Two Days of No Grays - Sonata Arctica's Henkka Klingenberg

Sonata Arctica have never been to Australia before, let alone an Australian international metal festival. Keyboardist Henkka Klingenberg gives us the skinny on their upcoming tours, their new album and their... video game?

Back in the day, as many a lion-maned power metal enthusiast could attest, Finland's Sonata Arctica was the band that so many turned to when they wanted a power ballad of epic proportions; fun, fantasy, cheese, pomp and instrumental "flashiness" a huge cornerstone of their great success worldwide producing such sing-a-long staples as Full Moon, Wolf and Raven and Victoria's Secret. (How raunchy!) Talking with Henrik "Henkka" Klingenberg, master of the keyboards for the band, I immediately drew attention to the somber and dark nature of their upcoming release, The Days of All Grays.

"The new album is merely a reflection on the world today, and as we see it it's really dark so...[there you have it.]" Henkka says.

Could it be a reflection on what the guys in the Sonata Arctica camp are blaring into the small hours of the morning?

"It probably varies, depending on who you ask. For me personally, I just bought a couple of Opeth albums and those really appeal to me right now... that and the old Pantera records."

Also a notable departure from their earlier material is the amping up of their orchestral arrangements, gang choirs for an overall thicker and punchier sound; especially in the guitar department which sounds thrashier and decidedly crunchier than ever before. Henkka remarks:

"It's just what the songs needed, we're always trying to follow the spirit of the songs in our arrangements. Mikko Mustonen did all the orchestral arrangements but it's all sampled instruments so no real orchestra... and [vocalist] Tony [Kakko] did all the singing."

The album was also the first release featuring a recent addition to the band, the accomplished solo guitarist Elias Viljanen after the shock departure of founding member Jani Liimatainen. It was all a smooth transition according to Henkka, much to his chagrin.

"Unfortunately there where no hangups; [although] conflicts are always interesting," Henkka jokes. "Elias is a really amazing player and as a dude, he's probably the most laid-back in the whole band so he's definately not the guy who rocks the boat."

Luckily for the band too, as they prepare to embark on a historic journey around the world - as well as their first trip to Australia as part of the New Year's Eve Screamfest with compatriots Ensiferum as well as other metal luminaries from Australia, Europe and the United States. Like so many metal bands traveling to Australia for the first time, they can't contain their excitement.

"Hell yeah! For us it's really something we've been waiting for 'cause we've never been in Australia before, I'm sure It'll be a fantastic day," Henkka says.

"I've heard rumours of wild beer-drinking people in Australia who are totally crazy during the shows, can't wait to see if this is true or not."

In addition to their sojourn Down Under, Sonata Arctica will also be heading to other far away places in support of their new record, a huge world-wide tour taking them to parts much further afield than they are used to.

"We're doing the US and the Europe during this fall, after Australia we have some Asian shows, Russia, Finland," Henkka recounts. "Then a short break and then it's off to the US again. For the next two years it's gonna be like this so we're pretty much gonna cover the whole globe."

For metalhead gamers, the release of Winterheart's Guild based on the record of the same name has been in development seemingly forever; however Henkka shares the same frustrations as the fans, as he's as much in the dark as to its status as everyone else.

"I'm sorry to say that I have no idea," he laments. "We haven't heard from the video game guys in a really really long time now. I'm quite into gaming at the moment so I would really like to have this thing done so I can play it, goddamn!"

With almost fifteen years under the band's belt, they show no signs of slowing down. Henkka remains optimistic about the longevity of Sonata Arctica - but does he ever see an end?

"Not really, I guess that's a matter of how I look at our future...naturally we'll have to stop sometime (at the latest when we die) but I sincerely hope that the band will not end anytime in the forseeable future."