With the world lurching from one crisis to another on an almost hourly basis, it’s a relief to know that music can still offer some form of escapism. If you’re exhausted by politics or worried about global pandemics, then you could do a lot worse than embarking on a magical quest with symphonic metal act Dark Sarah.
Dripping with the influence of fellow Finns, Nightwish, the band’s fourth full-length release, Grim (Napalm Records) is another cinematic concept album; a fairy tale featuring mystical powers, a frozen heart, blue orbs, and (of course) a powerful enemy. Intro ‘My Name is Luna’ has echoes of Blade Runner, while ‘The Chosen One’ is swathed in sparkling keyboards, simple but effective chugging riffs, and soaring, operatic vocals from former Amberian Dawn singer Heidi Parviainen.
‘Illuminate’ is bouncy, uptempo Eurometal, while ‘Melancholia’ is unsurprisingly darker, ballad ‘Iceheart’ is punctuated by another exceptional vocal performance, and with its quirky melodies and grand orchestration, ‘La Folie Verte’ sounds like it belongs in some kind of fantastical Andrew Lloyd Webber production.
‘The Wolf and the Maiden’ features former Charon vocalist J.P. Leppäluoto, and is another Nightwish meets Lloyd Webber style track armed with a darkly enchanting vocal melody and an insistent chorus. The uptempo pop-metal mix of ‘The Hex’ is followed by single ‘All Ears’ which sees the band going all Danny Elfman before hitting you with another infectious chorus and even throwing in the tiniest touch of Black Sabbath. Slower paced ‘The Devil’s Peak’ is followed by the eccentric and multi-faceted ‘Mörk’, and sensational final track ‘The Dark Throne’ which ends the album with some wonderfully melancholic synth-pop.
Incorporating driving metal riffs, powerful orchestration, and European dance beats, Grim is an unashamed celebration of brightly coloured science fiction fantasy, and surely the most deceptively titled album of the year.
8 / 10