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Dark Sarah
The Puzzle
November 2016
Released: 2016, Inner Wound
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: JP

Back in late 2012 Heidi Parviainen parted ways with her band Amberian Dawn. It seemed to be a relatively mutual parting based on statements released to the media. Since then Heidi has launched her new project and perhaps alter-ego and identity make-over, reintroducing herself as Dark Sarah. She has been on a productive roll with two albums in two years and the most recent being THE PUZZLE.

Dark Sarah is signed to the Inner Wound record label and in the past couple of years there has been a new drummer brought into the fold. Her debut BEHIND THE BLACK VEIL was a concept album and the new album is a continuation of the debut. In an interview with, Heidi says, "The Puzzle" is a concept album and it continues the story that started on the debut album called "Behind The Black Veil". After the evil tree had died and Dark Sarah´s soul with it, she was sent to drift along the river of death. The streams took her on an island where the banished souls are taken to. To get off the island she needs to solve the puzzle and find three keys." Since I thoroughly enjoy almost all conceptual albums, I like the story and the ideas behind it.

The Finnish, operatic, symphonic Metal band continues on in the same vein musically as the debut, same big clear production and the same sound. It is a seamless transition. If anything, this album may be a shade darker and heavier. There are some big name guests stars, some in recurring character roles from the debut, people such as Charlotte Wessels (Delain) , JP Leppaluoto, (Charon) and Manuela Kraller (ex- Xandria). JP’s role as the dragon on ‘Dance With The Dragon’ is a central and pivotal point in the album. The song itself is quite different from the speedy, semi-Power Metal of the other tracks, but has far more of an operatic feel. It is almost like a narration in it’s delivery and the tone is like something out of an Andrew Lloyd Webber play. The male and female voices counter-point each other majestically as Dark Sarah argues with the dragon. It is an excellent and atmospheric song, certainly one of the highlights for me. The songs have some symphonic and operatic elements by default but they are blended very well with the Metal which never gets overshadowed by the symphonics. There are some hints of acoustic piano and guitar that work well with the crunchy guitars.

Heidi is really trying something bigger and more ambitious as she enters the second phase of her already admirable career. Her voice is pure and sweet with range and power, sure to appeal to fans of Nightwish and of course her former act Amberian Dawn. I’m even more impressed by THE PUZZLE than the debut as if it is a bit more confident and powerful in the song-writing. I know there are many of these types of bands but Dark Sarah is certainly establishing themselves in the top-tier with a very solid second album that avoids the sophomore slump.
Track Listing

1. Breath
2. Island in the Mist
3. Little Men
4. Ash Grove
5. For the Birds
6. Deep and Deeper
7. Dance with the Dragon
8. Cliffhanger
9. Aquarium
10. Rain


Heidi Parviainen — Vocals
Sami Salonen — Guitar
Erkka Korhonen — Guitar
Rude Rothstén — Bass
Thomas Tunkkari — Drums



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