Sometimes an album cover fills you with expectations that end up not reflecting the reality of the music inside. I was expecting Dark Sarah to be a dark, gothy, melodic, symphonic metal album which it is and yet it is so much more. The difficulty will be in explaining what the more is in a way that will make sense. Thankfully in this modern age, one can link multiple videos to the review so you can check out the songs for yourself and hopefully understand the review a bit better.
Dark Sarah is a project by vocalist Heidi Parviainen, formerly in Amberian Dawn. As is quickly obvious, even to those unfamiliar with Amberian Dawn, Heidi is a classically trained singer with a phenomenal voice. After parting with Amberian Dawn in 2012, Heidi started her solo career and Dark Sarah became the name of the project. Dark Sarah describes the journey of a young woman left at the altar who goes the edge of a breakdown only to have something inside her wake up and she changes into a darker reflection of herself, Dark Sarah. The album Behind the Black Veil takes you inside the mind of Sarah as she struggles with her two personalities. The album itself was crowdfunded in three parts, and several videos have been produced and released.
“Save Me” opens up the album and instantly the listener will most likely not be prepared for the sound, I know I wasn’t, not even close. Dark Sarah has now been associated with a new genre in metal, ‘‘cinematographic metal’, a term apparently coined by Heidi. “Save Me” has a definite theatrical or stage drama feel to it, so the term fits. My thought was that this would make for a great Broadway musical tune. Not only the orchestration but that voice, the voice is so dominating even when quiet and almost at a whisper. As to the story, “Save Me” is the beginning, when Dark Sarah makes her appearance after the hero is left at the wedding altar and nears a breakdown.
“Poison Apple” has more of a power metal feel to it, but again the theatrical feel is still present and that feel does carry through the entire album. Production quality is lush and full with vocals being emphasized but only slightly more than usual. Performances are strong, but do have a feel like they knew the vocals were going to be the focal point here. “Poison Apple” does have a good guitar solo, but even with that, the song certainly revolves around the vocals.
“Hide and Seek” slows things down significantly, relying on atmospheric symphonic music and piano to convey the sadness of the situation as Dark Sarah takes control of our hero’s personality. In “Memories Fall”, a duet with Manuela Keller (ex-Xandria), Dark Sarah learns that she must embrace the darkness to be born anew.
As the album and story progresses, Dark Sarah plots her revenge and eventually realizes the source of the evil and destroys it. As the story and album concludes with “Light in You” a duet with Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica), Sarah finds a guide to take her down a new path in life. Throughout the album I couldn’t help but feel as if the musicians were there simply to provide the sonic backdrop for Heidi’s vocals. Almost in complete opposite to bands like Dragonforce who seem at times to exist only to provide a venue for guitar solos, the musicians in Dark Sarah almost seem to be here to provide support for the vocals. While that may not seem like a glowing recommendation, I ascribe it to the quality of the arrangements in providing that feel and creating the theatrical quality of the album.
For me, this album is more about the story and the outstanding vocal performances that bring the listener into a theatrical realm. Even on first listen, I felt as if I literally were at a Broadway play. Granted, there are some metal moments, mostly symphonic and power metal, but this album, is more than just a collection of songs. It has the feel of a continuous story, one of love, betrayal, revenge, and new birth at times dark and at others light and hopeful. This album would certainly have significant crossover appeal, and may have equal to greater appeal outside of the traditional metal community due to the cinematographic qualities.
Written by John Jackson
1 Save Me 4:23
2 Poison Apple 4:17
3 Hide And Seek 5:13
4 Memories Fall [feat. Manuela Kraller] 4:24
5 Evil Roots [feat. Inga Scharf] 4:29
6 Violent Roses 5:03
7 Hunting The Dreamer 5:32
8 Fortress 5:35
9 Silver Tree 4:45
10 Sun, Moon And Stars 4:13
11 Light In You [feat. Tony Kakko] 3:58
12 Sarah’s Theme 2:35
13 Memories Fall [orchestral version] 4:24
14 A Grim Christmas Story 3:27
Heidi Parviainen [ex Amberian Dawn] – Vocals
Erkka Korhonen [Northern Kings, Ari Koivunen] – Guitar
Sami-Petri Salonen – Guitar
Rude Rothstén – Bass
Lauri Kuussalo – Drums
Kasperi Heikkinen [U.D.O., Merging Flare] – Guitar
Jukka Koskinen [Wintersun] – Bass
Teemu Laitinen – Drums
Record Label: Inner Wound Recordings, May 2015
Video for ‘Save Me’
Video for ‘Memories Fall’
Video for ‘Hunting the Dreamer’