REVIEW: DARK SARAH – “Grim”
Dark Sarah cordially invites you to step into the web of their fourth conceptualized album, ‘Grim’. The strands of which weave stories of ravens, rabbit-headed people, and a mythical, surreal dreamscape into a story in which a terrified city, and its willing hero, takes on the monster that’s been terrorizing the citizens. Here, as on their previous three offerings, the Finnish quartet shows a flair for the mythic in what they refer to as Cinematic Metal. Since their formation in 2012, they’ve never been short of ideas, active imaginations, and a hunger to tell such stories through music. Granted, they might sound like New Age Metal does Musical Theatre, played to an eighties cinematic soundtrack, with Heidi Parviainen’s vocals lacking operatic range and sounding a tad thin at times. But what they lack in-depth they make up for with a sort of kitsch sweep and scale, ensuring an abundance of replay value.
Because of this, “Grim’ takes a moment to warm up as “My Name Is Luna” introduces our champion amidst an array of woodland sounds. The dark landscape is made alive with chirping crickets and howling wolves before the album truly launches with “The Chosen One.” A riff-heavy piece that’s bound to burn itself into your mind and commit itself to memory. As will other numbers, such as contemporary folklore effort, “Iceheart.” A crying out monologue in a moment of sorrow pulled off beautifully by Parviainen, topped off with a harmonious solo between Parviainen and the string section. In such moments the band musicianship truly shines through. In others though, not so much.
Narratively, “All Ears!” follows the storyline as a powerful spell is put on the citizens of the city Grim. This gives Luna her incentive to fight the evil monster, Mörk, who is determined to envelop the city in fear. Musically, “All Ears!” attempts to create a feeling of menace, but instead invokes images of Mörk hurriedly stomping his way toward the nearest bathroom to a clumsy rhythm. Mörk, portrayed by Jasse Jatala (best known for his performance in The Voice of Finland), is slightly better realized in his own title track, for no other reason than he features on it. A lengthy epic with too many moving parts, its consistent single note chugs its way to its misplaced sombre interlude; its quirky piano sections sounding as if they were lifted from a saloon in Red Dead Redemption. Fortunately, ‘Grim’ ends with a satisfying finish thanks to “The Dark Throne.” A synth-based climax that swells and swoons, with a chorus hook you’d kill to sing from a snowy mountain summit.
When we hear the word cinematic, it conjures something visual in most of our minds. Yet trying to translate the detail and feel of Luna’s journey proves no easy task. Initially, ‘Grim’ blows hot and cold, showing too much style, often borrowed style, over substance. Even so, Dark Sarah create some vivid moments as well as some powerful songs. But the two rarely work hand in hand. Like listening to an audiobook read by Patrick Stewart and Kim Kardashian, the methods of delivery seldom align. Yet when they do, like that Eurovision entry you cannot help but fall in love with, ’Grim’ proves wonderfully addictive, despite its obvious inconsistencies.