Grandeur, surreal and magnificent Dark Sarah is back with another saga. This time with “The Puzzle”, she takes us on a journey to the netherworld where she finds herself awake on an island for Banished souls, and needs to solve the puzzle and find three keys to make her way back. The new concept album which was released on the 18th of November in North America and Europe under the label of Inner Wound recording, is the brainchild of Heidi Parviainen, former Amberian Dawn’s vocalist.
Heidi explains us the concept behind the album in a press note, “When the Evil Tree broke into pieces it broke Dark Sarah´s soul with it. She doesn’t die, but is trapped in a loop between two worlds, between life and death. She was sent down to the River of Death to drift along the streams and ends up on an island in the middle of a mighty ocean “. What’s produced and released is a truly cinematic experience, supplemented well with the videos that have been released in sync with the album release (See below links). The genre Cinematic/Symphonic metal, something very different from the usual, has presence of plenty of ambient elements and it features many special guest appearances, mostly for duets, Manuela Kraller on “Rain”, JP Leppäluoto on “Dance with the Dragon” and Charlotte Wessels on “Aquarium”.
The album opens with “Breath”, which is nothing short of a Prologue to the story. An orchestrated effort that baffles the listener as it builds up and informally introduces the band members (in my head) by throwing spotlight on them as they add their bits to this wonderful introduction. “Island in the mist” has a pumped up, rugged and a raw start (I love the ploughing bass) low tuned guitar riffs, with the double bass pedal on full swing and mesmerizing and high Octave vocals. Heidi showcases an impressive vocal range and holds up her scales well.
A haunting piano intro which carries in much variation throughout “Little Men” will ring in your head, no doubt, and will leave an after taste of the rugged guitar shreds. “Ash grove” starts with an upbeat rhythm and has the first rollicking guitar solo in the album, along with some stunning great guitar chops.
By now, I’ve understood the genre a little more than when I first started listening to them. The important thing to observe in every song is the ambience it’s trying to create. Like the simplistic flute intro on the “For the birds” sets in an impression of a forest in the backdrop. Dark Sarah, still weaving her magical story is deeply committed on finding the key in “Deep and Deeper”.
“Dance with the Dragon” takes on a fiery discourse on different vocal pitches, ( JP Leppäluoto must be lauded for an amazing baritone) as the two vocalist interchangeably switch between singing and quarrelling, the song writing has reached a peak here. The most profound joy that I experienced in the album was with this song. Oh! and do wait for the melodic guitar solo which is the icing on the cake.
“Aquarium” has one of the heavy guitar works and amazing shreds but the song writing took a hit here. The album ends with “Rain” which has a clean acoustic start and by now I sense a formulaic setting in some of the songs I’ve heard. Even so, the album is nothing less than phenomenal.
Production – The song compositions are remarkable, and are produced with all the tones in place, and all the instruments getting their fair share in the limelight.
Conclusion – The song writing although not fully mature, is good. The listener remains spellbound and hooked on every second of this magical journey. Be ready to experience this prodigious and monumental work of Art. I recommend you buy it!
Written by: Ankit Sood
02. Island In The Mist
03. Little Men
04. Ash Grove
05. For The Birds
06. Deep And Deeper
07. Dance With The Dragon [feat. JP Leppäluoto]
09. Aquarium [feat. Charlotte Wessels]
10. Rain [feat. Manuela Kraller]
Dark Sarah line-up:
Heidi Parviainen [ex. Amberian Dawn] – Vocals
Erkka Korhonen [Northern Kings, Ari Koivunen] – Guitar
Sami Salonen – Guitar
Rude Rothstén – Bass
Thomas Tunkkari – Drums
Manuela Kraller [ex. Xandria]
JP Leppäluoto [Charon, Northern Kings]
Charlotte Wessels [Delain]
Record Label: Inner Wound Recordings, Nov. 2016
Dark Sarah discography:
“Behind The Black Veil” (2015) [review]
“The Puzzle ” (2016)
Video Below: ‘Dance With The Dragon’ [feat. JP Leppäluoto]
Video below: ‘Little Men’
Lyric video: ‘Aquarium’ [feat. Charlotte Wessels]
Video below: “The Puzzle” (trailer)