japanese label Marquee/Avalon released the compilation album "The End Of This Chapter". The compilation included one previously unreleased version, an instrumental edition of "Draw Me" from the "Winterheart's Guild" album. The first limited edition of the compilation was equipped with a DVD including seven acoustic songs. The compilation is still TBA for the European and American release.
Sonata Arctica didn't rest in silence, since just a small fraction of time after the release of the compilation album they were ready for the next leg of their European tour traveling all the way from the Netherlands to Italy and back. The following Finnish tour started modestly in October 21st at the Hartwall Arena, Helsinki - the biggest indoor venue in the whole country! Sonata Arctica opened for Nightwish who recorded their forthcoming actual DVD release and also dismissed their lead singer Tarja Turunen during the same night.
The domestic tour advanced about a month after the forever-unforgettable night. This time the band and the management decided to go for the capacity and the quality instead of the quantity - the result leading for only eight concerts, arranged in the biggest rock clubs and venues in Finland. The gambling was successful: the venues were packed up with people from the very beginning to the final second of the tour, and the lucky ones getting their tickets early enough swore to have witnessed definitely the best shows of Sonata Arctica, ever.
The latter half of December 2005 proved once again the magic of Sonata Arctica: their third album "Winterheart's Guild" was confirmed to receive the awaited gold disc status in Finland, selling over 15,000 copies, slightly before the year turning to 2006.
Conquering Finland once and for all and reaching two once-in-a-lifetime goals during one month was not enough for the band, but they also fulfilled their earlier promise to play in the North America again - and this time it was not only few shows here and there, this time it was for real. The tour included 29 shows at 28 different venues, and it wasn't only a showcase for the whole American continent, but also a promise filled for their loyal fans left behind from the previous crippled tour in 2005.
Shortly after "Winterheart's Guild" also the 4th studio album "Reckoning Night" was certified with gold disc status in Finland while the band was still touring in the North America in February 2006. The album was also confirmed to have 100,000 sold copies worldwide - thus being the most successful Sonata Arctica album ever.
After finishing the North American tour in February Sonata Arctica soon continued by touring in Europe to promote their forthcoming live DVD "For The Sake Of Revenge". The band hit the road again in April with their fellow countrymen Altaria - with whom Jani used to play earlier! - and with the German-based hard rock legend Doro. After the tour finished, Sonata Arctica opted in for only six summer festival appearances, all of them in Finland. The worldwide Reckoning Night tour lasted in the end two years and it was brilliantly finished with an exclusive appearance in self-arranged and self-titled Sonata Arctica Open Air festival in Kemi, the hometown of the band.
After their last live appearance in 2006 the band retreated from publicity and began to prepare material for their fifth studio album. The band also received yet another gold disc award, this time from their first-ever live DVD "For The Sake Of Revenge". The DVD not only achieved gold disc status, but it also ended up in the top 10 of the best-selling DVDs in Finland that year - all this, when the album had been for sale mere a few months!
While the band was working hard in different studios recording their fifth studio album "Unia" - Finnish for "Dreams" -, Finnish press announced an official Sonata Arctica documentary being in production. The documentary film will follow Sonata Arctica in their hometown Kemi and also show how a Sonata Arctica song is being formed from the scratch to the very end of the creative process. The documentary will have its first public appearance during the annual music video festival of Oulu in September 2007. Meanwhile the documentary isn't the only non-musical work related to Sonata Arctica, since an official Sonata Arctica 3d role playing game for PC, called "Winterheart's Guild", is in the works.
The fifth studio album of Sonata Arctica is called "Unia". The album was released in May 2007. Before the release of the album a single entitled "Paid In Full" was released in Finland, Germany and Japan. The single featured also a cover version of "Out In The Fields", a legendary song originally performed by Gary Moore and Phil Lynott. The single hit the #1 position in the official Finnish charts, sticked to second place the following week and stayed in the national top ten until "Unia" was released a month later!
During the same week the new single was released the band played four gigs in the biggest rock clubs of Finland. The sizes of the venues varied from 700 to 2,300 people, and each night was sold out. The fans witnessed not one but three never-seen-before events during one show: Not only the songs from "Unia" were performed live for the very first time, but also Sonata Arctica appeared on stage first time ever without its founding member Jani Liimatainen and thus it was also the first time ever the band performed with a temporary replacement guest musician. Each and every show during the over decade-lasting career had been performed with the permanent line-up - until now. The guitarist Jani Liimatainen had to skip the four Finnish shows because of his civil duties for the Finnish government. Because of the length of the Finnish national duties, he is also forced to let the temping guitarist Elias Viljanen replace him temporarily during the summer festivals, the four Japanese shows and the North American tour.
Sonata Arctica is confirmed to perform on a few selected festivals during the summer. In July the band travels to the Land of the rising Sun and the Japanese audience will be the first foreigners to hear the new songs from the "Unia" album performed live. After the festival season Sonata Arctica is ready for a four-show excursion to Mexico. These are the first Mexican shows ever! From Mexico the band continues to USA and Canada.
Europe has been left quite a while without the magic of Sonata Arctica. However, in the end of October this will change when Sonata Arctica begins its massive headlining tour starting from Stockholm, Sweden. During the European tour the band plays in thirteen different countries with their support acts, the Netherlands-based Epica.
With four gold disc awards and multiple sold-out tours Sonata Arctica has got its hands tightly attached to the history of Finnish metal music - and more will definately be achieved in the future!