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Sonata Arctica is a Finnish power metal band from the town of Kemi, Finland. Created as a hard rock band named Tricky Beans, they later changed to Tricky Means and finally to Sonata Arctica, when they shifted to power metal. The current line-up consists of singer, keyboardist and songwriter Tony Kakko, guitarist Elias Viljanen, bass guitarist Pasi Kauppinen, keyboardist and keytarist Henrik Klingenberg, and drummer Tommy Portimo. All the musicians of the band’s history except Portimo also acted as backing vocalists.
As of 2019, the band has released ten full-length albums (three via Spinefarm Records and seven via Nuclear Blast), their most recent being Talviyö on September 6, 2019.
Formation and early years (1996–1999)
The band was founded by Marko Paasikoski (guitar), Jani Liimatainen (guitar) and Tommy Portimo (drums) in Kemi at the end of 1995 (Tony Kakko (vocals) and Pentti Peura (bass) joined in early 1996). Originally named Tricky Beans, they played hard rock rather than the power metal with which they grew to fame. Kakko explained that when he was invited to join the band, Paasikoski said the band was going to play “a mixture of Megadeth and Spin Doctors”. During their early career, they recorded three demos which were never sent to a recording label — Friend ’til the End, Agre Pamppers and PeaceMaker. According to Kakko, the band’s first name was based on one of their early songs, which was “about a lady who was tricky and I didn’t really know what I was talking about (laughs)”. Their first show was about to take place but they were still unnamed, so they had to come up with something.
In 1997 the band changed their name to Tricky Means, and from that point until 1999 their style was thoroughly worked upon and ultimately was drastically changed, acquiring a strong emphasis on the keyboard melodies and relying on an easily distinguishable rhythm line maintained both by the bass and the guitar. Vocalist Tony Kakko developed a clean singing style which relies both on falsetto and tenor voices. Kakko has stated that the change of sound was influenced by fellow Finnish power metal band Stratovarius. At that time, Pentti Peura was fired and Marko Paasikoski left due to a lack of gigging. Two months later the band got signed to a three-album deal with Spinefarm, which left Marko displeased.The band finally changed their name to Sonata Arctica, because they thought they wouldn’t be able to sell metal albums with the previous name and also because Spinefarm asked them to do so. “Sonata Arctica” was suggested by a friend of the band: “sonata” for the music and “arctica” for their home (Kemi, in Northern Finland).
In 1997, they recorded a demo entitled FullMoon in Kemi’s Tico Tico Studios, which was their first real metal recording. The line-up consisted of vocalist and keyboardist Tony Kakko, guitarist Jani Liimatainen, new bassist Janne Kivilahti (who started first as second guitarist and drummer Tommy Portimo. The demo was sent to Spinefarm Records by a friend of the band and a recording deal soon followed.