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The band was founded by Tony Kakko, Jani Liimatainen, Marko Paasikoski, Tommy Portimo and Pentti Peura in Kemi in 1996. The band, originally named Tricky Beans, played songs which were mostly influenced by the hard rock genre and did not approach the power metal genre as such. During their early career, they recorded three demos which were never sent to any record label: Friend 'till the End, Agre Pamppers and PeaceMaker. The demo song to the first contract with Spinefarm Records was Letter to Dana, written by Tony Kakko.
In 1997, the band's name was changed to Tricky Means, and from that point until 1999 their style was thoroughly worked upon and ultimately was drastically changed, acquiring 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. During this time, second guitarist Marko Paasikoski left the band.
In 1999, the band entered studios to record a demo entitled FullMoon, their line-up composed by vocalist and keyboardist Tony Kakko, guitarist Jani Liimatainen, bassist Janne Kivilahti and drummer Tommy Portimo. The demo was then sent to Spinefarm Records by a friend of the band. A record deal soon followed and the band changed its name to Sonata Arctica.
Later that year, Sonata Arctica's first single–entitled UnOpened–was released in Finland. It entered the Finnish Top 20 sales chart on the week of its release and, soon enough, the band had closed deals with labels from around the world, prior to the release of their debut album. The debut Ecliptica arrived by the end of 1999 and had a worldwide release, obtaining rave critics from the specialized press.
In the beginning of 2000, Sonata Arctica was chosen to support the well known power metal band Stratovarius throughout their European tour. Marko Paasikoski returned to the band to play bass in the wake of Janne Kivilahti's departure after the tour.
From late 2000 to late 2001, the band worked on composing and recording their next album–Silence–which was released in June of 2001. An extensive tour followed, which included concerts throughout Europe (together with Gamma Ray) and Japan. In 2002, Sonata Arctica made its first incursion to America, putting on shows in Brazil and Chile. According to some of the musicians from the band, it was one of their best tours to date–the other being the Japanese tour from 2003. A live album entitled Songs of Silence was also released that year, consisting of gigs from their tour in Japan.
By the end of 2002, Harkin left the band due to personal reasons. Their third album–Winterheart's Guild–was recorded with the help of the seasoned keyboard player Jens Johansson, from Stratovarius, who recorded the keyboard solos, while Kakko took care of the basics. The album was released in 2003.
In the search for another keyboardist, the band received many applications and two of them were invited for auditions. Since they were well aware of the candidates' ability, the band decided to pick the new member based on personality. To this end they spent a night drinking with each of the potentials in order to find out which one would fit best into the band's personality and mentality. Henrik Klingenberg was eventually chosen and joined the band in time to take part in the tour that followed the release of Winterheart's Guild. Most of the concerts on the tour were sold out.
With the end of their contract with Spinefarm Records, the band received invitations from most European record labels, and eventually opted for Nuclear Blast.
In early 2004, the band was chosen as the opener for Iron Maiden's Japanese tour. In March of that year, Tommy Portimo became a father; his wife gave birth to a baby girl.
Reckoning Night was recorded in three months and released in October. Both the single and the EP of this release remained on the top of the Finnish charts simultaneously for over six weeks. A promotional tour was to follow, but Sonata Arctica was invited by the popular Nightwish to join their European tour, and thus made a change of plans. The concerts that followed were played for audiences of over ten thousand people.
In early 2005, Nightwish invited the band to open the concerts of their North American tour. This tour eventually got cancelled, but the members of Sonata Arctica opted to still make a short tour, playing concerts in Canada and in the USA.
The band then released a live CD and DVD entitled For the Sake of Revenge, which was recorded in Tokyo in February of 2004, and released in 2006. Then, Spinefarm Records released a compilation album in order to get the most out of their contract with the band, since Sonata Arctica changed their record label. The compilation is entitled The End of This Chapter and was released in Japan in August 2005 and in Europe on May 2006.
A computer video game is also planned based on Sonata Arctica characters and music. The name of the game will be Winterheart's Guild, like their album. The game will be developed by Zelian Games, and will be an Action-RPG in a style between Fallout and Diablo. Further details or a release date are not yet available, but a demo was shown at the Leipzig video game conference in 2006, featuring Henrik Klingenberg as the playable character.
As of December 2006, the band has begun recording their as-of-yet unnamed fifth studio album. The album is scheduled for release around April 2007.
The band will be headlining ProgPower USA VIII in October 2007.
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