Meghan Hall

With Finnish melodic metal heroes Sonata Arctica set to release their 10th studio album ‘Talviyö’ on the September 6, Overdrive caught up with primary songwriter, singer and keyboardist, Tony Kakko to find out more.

“The reason we chose that name (Talviyö) is to have some fun with people trying to pronounce the name,” Kakko says. “I’ve heard some different versions already. ‘Talvi’ means winter and ‘yö’ means night – it’s ‘Winter Night.’”  Kakko went on to describe the record, saying, ‘It’s a very versatile album, which has everything we have done in 20 years somehow put into it stylistically. It has power metal elements, progressive elements, we have ballads; everything a Sonata Arctica album needs. Sound-wise, I think it’s the most ‘live like’ production we’ve had so far. Music style-wise, it’s in line with the two previous albums, Pariah’s Child and The Ninth Hour. It’s not a huge leap in any weird direction.”

Kakko says Talviyö’s method of recording differs from the band’s previous work and thinks it’s ‘a really beautiful album’.  “The method we recorded was different. We’ve always been praised… our live shows sound really fantastic and something was lacking in the studio albums, so we asked our front of house sound guy to take part in the recordings and co-produce the album; basically we recorded the drums and bass guitar at the same time in the studio. I think it gives a healthy, organic base of a whole album; it’s really easy to sing over top of that. It’s more natural than having everything on a grid, on a click track.  Sometimes we’ve had albums that I’ve basically written completely in the studio, and those are like huge stress for me, of course, because I need to record and keep writing the whole time, and of course for the rest of the band, that is a nightmare as well. But, this time around I was able to start combining the songs for the album already in the previous year. In January, after Christmas, I sat down and started putting the ideas together and forming excellent songs. In July, I think last summer here in Finland, I was able to play the demos for the guys and of course the producer.  It was a really healthy starting point for the recordings because everyone had heard the songs and knew stylistically what we are going for and what we are aiming at already when we went into the studio in September. The recording took almost a year – eight to nine months.”

The musical part of the songwriting process goes more smoothly than the lyrical part, according to Kakko. “Songwriting itself is really easy.  The music part comes easily… the songs basically write themselves… I’m just putting them down and ‘Voila!’  The lyrical content is the part I struggle with the most and I’m really jealous of… I want to do it myself.  It’s difficult, but it’s also really rewarding.

Becoming a father has also changed the way he writes lyrics, now reflecting his desire to see a better world for his children to live in.  “I think when I got to be a father for the first time back in 2011, it reflected on my lyrical writing and really changed me as a person. As it should. I was not the most important thing in the world, but this tiny thing I needed to take care of… but of course you can tell from lyrics, like ‘I Have a Right’ for example, and I have become more environmentally aware, because it’s a part of taking care of your offspring.  It’s really nice to leave a planet your kids can live in, and their kids and so on, healthily. Some things politically – I’m not one to preach – we’re not a political band, but it’s still there as it’s entwined with the environmental thing. It’s universal. I’ve always been into writing human related things, like relationship stories and such. Ever since the beginning of our career.”

Kakko has received all sorts of critiques and feedback over the years and counts many subjects as inspiration for his lyrics.  “‘How do you write such mushy honey lyrics?’ ‘You get diabetes when you read these lyrics!’ The feedback has been the best also, as people relate to these lyrics and people have said you have saved their relationship. The only pure power metal song from the album is, Message from the Sun, which is all about the mythology of the northern lights. Wolves, nature, politics, and human relationships and the region of Arctica.”

On the topic of integrating the songs into the upcoming live shows in North America and Europe, Kakko says he has it all worked out.  “We have four songs that we have listed from the album for the live shows.  We can play these songs live, all of them, but we can’t play all these songs live .  We have 10 albums out and have to play the crowd pleasers and the weird favourites and personal favourites to keep the live experience fun. Of course, now starting with the North American tour, we’re going take four or five of them and rotate them… I’m pretty sure will be played at every show.  It’s going to be a fun tour (North America).  We have 2-3 weeks home after that before the whole thing goes to Europe. The tour I think continues in February – it’s a lot of work. We hope to come to Australia next year.”

Fan reaction to this album has been extremely positive so far, but it doesn’t stop the musician from worrying.  “I’m always super worried that people may not like it, but everyone that’s heard it has really liked it. It’s turned into this great hope – that we have another Sonata Arctica album, that it will continue our career and maybe in another 2-3 years we record another Sonata Arctica album. We’ve been doing this for 20 years and I hope we can continue for another 20 years now.”

Pre-orders are available here.