Dark Sarah – Grim RebirthThursday, 16th July 2020
With three albums under their belt, it was time for some changes in the Dark Sarah camp. With their first trilogy complete, vocalist Heidi Parviainen and company decided to bring in some changes to their sound as well as snag a new record deal with Napalm. The result of these shifts, Grim, comes out tomorrow [pre-order HERE https://smarturl.it/Grim-NPR]. While the storytelling elements, theatrical leanings, and symphonic metal base are still quite intact, there’s also a more straight-ahead rock/pop element that makes the whole thing a bit more digestible and fresh. We chatted with Parviainen about these changes and Grim in general, storytelling, her metal journey so far.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel that Grim compares to your previous material?
Heidi Parviainen: I think it’s more straight-forward, and even though we all hate the word ‘mainstream,’ I think it’s also a bit easier to hear compared to our previous album, which was really theatrical. It was meant to be that way, because like I said, they are more straight-forward songs and related to the storyline. When there are these really bombastic and fast songs, they relate to these magical orbs that are in the story. I also adopted a slightly different vocal style for this album, so I’m really waiting to see how people react to that.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it nice to get a fresh start after having your initial trilogy?
Parviainen: Yes, I was already waiting for this new story while I was still in writing for The Golden Moth, which was the last part of the trilogy. I knew it was coming to an end, and I felt a change in me both personally and musically. I started writing material for this album two years ago, so it’s been quite a long journey. I think the first songs, the demos I wrote were in the mood of The Golden Moth or maybe the whole trilogy, and the last part of the demo making phase was beginning to sound quite new. So I’m both happy and excited about this new storyline and new Dark Sarah sound.
Dead Rhetoric: Will this be another multi-album concept?
Parviainen: Yes, definitely! It’s going to be a continuing story, so this is the opening scene for the whole continuing story and concept. This is just opening the curtain a bit.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel you learned from that trilogy that you applied, either with story or music?
Parviainen: I think that it was quite a long journey with the trilogy, and I started the Dark Sarah thing with that first album, so it’s been a growth story for me, personally as well as musically. I can’t even say how much I’ve learned! A lot! I think that I started writing my own songs on the second album, and as it increased to this album, where I wrote almost all of the songs, together with our producer of course. But almost all of the melodies are from my pen, so to speak.
I also think that the story writing has developed a lot. Back then, with the first album I didn’t know that I was starting a trilogy. It just kind of grew in me – the idea that I needed to continue writing about Sarah and her evil-side persona Dark Sarah. It was with the second album that I decided it would be a trilogy. With this album, I’m not sure if it will be a trilogy, or four albums? I don’t know. I want to leave it open. If I find a lot of things to say, I don’t think it’s necessary to say that it will be a trilogy. But it will be a continuing story and concept, like the first trilogy was.
Dead Rhetoric: With all of the emphasis on storywriting, does the music or story come first in terms of writing them out?
Parviainen: I kind of start mindmapping from the title of the album, so there is always a story piece existing there. Then I have this synapsis of the story already in place when I start writing music. From there, they go hand in hand. I write music for different moods and they find their place in the story. We also do a lot of work, when I have demos I send them to my producer. I always go through what we have with him and we pick out the ones that are the best and most ready. Then I put them into the story base. At that point, the story can change a little bit. I can change it as much as I want [laughs]. It kind of develops on the go. It’s a really nice way to work I think.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you get your inspiration for writing conceptual, fantasy stories?
Parviainen: I was a writer when I was younger, around 14-15 I used to write novels/short stories. I was reading a lot of comic books back then. Elf Quest was my favorite. My preference was already fantasy back then, and I read a lot of fantasy books. After that, I started reading Stephen King and Harry Potter as a grown up. I’ve always been into these fantasy worlds, and that’s the basis of my imagination. Even though I want to write something else than fantasy, it always becomes a fantasy novel [laughs]! Like Dark Sarah, it wasn’t meant to be a fantasy novel, but it became that way, with dragons and all [laughs]. But yeah, I like opening my imagination to everything really magical and fantasy, but also have a really grim story base. That’s what I wanted to try out for this latest storyline.
Dead Rhetoric: You said you used to write when you were younger. Would you ever consider writing a novel based on what you have done with your music in Dark Sarah?
Parviainen: When I was in school, I used to write a lot more than I read actually. I think that it was at that moment – the first thing I could remember when I started writing again as an adult was when I joined Amberian Dawn. That was when I started writing lyrics, and it reawakened the inspiration for creating these short stories and novels. I did write a short story for Dark Sarah, which you can find on the website. It’s free for everyone, we have it on our webstore too. It’s a really short one, for a trilogy, but even people who don’t usually read books can read it [laughs]. It’s kind of like an earbook thing. You can listen to the album and read the book at the same time. You can get more into the story and what it’s all about.
For Grim, I also wrote a storybook, but this time in poem-style. But it works the same way – it opens up the Grim story more than what could just be done with the lyrics. In that way, I’m already opening it up a bit further. Of course, I’d love to make a more cinematographic thing, or something with theater from Dark Sarah stories. It would be lovely.
Dead Rhetoric: What prompted the move to Napalm for this fourth release?
Parviainen: There were a lot of changes bubbling around under my skin for a while. JP Leppäluoto was also leaving the band for his solo career, and I knew it would happen at the end of the Chronicles [trilogy]. It was kind of a really good time to start something new. And I was also changing musically, like I had said before. We had tried this path, and crawled it from the start to the end thoroughly, so it just felt like the right time. Even though Emil from Inner Wound Recordings has been wonderful. He’s worked really hard for us. It was really nice to get to a bigger label, and maybe get more fans. Let’s see! Everything is open, and we are ready for all the new things that may come from this.
Dead Rhetoric: You have the video for “All Ears.” Given the concept album piece, is it tough to decide what to showcase first?
Parviainen: I’ve always been really into it, with my thoughts about what songs are good to be videos. I think it’s worked really well for us so far. Now, with more opinions coming from the label, we have to work a bit differently. We and Napalm both made lists and compared them and we saw that “All Ears” was on both. So it was really easy – actually easier since you don’t have to make the decision on your own. But I’ve always had some intuition about what songs would make the best videos. Maybe the best video song isn’t the best single in our case though. When you think about our most viewed music video, “Dance With the Dragon,” it was never anyone’s idea that it would be our biggest. It was so weird in that way, both in the video and song. It’s more like theater than radio, but still it became our biggest.
Dead Rhetoric: How important is the visual aspect to the band – particularly the band shots? I really liked the band shots you had for Grim, I think they stand out.
Parviainen: It’s really important. We want to be a cinematic metal band. When you think about movies, there’s music, there’s video, and also the concept of the story. It has what you are wearing, what sort of mood is in the picture. It’s important to create the mood of the album with only a few things. There’s only 3 music videos and a few pictures, and the artwork. They all need to fit the concept. That’s the basis of building a concept in my opinion. Everything needs to be in the same spirit.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the journey that you have taken as an artist since your beginnings in metal over 20 years ago?
Parviainen: I started as a classical singer. I didn’t even know anything about this genre when I joined my first metal band in 1997 [laughs]. I kind of grew into the metal scene and it’s become a really big part of my identity. I was a teenager back then, and joined as a keyboard player. Then I grew into a singer and my identity became that, more than a keyboard player. That was the point when I decided to find my own band, where I could be a singer. Then I joined Amberian Dawn, and that was a huge step towards becoming who I am know.
I also decided that I wanted to be a professional singer. I studied 7 years in classical singing so that is something that has kind of taken over my world. In the beginning, I didn’t decide to become a singer. I was dreaming about different things back then. I wanted to be a teacher and study a lot in university and get a career. When I joined Amberian Dawn, music was becoming more important in my life. It has been quite a long journey, but I think with Dark Sarah, I have become more of who I am. I think it’s somewhat to do with aging and maturing a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel it kind of fits, considering that there’s a lot of tie-in between heavy metal and fantasy as well?
Parviainen: I think so. It’s been really natural. When I joined my first band, it was death metal. I kind of jumped in straight to the deep end. I couldn’t even get where the melody was. But when I started to listen to more metal, and grew to know that there were female singers and what kind of music they did. I remember Nightwish, Epica, and Therion were there when I started my career. I knew I didn’t need to be a different kind of singer. I could sing classically and still sing in metal. That was a huge thing for me to realize. Also, because of the bands like Nightwish, they have had really strong storytelling in their music. So I think there were many things that drew me deeper into the genre and stole my heart.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have once the world reopens?
Parviainen: Just today, we just opened ticket sales to our album release show in Helsinki on August 7. It’s going to be a live stream. So for our foreign fans, who have never seen us live, I think it’s a nice opportunity to come and meet us. Even though it’s not live – it’s almost live. That is the first thing we have. We have a lot of open plans I can’t talk about, but maybe some smaller venues later this year. I’m hoping for a tour, maybe, please [laughs]? But because of the situation in the world now, it’s hard to tell.