Finnish power metal band Sonata Arctica are back in 2014 with studio album eight, entitled Pariah’s Child. Keyboard player Henrik Klingenberg shares his thoughts on the latest recording, with a mix of information and humour – a combination that is probably to be expected in an early morning coffee-fueled interview.
Right away it’s clear that Klingenberg and the band are excited but also a little nervous about getting the new tracks in front of the fans. “Of course we are really happy with it but it’s not out yet. We finished it a few months ago and it’s really hard to tell where it will fall in the catalogue,” he offers. He’s quick to expand on this, “It’s at least as good as any of our other albums but I’ll have my final say after a year or so and we get some distance from the album.”
With the recording all done and the promotion now underway it’s all a bit of a waiting game. Klingenberg has been through the cycle many times before, and once again he’s travelled through the emotional stages of working on a new album. “The most exciting part for me is when you first hear the new demos from Tony and then we start to talk about it and pick the songs and work on them together,” he says. “Then when you go to studio it sort of becomes more of a labour, but we still change a few things. When eventually you get it done, that’s when it’s relief, it’s like ‘ok now we can’t do anything more, it’s mastered, it’s done’.” Right now, he’s in that ‘calm before the storm’ moment before the album hits the streets. “The nervousness comes when you wait because you have no idea how it’s going to go.”
Since they continue to work on and change tracks as they record, how do they know when it’s time to call a track completed, and move on? Klingenberg laughs and gets straight to the point, “It’s when you get so sick of it you move on! I don’t think there’s a sure way of knowing … you just need a deadline, because when the album is mastered you can’t do any more. With Sonata Arctica we keep changing things up until the last minute. Someone throws in an idea and it’s ‘maybe it should have been done that way’ so we try it,” he explains. He’s also quick to point the finger at the main offender, “Especially, Tony is the worse with that. If the mix is done and we have one week before the mastering, then the phone starts ringing!”
The title of the album, Pariah’s Child, certainly sounds like there’s a meaning or message in there. Klingenberg laughs yet again and makes his best attempt at explaining what it’s all about. “This is Tony’s explanation, because he came up with the name but I’m not really sure it’s a cool name at all,” he begins. “So, the idea is we started out as more or less a power metal band and then the last few albums we’ve done all kinds of different stuff and have become sort of a pariah for some fans. Now from that pariah is born this child that is coming back to grace.” So it’s trying to convey a message of redemption from previous musical directions, at least for the hardcore fan? “It‘s some confusing thing like that which he tried to explain it with,” agrees Klingenberg, “but I’m not entirely sure that I bought it!”
For anyone familiar with the band’s back catalogue, Pariah’s Child has a definite feel of the early releases. This is partly just the natural way the songs evolved, and partly a consequence of picking a certain stylistic direction. “For this album Tony always kept saying ‘yeah, I have a lot of demos’ and at some point me and the drummer Tommy said we are coming out to your house now and you can play us your songs,” explains Klingenberg. “So we went there and he had a whole pile of all kinds of stuff. So the three of us listened to it and we picked that songs that we definitely liked. There was a lot of good music in there but we went for the songs that we thought were most suitable for Sonata Arctica.” With a base set of tracks to start with, vocalist and songwriter Tony Kakko then set about writing additional material to suit the chosen direction. “We wanted to make a more up tempo record, “ adds Klingenberg, “especially since it’s been 15 years since the first album, and we’ve been thinking and talking about the history of the band and we realised that on the last album maybe we’d drifted a bit too far from our roots in some ways. So we definitely wanted to bring back some of the elements of the earlier stuff, some of the essence of Sonata Arctica.”
Like every album, the band has also tried to mix it up a little. For Klingenberg, there are a couple of tracks that capture this spirit of diversity perfectly. “Take One Breath was a track we had a lot of fun with. It’s maybe not the easiest song, it’s more of a prog thing, but I really enjoyed working with that one,” he says with clear enthusiasm. Perhaps not quite so enthusiastic is his take on the more light-hearted track ‘Cloud Factory’. “ That’s a demo that Tony has had for the last two albums, it’s been around for a while, and the melody is so annoying! I just told him we should finally record it and let it bug somebody else for a change,” he says with tongue firmly in cheek. “I think it turned out really well, but for me the melody is still really annoying!”
The new album also is the debut of a new fulltime member, bass player Pasi Kauppinen. Although he’s now an official band member, his actual involvement with Sonata Arctica goes back a lot further. “He’s an old friend of mine and I’ve been playing music with him since we were 14 or 15. As far as Sonata goes he’s been recording and mixing bits and pieces for the last 3 or 4 albums, we have always recorded something at his studio. He also did the mixing for both our DVDs,” Klingenberg says. Bringing in someone that the band is very familiar with made for a smooth transition, and fitted well with where the band sees itself right now. “We’re not kids anymore so we don’t want to bring out some 18 year old hotshot and have to go through the growing pains and craziness that it is, we’d rather have someone who could fit into the group right away and not have to worry about those kinds of things” he adds.
So with a new member, a new album, and that Finnish sense of humour all firmly in place, it’s time for Klingenberg and Sonata Arctica to see if this Pariah’s Child can deliver the sort after redemption. They won’t have to wait much longer.