by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist —
Dark Sarah is a concept project from Finland, led by singer/songwriter Heidi Parviainen (former lead singer of the Symphonic Metal act Amberian Dawn). Financed by successful indiegogo campaigns, Dark Sarah’s Behind The Black Veil brings together a number of veteran musicians and singers and the act has released a strong and theatrical debut.
Although not 100% new material (separate funding campaigns had allowed the first eight tracks to be released as two individual EPs), Behind The Black Veil consists of 12 main songs along with two bonus tracks – a substantial amount of theatrical goodness. Heidi Parviainen’s strong voice is the centerpiece of the release, and it remains as powerful and clear as ever. She shares the microphone with guests Manuela Kraller (Xandria), Inga Scharf (Van Canto), and Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica). The band behind Heidi is technically excellent, consisting of guitarists Kasperi Heikkinen (U.D.O, Merging Flare) and Erkka Korhonen, bassists Jukka Koskinen (Wintersun) and Rude Rothstén, and drummers Teemu Laitinen and Lauri Kuussalo.
“Save Me”‘ opens the album, and is the epitome of “cinematic” metal. A sad and melancholy track introduces the character of Dark Sarah and sets the standard for the tracks that follow. Dramatic orchestral musical passages and near operatic vocals are carried by well done keyboards and strong lyrics that lay the groundwork for the rest of the album. “Poison Apple” starts with moody keys but it quickly becomes a heavy rocker with intense bass and drums. On the whole this song is nicely balanced between metal and orchestral instruments. “Hide And Seek” is a stirring keyboard driven ballad that brings out the true beauty and power of Heidi’s voice. “Memories Fall” is a well done, energetic duet with Xandria’s Manuela Kraller, and their two voices complement each other well while riding over a crunching guitar line.
“Evil Roots” kicks off the second quartet of songs. Inga Scharf (Van Canto) lends her voice to this well done Power Metal track, and the lead and backing vocal work on this track is truly outstanding. Broadway theatrics make an appearance on the unusual “Violent Roses” – a Tim Burton-esque cinematic track that starts slow and low and ramps up the intensity as it progresses. “Hunting The Dreamer” is a rousing rocker with a kicky rhythm line and driving bass. The interplay of full metal (great guitar solo!) and orchestra gives this one a unique personality. “Fortress” starts as a soft, moody and introspective piece with some nicely done vocals and textures, and then gets kicked up in power and speed as guitars, bass and drums join the keys.
“Silver Tree” is a wonderfully done up-tempo piece with plenty of keyboards and lush orchestration, highlighted by a slightly manic drum line. Soft keys and peaceful vocals start off the power ballad “Sun, Moon, And Stars” – a song with a very simple arrangement in comparison to the rest of the release. “Light In You” is a superb Broadway showstopper – quite probably the most powerful song of the album – and features the wonderful voice of Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) playing The Moon, deep in conversation with Sarah. The official story closes on a high with the peaceful piano-driven “Sarah’s Theme”. Bonus tracks fill the balance of the run time – an orchestral version of “Memories Fall,” and very quirky, bloody, and somewhat amusing “A Grim Christmas Story” – very Tim Burton!
Despite being produced at different times and with different performers, Behind The Black Veil has a consistent, solid sound. There is a good deal of warmth in the orchestral pieces, yet they are crystal clear. Heidi’s voice is crisp and accessible, and the musical delivery by the entire Dark Sarah ensemble is technically excellent. The music is powerful, the performances tight, and the story is one just waiting to be brought to life on file or stage. While the dark material and heavy orchestral overtones won’t appeal to everyone, fans of symphonic, Gothic, or female fronted metal will find a lot to enjoy.
Dark Sarah’s Behind The Black Veil is highly recommended for fans of the darker, Symphonic genres.
Genre: Gothic, Cinematic Metal
Heidi Parviainen (vocals)
Kasperi Heikkinen (guitar)
Erkka Korhonen (guitar)
Jukka Koskinen (bass)
Rude Rothstén (bass)
Teemu Laitinen (drums)
Lauri Kuussalo (drums)
Guest vocalists: Inga Scharf, Manuela Kraller, Tony Kakko
1. Save Me
2. Poison Apple
3. Hide And Seek
4. Memories Fall [feat. Manuela Kraller]
5. Evil Roots [feat. Inga Scharf]
6. Violent Roses
7. Hunting The Dreamer
9. Silver Tree
10. Sun, Moon And Stars
11. Light In You [feat. Tony Kakko]
12. Sarah’s Theme
13. Memories Fall [orchestral version]
14. A Grim Christmas Story
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10