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Sonata Arctica - Biography



Logo only used on UnOpened single



Sonata Arctica was born in 1996 on the edge of the world, in northern Finnish town of Kemi. The very first incarnation of the band was named Tricky Beans. As Tricky Beans, the group produced three demos (Friend till the End, Agre Pamppers and PeaceMaker) and played twice in Jyrki Sähkösirkus, a Finnish TV Battle of the Bands. 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 Studio, 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 power metal community. Of course, not everything went smoothly. During the first mix/pressing of 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 Helloween tribute album "Keepers of Jericho" and 'Still Loving You' for Scorpions tribute, "A Tribute to the Scorpions" were both kick-ass versions of originals.

Soon after the release of Ecliptica, 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.

The very successful tour was followed by the release of the 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 depart 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 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, has sold more than 30 000 copies in Japan. 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 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 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 at 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 it's 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. There was also a bootleg called Only Way You Can available from Osaka, September 5th, so the label decided to release a live album so the fans could get an official, mastered live album with the best possible sound quality instead of sticking with the bootleg. 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 choice 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.

Third studio album entitled Winterheart's Guild was recorded meantime, without the new keyboard player. A fellow mate of the band, Jens Johansson of Stratovarius, offered his helping hand and the band naturally were 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 in February 21st 2003 at Tornio. Hundreds of people in the audience coming 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 held humbly 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 it's 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, the single never rose higher than #3 on the charts during it's four months on them - Victoria's Secret came truly the most successful Sonata Arctica single yet.

The domestic success continued after Winterheart's Guild was released in Finland. During it's 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 remake 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 for Nuclear Blast who had made the best offer.

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 in many festivals, this time conquering also new grounds. Finland's most famous metal festival, Tuska Open Air, got it's 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 in 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. 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! Single version kept it's 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, 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 the 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 has eventually become 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. With the first gold disc ever the band continues intensive touring and making even more high-quality melodic metal to be released. Sonata Arctica has so far got their hands attached tightly to the history of Finnish metal - and more will be done in the future!
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