“It saved my motivation to continue with Dark Sarah”

Cinematic Symphonic Metal act DARK SARAH return with the next chapter of their exciting saga this Friday. It is titled Attack Of Orym and it has been eagerly anticipated. Ahead of this release, Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke with lead vocalist/band founder Heidi Parviainen about the album, specific songs, challenges faced and mental health. Here’s what happened.

You’re due to release Attack Of Orym very soon. One of the things I noticed about this album is that you have gone a different direction with your sound. Very eighties, no complaints from me. Was this the intention?

Yes actually. There is a story behind this all. After we knew we weren’t going to continue with Napalm Records, I felt a little beaten up about it; I didn’t know why they didn’t want to continue with us because I felt we had really nice material coming and of course we had just signed with them. I was a little devastated about that and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with Dark Sarah anymore. I really took it hard, I don’t know why.

Anyway, then we started talking with our producer Mikko and we decided to do something really different. Something we had been dreaming about doing at one point because the sound of Dark Sarah has continued to develop with each album but we didn’t want to make too big of change to point where people didn’t recognise Dark Sarah anymore. So we felt now was the time to kind of make a big change sooner than we wanted. We also changed the production for this album so we changed the orchestrations to synthesiser sounds whilst having the same depths from the orchestrations. It sounds very big with a modern approach.

It saved my motivation to continue with Dark Sarah. I learnt a new technique for this album so there was a lot going on in many ways. I am personally really happy and proud about this album. 

With your vocal techniques, which ones did you learn and what songs can we hear them in?

I’m a classical singer, you don’t hear much of a pure classical voice on this album; only in a few parts I would say. I think mostly all of the tracks, especially the first two singles, I think you can hear the more poppish approach to my voice than you have ever heard. It’s nice to hear that it wasn’t too much of a big jump.

Each of your albums follows a story, what is the story for Attack Of Orym? 

It follows on from the last album Grim and this is the second part of the storyline featured on our previous album. Now we have this new protagonist Luna and they’re the same person as Dark Sarah but in a different time. On the last album, Luna won against Murk and she got the evil orb Mavolent and the evil orb possesed and cursed her so she went to sleep. Now she has been sleeping for decades and now a new villain called Orym is coming to the fear of Grim. So they now need their leader again but she is asleep so what do they do so this is the first part of where it starts from. 

I won’t reveal everything as we have a storybook to go with the album, the chapters are told in poems. You can get that from the webstore.

I wanted to talk about a couple of the songs from the album. The first being Piece Of My Heart; since it has regular guest JP Leppäluoto and from listening to the lyrics, I was wondering if that was a throwback to the track Golden Moth where Dragon betrays Dark Sarah.

Good thinking. Dragon followed Dark Sarah through the same link that came through to Grim because he wanted to have Luna’s pendant, Luna had a shapeshifting pendant, and he needed that to get his wings back. This has been a whole thing from The Golden Moth album and on this album there will be some things happening so that he will possibly get his wings back. Will he leave or will he stay? Piece Of My Heart is the dialogue about that. I heard some people talking that it sounds like he is in the background and exactly as he is not presented in this duet in the same way as he has been before. So maybe that’s a clue.

The Piece Of My Heart refers to Dragon giving Luna a piece of his heart because when the gods throw the spear through Dark Sarah’s heart in the end of The Golden Moth, Dark Sarah’s heart froze and she couldn’t cope or feel. 

Another song that stuck out for me was Goth Disco. I wanted to ask what is going on in this chapter as it’s a fun, spooky song.

The original idea behind this started from my thoughts of Muppet songs. I felt that in this chapter they were in this misty park in the middle of the night and all the Muppets are dancing in the park representing all the creatures and wild beasts. They also join together in this delirium that they were in as they were dancing together, it was their Goth Disco. When writing this song, I thought it would be perfect to have a Bollywood type dance scene but of course it takes a lot of money to make those kinds of music videos.

So Hero And Villain; am I right in thinking it’s Luna deciding whether she is one or the other?

Yes and of course now she has her heart back. She remembers her past life as Dark Sarah and the storybook she writes the last sentence as Dark Sarah. So they come back together, it’s mirroring back to her past and her past self because the whole story has been a fight between good and evil inside of her from the first album Behind The Black Veil. This mirrors all the stuff that has happened to her during the past and will it end as a karma thing, will she travel again or is it over and has she learnt anything. There is a lot happening in that song in many ways.

You have Mark Jensen (Epica) and Kasperi Heikkinen (Beast In Black) as guests on your album too. Did you find scheduling recording time difficult due to busy schedules with their bands?

At that point when we needed those lines to be done, they weren’t touring at that time so they weren’t too busy. Of course if I were to ask now, Mark is all over the world at the moment but at that time he wasn’t too busy and he recorded his parts in his home studio so he didn’t need to fly to Finland. Kasperi recorded his parts with Anton from Beast In Black.

Did you already have in mind who you wanted as those parts in the story?

Yes I had. At one point I didn’t know if there would be any guitar solos but of course when you continue with the production, you feel that this would need something so I thought “let’s ask Kasperi” because he is a really good friend, I have known him since our first band where we played together in 1997 and also in Amberian Dawn so I know him well. We meet up a lot when he isn’t abroad or touring.

What was the most challenging aspect of recording this album?

I think it was my personal state of mind at the beginning as I was wondering if I would do it or will I stop here and what’s going to happen. With all the changes in the line-up as well, it has been an emotional roller coaster. I think this has been the most challenging part of this journey and of course when you start making an album as an independent band, it’s a lot of work. In our case; we do Crowdfunding, handling and shipping the merch and managing the webstore. We do those alongside writing the music, singing, arranging music video shoots and everything. 

At Rock Out Stand Out, we help to spread awareness around mental health. What’s awareness like in your local area?

I think awareness is really good and I think if you’re a working person, there’s always healthcare at your work place. Also if you are feeling bad, you can seek help. It’s not always so easy to get help as they are quite crowded. Lines are getting bigger all the time because of the state of the world; there are challenges with how people get their income, a war in Europe and other things. Overall, I think awareness for mental health here is pretty good.

As family members, friends, band members; what do you think we can do more of so people feel more comfortable reaching out when they are struggling?

A lot of people are still working from home and that has changed our society a lot. So the people that are living on their own, they’re are completely left alone and in that way, their social network is getting narrower. So I would say, make sure you meet each other and have some get togethers from time to time so that no-one feels alone.

Is there anything you like to do to unwind?

I like to do art and paint. Sometimes I knit, I love knitting. Nowadays, I have these phases where sometimes I knit all the time and then have a two year pause. In summertime, I like to do gardening and that’s a lovely hobby for me.

If you could invite anyone on a quest, who would it be?

Gandalf, you shall not pass [laughs]. He would be such good company. I got this image of a fantasy quest but if you asked about another quest, I might have a different answer.

Do you have any messages for Dark Sarah fans and our readers?

Take care of each other and if you haven’t heard from someone, you need to reach out. Listen to music, read good stories and I hope you like our new album and the storybook. We have lots of merch you can build your pack with. Choose your weapon.

Thank you so much for joining Rock Out Stand Out and best of luck with the album release.

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