Dark Sarah - Behind the Black Veil (Inner Wound Recordings)

Pompous, symphonic, overblown... WONDERFUL!

Dark Sarah, as the project’s informative press blurb informs me,  is the new project from Heidi Parviainen (formerly of Amberian Dawn). The album features a multiplicity of guest vocalists, notably Manuela Kraller (ex- Xandria, on the song Memories Fall), Inga Scharf (Van Canto, Evil Roots) and the ubiquitous Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica, who adds his croonsome tenor to the almost-moribund ballad Light in You.

I can’t tell you whether the ‘Dark Sarah’ character will be an ongoing one, though to these ears it really isn’t necessary to hide Parviainen behind some sort of recurring mascotly leitmotif as, possessor of the voice of an angel that she is, she’s very much a star in her own right on the evidence of this album.

Parviainen, as you may well be aware, has the sort of icy, fragile soprano voice that made a worldwide icon of Tarja Turunen. However she also possesses a warmth and fizz of personality that the Nightwish ice queen just doesn’t – or is unable to - convey, meaning that potentially, with the right backing and a following wind, she could be even bigger than Finland’s most famouse metal chanteuse.

That said, she shouldn’t sail too close to her most obvious influence, and songs like Hide and Seek and Memories Fail do sound just too close to Century Child-era Tarja for comfort. That’s good news for fans of epic symphonic metal, of course, but not so good for someone carving out a solo career in the shark-infested waters of female metal vocalisation. It’s far better to my mind follow a quirky mix of vaudevillian noire (Violent Roses and the superb A Grim Christmas Story) and straight up melodic pop metal (Evil Roots and the captivating Sun Moon and Stars) and keep the stately emoting to a minimum. But then I’ve never plotted the rise to international prominence of a single insanely-talented female soprano in my life, so what do I know?

Not a lot, probably. But I know enough to realise that this is an incredibly entertaining album, containing material that will appeal to metal fans of all shapes and sizes from six to sixty; and that Paviainen is a vocalist absolutely dripping with electric potential and promise. I can’t wait to see what she does next, safe in the knowledge that it will be just as good – but probably better – than Dark Sarah. Fabulous work.