Dark Sarah – Grim (Album Review)

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After a series of successful crowdfunding campaigns at Indiegogo, the Finnish cinematic metal band Dark Sarah released their first three albums consisting of a musical trilogy that cemented them as an exciting force of the symphonic metal world. Their efforts certainly paid off. Considered now as cinematic metal icons, Dark Sarah gained a fan base that keeps growing every time and signed a contract with Napalm Records to release their new studio album called “Grim”, which starts a completely new story. 

Now, we are ready to leave behind Sarah and the story of what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. How she found sorrow and betrayal on her wedding day, triggering the birth of Dark Sarah, and her journey through three different worlds with diverse encounters with fantastic creatures, including a Queen of Serpents, mermaids, little men, gods and even a dragon without wings.

Through “Grim”, Dark Sarah introduces us to a new fairytale horror story involving Luna, the new protagonist. She will have to make her way through a mythical world that hosts magic orbs, calling ravens, rabbit-headed people, and the fearsome Mörk, while wrapping the listener to a surrealist and mystical experience. The first thing to point out is that “Grim” is a concept album. The term “cinematic metal band” is only natural for a band as Dark Sarah. By listening to “Grim”, the listeners can picture the story in their heads. The songs are like chapters of an audiobook. All pieces are a story on themselves, but, at the same time, they are part of something bigger. The whole album is a cohesive effort, and the fluidity of its development is remarkable.

The album starts with “My Name is Luna”, which serves as an introduction of the character and shows us a glimpse of “Grim”‘s orchestral arrangements that create the fantasy and mysterious atmosphere surrounding this concept album. “The Chosen One” starts with an 80’s synth vibe while presenting the listener to the magnificent and crystal-clear voice of Heidi Parviainen. She first sings with a pop approach, and all of a sudden, she changes her vocals to those of a very highly capable soprano during the choruses of the song. Her classical formation is evident. Nonetheless, through the whole album, she will change her vocal approach to every piece, showing the reaching of her vocal range, which seems to be continually expanding. 

“Grim” Album Artwork

The next song, called “Illuminate,” develops around a strong sense of melody. The choruses are pure euphonious hooks, and Heidi once again draws all the attention. The layers created by the backing vocals on this particular song add depth to the album’s omnipresent symphonic atmosphere. From a story perspective, the following song called “Melancholia” is a crucial one. Luna finds out what has happened to her, so musically and lyrically, the music transmits the sorrow and loneliness that the protagonist must be experiencing after her finding. There is a kind of beauty hidden within sadness. In this case, the closing guitar solo is the beauty found on this gloomy and tragic track.

The story keeps developing through “Iceheart,” a touching and tuneful ballad, and “La Folie Verte,” a more theatrical song with a tremendous symphonic ambient that peaks on the choruses. “The Wolf and The Maiden” keeps on track with the melodic approach and delivers the catchiest choruses of the album, threatening the listener to get them carved on their minds for a long time. The union of Heidi‘s voice with the one from special guest JP Leppäluoto creates an enjoyable mixture of vocals representing the Wolf’s ferocity and the Maiden’s purity. 

Up next is “The Hex”, which continues the story-line while exposing certain energy that cannot be contained anymore. The boundless guitar solo reflects the explosive events that will occur on the final act of the album and its story.

“All Ears!” begins with a marching type riff and a horror-esque rhythm. Heidi‘s voice is different here. It needs to be because Luna is now an unstoppable force preparing their rabbit-headed hordes for the imminent fight against the corrupted forces of evil. Mörk suddenly appears, and the inevitable is about to happen. The so-far melodic sound of the album, and the celestial voice of Heidi, are completely tear apart on this song by the powerful growls of special guest Jasse Jatale as Mörk. The album’s climax and the story line melts on “Mörk”, the album’s longest and heaviest song.  Jasse Jatala portraying the monstrous Mörk wholly owns the character and delivers a brilliant vocal performance, full of personality and deep presence. The musicianship on display here might as well be the most accomplished in the whole album. On every track, Heidi‘s voice is the driving force, but in this case, there is an opportunity for the rest of the band to shine, and they succeed on it by creating the most ambitious piece in terms of its structure. Through the sonic journey that represents “Mörk”, the listener will find different soundscapes. Heavy metal riffs can suddenly become an orchestral delight, connected by some kind of honky-tonky piano bridge. 

“Grim”‘ is an excellent effort by a band that keeps showing high ambitions. It is no surprise that now they are a respected act within the cinematic and symphonic metal realms. The ability they continually illustrate by putting together an immersive experience through the expert blend of lyrics and music – wrapped up by the remarkable voice of Heidi Parviainen – is truly noteworthy. Some comparisons will arise, and their sound might recall some of the most successful bands in this particular genre, however Dark Sarah certainly have their own DNA and something of their own to contribute to a genre that counts on its ranks with several enthralling bands. 

Released by: Napalm Records
Releases Date: July 17th, 2020
Genre: Cinematic / Symphonic Metal

Musicians:

  • Heidi Parviainen / Vocals
  • Sami-Petri Salonen / Guitar
  • Erkka Korhonen / Guitar
  • Rude Rothstén / Bass
  • Thomas Tunkkari / Drums

“Grim” Track-listing:

  1. My Name Is Luna
  2. The Chosen One
  3. Illuminate
  4. Melancholia
  5. Iceheart
  6. La Folie Verte
  7. The Wolf and the Maiden (Feat. JP Leppäluoto as Wolf)
  8. The Hex
  9. All Ears!
  10. The Devil’s Peak
  11. Mörk (Feat. Jasse Jatala as Mörk)
  12. The Dark Throne

8.4 Very Good

With a brand-new horror fantasy story under their sleeves, cinematic metal icons Dark Sarah returns with “Grim”, an exciting concept album that introduce a new protagonist called Luna. Led by the astonishing and melancholy voice of Heidi Parviainen, Dark Sarah reaches new musical prowess levels through a collection of impressive melodic hooks, as well as a fantastic symphonic and melancholic atmosphere, resulting in an incredibly immersive experience.

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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