Finnish prog metal quartet Sonata Arctica specializes in a soaring, orchestral variation on European heavy metal, fusing the sweeping, romantic bombast of bands like Europe with the over-the-top instrumental chops of Dream Theater.
Born in 1996, the band, which included vocalist Tony Kakko, guitarist Jani Liimatainen, drummer Tommy Portimo, keyboardist Mikko Harkin, and bassist Janne Kivilahti, recorded a handful of demos before releasing their first single, "UnOpened," on Spinefarm Records in July of 1999. Producer Mikko Karmila (Children of Bodom, Stratovarius, Nightwish) recorded and mixed Sonata Arctica's full-length debut, Ecliptica, and the album was released in 2000 by Spinefarm and Century Media Records. Following a successful tour with Rhapsody and Stratovarius, the group put out a six-song EP, Successor, which featured live tracks, a pair of covers, and other previously unreleased material. Sonata Arctica were rewarded with various awards and honors around this time: Hard N' Heavy magazine voted them Newcomer of the Year, as did Emma, the Finnish Music Awards. Kivilahti quit the band in late 2000 and was replaced by Marko Paasikoski before work began on the band's second full-length album. With producer Ahti Kortelainen behind the boards, Sonata Arctica recorded Silence at Tico-Tico studios in time for a 2001 release. ~ Andy Hinds, Rovi