Finland’s Sonata Arctica returns this fall with its ninth studio album, aptly titled, The Ninth Hour. The band, which was founded in 1995 as Tricky Beans by frontman Tony Kakko and drummer Tommy Portimo, took on the name Sonata Arctica in 1999 as it transitioned its sound to power metal. The group released its debut album, Ecliptica, in 2001. The line-up, which also includes long-time keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg, guitarist Elias Viljanen, and bassist Pasi Kauppinen, recently released its newest single “Closer to an Animal,” which looks at man’s own selfish nature. Metalholic recently chatted with Tony Kakko about The Ninth Hour, as well as looking back on the 15th anniversary of the band’s sophomore record, Silence.
You are about to release The Ninth Hour. Tell us about the artwork for the record.
“The background is like a Utopia where everything; nature and human technology are all in harmony in the lands. Then you have this hourglass contraption there—this knob. This knob is something that we are meddling with by all the choices we are making; destroying and polluting this planet of ours. Eventually, all that meddling will cause the hourglass to turn in one or another direction where it’s destroying one of those futures or destroying the other. What we are then facing is either dystopia, where nature is gone and we are just living in misery, then the other option is not really much better for humans because we have annihilated ourselves in that option. All that’s left is nature that’s finally had a chance in healing itself because we are no longer hindering it.”
So there is something of a concept going on here?
“This album is not really like a theme album. There are multiple different themes there. But definitely this nature and environmental awareness is one big thing and there are like 3 songs that connect to that in a certain way; ‘Closer to an Animal’ obviously, then “We Are What we Are,” but also “Rise a Night,” which is like a horror science fiction story, but still has that same idea behind it. Then on top of those we have the usual Sonata Arctica human relationship stories and also touch lightly on this upcoming United States Presidential election thing—this sarcastic ‘Fairytale’.”
Do you think given the nature of man that we’re capable of turning things around and making those sacrifices it will take to sort of save humanity?
“I think we are able to do that but everyone should be put on the same line with that because it requires sacrifices that we need to make. Kind of lowering our expectations in certain aspects and getting things done the right way. If all the nations, people, and companies, are not all required to do the same things by law then I think we are screwed because free will probably does not cut it because we are one greedy beast, humanity. But of course, I’m optimistic. This is not a pessimistic album, although many people seem to think that who have heard it. It’s just that I’m worried.”
You have young children now. We’re you thinking about what their future might look like as you wrote this record?
“Of course. Ever since I became a father for the first time, I wrote “I Have a Right” on the Stones Grow Her Name album, and that’s sort of telling you something about my growth as a human; as a person, as a man, and becoming more aware of what’s really important in life. Nowadays, everybody should be worried about the future of this planet and what we are leaving behind.”
Which song on The Ninth Hour was the most challenging to write?
“That would have to be ‘White Pearl, Black Oceans Pt. II’ and mostly because it’s a story. There’s a lot of pressure behind it because the first one has such a big and special place in the hearts of many fans. I had to be really careful that the second part is a worthy sequel for the first part, and I didn’t really make that task any easier by killing the two main characters in the first one. Really the hard part was the story. The music came out fairly easy.”
You can listen to the full interview with Tony below. The Ninth Hour will be released October 7 through Nuclear Blast Records.