Author: Marko J. Ollila
Paasilinna chronicles the career of Sonata Arctica, the lives of its members, and the members’ thoughts on various periods in the band’s history. Having originally been released only in Finnish in November 2014, Paasilinna didn’t receive an English translation until a month later in December, and a printed copy wasn’t officially announced until May of this year. For a genre that prides itself on incredibly uplifting music, Sonata Arctica seems to stand out as a black sheep (pun intended) with its pessimistic lyrics and tales of loss and woe. That negativity seems to have ironically followed Sonata Arctica’s history too, as this book also stands as the best explanation for some of the mildly controversial events during the band’s history.
First and foremost, I think most fans will be most interested in the retelling of the events leading up to the firing of Jani Liimatainen. Lots of rumors have been spread over the years to attempt to explain the departure of the beloved guitarist, and Paasilinna’s chronological approach, album-by-album, along with its exhaustive anecdotal information from the members themselves, lends itself superbly to building a timeline to explain the event. Similarly, Sonata Arctica’s various genre shifts, beginning most noticeably with Unia, are also given context. It’s fair to say that Sonata’s fanbase has been polarized by the band’s output since Unia, and, if nothing else, the band’s input regarding each album’s mindset is entertaining and humbling.
The author with the current lineup
The book’s initial chapters covers the dismal atmosphere of Kemi, the schooling of the band members, and the formation of Tricky Beans, the demo-days of Sonata Arctica. From this point on, significant releases become the starting and ending points for each chapter. From Ecliptica to Pariah’s Child, each recorded track (including bonuses) is given a rundown by Tony Kakko, the album’s overall intention is summarized, the production standards are described, and finally the tour stories begin. It’s here where we see the majority of the band’s dissension and falling-out.
The historically private nature of the band is shattered in this book. The real-life hardships and addictions of each member are not withheld from the reader. Mikko Härkin, Marko Paasikoski, Jani Liimatainen, and Janne Kivilahti, all go in depth regarding their leavings, with Marko’s story probably being the most surprising. Another thing this book shatters is the fantasy some people hold regarding rock and metal bands. The effects of alcoholism and laziness are a running theme in Paasilinna, and the truly tiresome series of concerts that Sonata Arctica has embarked upon for the last 15 years makes it clear that being in a metal band in the 21st century is a perpetual trial by fire. It’s not often that a book is released chronicling the history of such a recent band, and the reality it paints will make any rising musician think twice about their plans.
Despite that, this book is still very much intended for the hardcore Sonata Arctica fan. Going into this without an already-adequate historical context for each album release will leave the reader more than confused and apathetic. For example, it might help to know the landscape of metal in Europe in the late ‘90s to get an understanding as to how and why Sonata Arctica was practically an overnight sensation. Similarly, the tendency of power metal bands to slow down and experiment with hard rock towards the late ‘00s is a fitting backdrop for the release of Unia. With that said, pretty much any self-professed power metal fan has probably already heard the majority of Sonata’s discography ten times through, and for those people this book will be hard to put down. The eBook I bought had several non-distracting typos scattered throughout the piece, but Paasilinna is engaging, to say the least. It’s a recommended read to anyone who has ever loved Sonata Arctica and to anyone who has ever been left with unanswered questions regarding Sonata Arctica’s members and albums.