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Sonata Arctica

Als in 1999 het ijzersterke debuut 'Ecliptica' verschijnt, staat het uit Finland afkomstige Sonata Arctica in één klap op de landkaart bij metalfans over de hele wereld. Opvolger 'Silence' (2001) is net zo sterk en is de aanleiding voor een eerste wereldtournee. De daarop volgende studioplaten 'Winterheart's Guild' en 'Reckoning Nights' halen niet het niveau van beide eerstelingen, maar zorgen wereldwijd wel voor een toenemende populariteit. Inmiddels is het 2007 en Sonata Arctica staat aan de vooravond van een uitgebreide wereldtournee, die hun de kans geeft om de zojuist verschenen nieuwe plaat 'Unia' te promoten. Een prachtplaat die moeiteloos het niveau van het debuut haalt en zelfs overtreft. We spraken met toetsenist en feestbeest Henrik Klingenberg over 'Unia' en tal van andere belangrijke en minder belangrijke zaken.

Door: Fons | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

band imageHenrik, You must be a very busy man, doing all this promotional stuff plus the kick off of the new world tour.
Yeah, we have a lot to do indeed, we have played four shows until now, and tonight (2 May) we'll be playing another gig.

How did these first shows go?
They went really well. We haven't played since last August and all shows were sold out so it was really funny to be back on stage. We didn't play lots of new songs, because the album has not been released, but we are very exciting to do that later this summer.

Sold out shows? That's great. Exactly how big is Sonata Arctica at this moment?
Well, I it's difficult to tell. We sell about 100.000 records and we play for 800 to 3000 fans. We feel good about it, you know. We can pay the bills, travel around to play rock and roll, so we're a very happy band.

As the new album 'Unia' is a bit more mainstream than the previous albums. How far do you think can you go with SA? How big can you guys get?
Of course we talk about that every now and then, but it is a bit dangerous to do too much daydreaming. The only thing we can do now is to work our asses off and tour like hell. Of course we try to get as big as possible!

If you look back what do you think about the first four studio albums and what you have established with it?
Well, we're very happy of course. When we recorded our first album, we were influenced a lot by Stratovarius, and slowly we were drifting away from there and tried to develop our own style. Then we came to that point during the 'Reckoning Nights'-tour, when we played over a 100 shows in almost two years, we came to a point that we wanted to try something different both as a band but also as composers, we just thought: Fuck it, let's just go for it and see what happens. Of course it still will sound like SA and on tour we definitely will play lots of old stuff. So this is all history and now we will start the next chapter.

Personally, I think that 'Winterheart's Guild' and even more 'Reckoning Nights' did not have the same enthusiasm and creativity like the first two albums ('Eclyptica' and 'Silence').
Well, I do agree at some point. Basically it came to the point where Tony (Kakko, lead vocals-Fons) had to be pushed to write some fast songs, which after all made the albums sound a bit forced at some parts. I was not in the band during the first two albums, but the ones I performed on, they felt really good at that time. But definitely, I think you lose some of your innocence, something of the spark that you have, after making a couple of albums, something that happens to most bands, by the way.

What was different that makes 'Unia' sound as such an ambitious album?
There was a lot of difference in comparison with the older albums. We changed the whole way how we work. During the 'Reckoning Nights'-tour we already wrote some new songs, so at the end of the tour we already had recorded a lot of demos. When we entered the studio four 'Reckoning Nights', we only had three songs. This time we had a lot of demos ready and we were able to rehearse for one month before we went to the studio, which was something we had never done before. This gave us a lot more time to work on the arrangements also the band's input is much more evident than before.
When we realized what kind of music it was gonna be, we also wanted to change the overall sound, the soundscapes, making the drum sound heavier and more natural. Of course there still are a lot of Sonata elements in our music like the vocals and solos, but we just came to a point that we felt that we had said and done everything we wanted within the power metal, and we just wanted to move forward.

Although there are some typical SA songs on the album like 'In Black And White' and 'For The Sake Of Revenge', there are also a couple unusual Sonata songs. 'My Dream's But A Drop Of Fuel For A Nightmare' for instance. Where did you get the inspiration for this song?
Tony wrote this song after he got interested in bad omen that you can have from nightmares. This thing like if you believe in your own dreams, you'll be afraid of your own shadow. That was basically where he started to study about this. He went actually to a library to read books about this subject that is how and created the lyrical idea about it. The idea of the song title is also Tony's. He writes the lyrics, so he can also make the song title. Unless it is not something completely fucked up we are ok with it.

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'The Worlds Forgotten, The Words Forbidden' is also an unusual SA song…
Basically it was a song that Tony wrote for a computer game that is coming out called 'Winterheart's Guild', the same title as our third album. We all thought it was such a good song, and the game producers only needed it as 'ending credits tune', which made us decide to take it back so we could use it for the album, and it is pretty good, I think.

What happened to the speed metal side of Sonata Arctica? There are hardly any fast songs on the new album. Aren't you afraid that there will be some disappointed fans?
Yes, I can imagine there will be disappointed fans. But this was really what we wanted to do. We could have easily record one or two albums the same way we did before, it probably would have been the end of Sonata Arctica. We wanted to do something else on 'Unia'. If you have to chose between only two more albums and then nothing or a continuation for at least ten years playing the music you like, that would not be much of a choice.

It seems to me that 'Unia' is an attempt to take a next step that SA can use to step out of the power metal 'world'…
That really sounds a bit calculated, isn't it, hahaha. Well actually we have always been kind of in between. There were fans who adored us as being a power metal band, other metal fans thought we were not power metal enough. On 'Unia' I think that we do not play power metal anymore.

Personally, I do not miss the fast songs on 'Unia' at all. The album sounds much more balanced and the songs don't need speed to sound powerful. Sonata has grown up!
Hehehe, I agree, we have been touring for two years, that has really helped us. We also are playing better as a band. We spend much time to try different things and stuff and do more variation than before. Some people say that Tony writing slower songs makes everybody happy because they are easier to play, but the arrangements on the new songs are much more difficult than on the previous albums. We had an awful lot of work with all that.

The sound of 'Unia' is really devastating, probably this year's best metal production. What can you tell about the recording process? Was it different than the other albums?
First we recorded the bass and drum parts then Tony and I recorded our stuff at home. Tony had played a lot of keyboard parts on demos and we just used these parts for the album. He also sang most of his vocals at home. Than Jani recorded his guitar parts in the studio of Nino Laurenne from Thunderstone. Later on we added some string arrangements and some percussion and also some acoustic guitars played by a guy called Peter Engvir, who did some amazing stuff. It was our goal this time to make it sound more organic, that is why we used some additional instruments, and it turned out very well.

How are the reactions so far on the 'Unia'?
The reactions are surprisingly good, but if people don't like it they probably wouldn't tell to band, I guess, hahaha. Some journalists reacted like: 'what the fuck did you guys do?? You just fucked up your career!' Even our label reacted surprised at first. But in the end they thought the new stuff was really great. Fortunately they are really understanding. Everyone has his own opinion. I just can not wait for the album to come out, and than we will see what happens.

A few days ago, I was watching the extras on your 'For The Sake Of Revenge' DVD and it occurred to me that in every scene, you guys were really drunk or had a hangover from the night before. Are you such party animals or did you only film during 'special occasions'?
Well, heheh, some guys like to party and some guys don't. I am one of those who likes to party a little bit more. The idea of the DVD was basically that we had to do some extras. There was nothing else that we had, it is stupid crap, and it has totally no value or whatsoever. Next time we will do some extras that really matter on a DVD, but that will be within a couple of years.

As you just mentioned the tour has just begun. I was wondering if you will be headlining the whole tour, or are you supporting a band?
No, we'll be the headliners on all the gigs, even in The States we will be headlining. If we would be support act, it had to be a band that could really help us. Another tour supporting Nightwish would be awesome.

The last gig of the tour will be in Holland, in Tilburg…
Yeah, we are surprised of our popularity in Holland. On the last tour we played in three shows in Holland and all three were sold out, so we can't wait to play again in Holland.

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