Dark Sarah – The Puzzle (Inner Wound Recordings)

Sunday, 4th December 2016
Rating: 8.5/10

A new project for ex-Amberian Dawn singer Heidi Parviainen, Dark Sarah combines a love of symphonic metal with obvious film and musical theater leanings on their second album The Puzzle. A continuation of last year’s Behind the Black Veil debut, the protagonist Sarah discovers her soul and journey on a magical island stuck in limbo between life and death- having to solve puzzles along the way with what she sees and learns. Fantasy realm material that intrigues for sure, matching up to the majestic musical components.

Worries creep in that this genre goes for bombast and symphonic layers while forsaking the electric energy that metal fans crave – well, check out the extreme blast beats and furious guitar play from Thomas Tunkkari and Erkka Korhonen/Sami Salonen respectively on “Ash Grove” to know they are still coming from a heavy veneer. The piano/woodwind action during “For the Birds” transports the headspace to the Middle Ages, while the pulsating, aggressive underpinning keeps the song in more of an Epica meets Nightwish vein. Heidi enchants through her operatic melodies and graceful low to high ease of delivery – be it in a more commercial-oriented effort like “Deep and Deeper” or the dramatic, sweeping power ballad “Cliffhanger”.

Specific special guests aid the cause through their expertise – Delain’s Charlotte Wessels on the explosive “Aquarium” that features numerous shape shifting semi-speed to modern power/symphonic groove sequences which give Heidi and Charlotte intense harmony moments of bliss, and ex-Charon singer JP Leppäluoto on the tango-esque tension filled “Dance with the Dragons”, the doom riffs rising against the ascending and descending melodies. Dark Sarah also execute the storyline in an economical 49 minutes and change timeframe – leaving overblown setups and unnecessary narrative extra on the cutting room floor.

Add in a cool logo/cover art combination, and you have the makings of another fine symphonic metal effort that takes your breath away. Nightwish fans and followers of Heidi’s work in Amberian Dawn need Dark Sarah in their collections.

Dark Sarah official website